Representations in the Harder they come.


“Select 2 songs which appealed to you from the movie and discuss their symbolic interpretations.”


Jamaican reggae is music of protest that carries an angry message of poverty (Davila, n.d.).Untitled3 Music is used by the powerless to counter the oppression of the powerful and send a message draped in melody that “You can get it if you really want.”


The harder they come by Perry Henzell, is a symbolic film which speaks to the heart and soul of its viewers, using music as a catalyst to evoke emotions. Adding to the images on screen, scores in the movie helped to create a sense of reality. When times got hard, and Ivan felt desperate, one could hear the sounds of “Many rivers to cross” playing in the background, making the scene more intense. In a review of the movie, Julianne Burton detailed that music conspired with the visual image to draw the viewer deeper into the emotional experience of the film (Burton, 1975.)

The two songs from the movie that appealed to me are; “The Harder They Come” and “You can get it if you really want.” Both written and perform by Jimmy Cliff who plays Ivan in the movie. I chose these songs because as Ivan’s character changed, so did the meanings of these songs, the lyrics of which are well incorporated into the film.

In the opening scenes, “you can get it if you really want” symbolized hope and highlighted how gullible and innocent Ivan was. Untitled1The song played as he hopped off a bus in the big city, with nothing but dreams of making it big. The song comes on again, but by this time Ivan has changed dramatically, caving under the hegemonic pressures he “makes it” but by no means did he trod the straight and narrow. Gallivanting in a car he hijacked, the song now symbolizes determination and achieving goals regardless of the outcomes.

“The Harder They come” portrayed several symbolic meanings throughout the film, the lyrics written in such a way, it followed the journey of the main character. The song made symbolic references, to religion, social indifference and a fight against oppression and media hegemony.


Burton, J. (1975). The Harder They Come Cultural colonialism and the American dream. Retrieved February 4, 201, from:  /JC06folder/HarderTheyCome.html

Davila, M. (n.d.) Oppression and Resistance in Jamaican Reggae and Afro-Brazilian Music A Comparative Study of Race  in Music and Culture. Retrieved on February 4, 2015, from: