Rhetorical Analysis of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”

Posted: 2nd February 2011 by trackstar736 in Narrative

For my assignment I chose the song “Hurricane” by Bob Dylan. This song can clearly be seen as a narrative when examining the many aspects of it. This song organizes the active events in a storyline that follows a chronological order. It is also apparent in this song that the events later are caused by the earlier events in the song. This song also fits the label of a narrative because it presents a moral that is apparent to the intended audience. This is not part of our current pop culture but at the time of its creation it was touching on a very well-known issue.

The setting for this song can be seen in the song as occurring in New Jersey. This is found in a line in the song which says “And they arrive on the scene with their red lights flashing
In the hot New Jersey night. “ This song discusses events which actually took place so when researched it can be shown that the events in the song took place in 1966.

The main character of this artifact is Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter. This song tells the story of how Rubin was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to prison for the double homicide that took place in 1966. The narrator of the story is speaking from a third person, omniscient point of view. This to say, the narrator is all knowing and knows all aspects of the story based on the events that happened to each of the characters. Throughout the story we also are given the stories of many secondary characters. These characters include, Patty Valentine, Alfred Bello, Arthur Dexter Bradley, Carter’s friends, the police officers, the dying witness, and the District Attorney that sentenced Rubin. Throughout the narrative all of these characters, except for the friends and the District Attorney, are reoccurring objects in the story.

The events in this story are the wrongful conviction of Rubin Carter and all of the events that led up to this final event. The narrator tells of the double homicide that occurred in the Lafayette Bar and Grill in New Jersey and how the cops pulled over the professional boxer the same night. The officers found several witnesses and a victim who was dying. According to the narrative, the officers brought Carter to the dying witness in the hospital, where the witness said that Carter had nothing to do with the murders. However, the story goes on to tell how the police officers needed someone to arrest for the murder and they coerced Alfred Bello and Arthur Dexter Bradley into falsifying a testimony which pointed to Rubin Carter as the murderer. Bello and Bradley agreed to this plan and Rubin Carter was sentenced on the charges of double homicide. These events are classified as active events because they deal with the actions that led up to the false conviction, rather than stative events which would be solely based on an emotion or feeling.

In this narrative, the narrator talks about how the professional boxer was wrongfully convicted for a double homicide that he did not commit. All of these events are related to each other through a causal relationship. Each individual event can be seen throughout the song as being caused by the event that preceded it. This is a causal relation because of the cause and effect demonstrated by the narratives events.

There is a very prominent moral message present throughout the entirety of the narrative. This message shows the audience of the narrative that a man was wrongfully convicted of a horrendous crime and shows the audience the significance of this wrongful conviction. The message also shows the implications of a miscarriage of justice. The main character of this story lost 19 years of his life to imprisonment for a crime that he did not commit. The artist Bob Dylan shows the audience how careless all the figures of authority were with their investigations and prosecutions of this public figure. This narrator shows the audience the devastation caused by these callous individuals in the end of the song when he says “Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties, are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise, while Rubin sits like Buddha in a ten-foot cell, an innocent man in a living hell, that’s the story of the Hurricane, but it won’t be over till they clear his name, and give him back the time he’s done, put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been, the champion of the world.” He sends the moral message straight at the audience by stating flat out that the criminals responsible for the crime got off with no consequences and a guilty man lost his chance at greatness as a result.

It is my belief that this artefact is not forwardly directed at one specific audience, but in fact, is directed at the general public. This is a story of injustice that was caused by multiple people. This narrative is a pleading to the world to stop injustices that are so easily avoidable. It is also quite possible that the artist wished to aim this message at the upholders of justice systems everywhere. The story told shows the audience that if the police officers and the other employees of the legal system had just done their jobs correctly this whole catastrophe could have been completely avoided. A man would not have lost nearly 20 years of his life and the real criminals would be prosecuted.

In conclusion, I found that this song did well to convey a moral message and follow the guidelines of a proper narrative. The song had several active events, all of which had a causal relationship with one another. It dealt with a main character, as well as a large group of secondary characters that interacted with the main character throughout. It had a setting and followed a strict chronological order as is necessary in a narrative. The final aspect of this song that made it a successful narrative is the moral message that the song gave its audience. The song told the audience about an awful injustice with the hope that they would see the injustice and work to put an end to it and prevent further, similar injustices from happening.


Sellnow, Deanna D. “The Rhetorical Power of Pop Culture: Considering Mediated Texts”. Los Angeles: Sage, 2010. Print.

Bob Dylan- Hurricane: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bobdylan/hurricane.html

Facts regarding the story: http://urbantitan.com/10-wrongfully-convicted-people/

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