Meaning Behind “Desolation Row” by Bob Dylan
When first listening to Bob Dylan’s song, “Desolation Row”, I had absolutely no idea what the song was about. Then, when re listening to it I assumed that desolation row was considered to be a corrupted circus. I got this impression due to the fact that it is called desolation row and right off the bat in the first stanza Dylan says, “The circus is in town.” A little further down once again Dylan says, “He’s going to the carnival tonight on desolation row.” These both are clear examples of what the song literally says, but when thinking about the lyrics together as a whole and looking at certain images as symbols rather than literal figures I believe that the song is about something completely different, the Holocaust. I think that “Desolation Row” is a song written from the view of someone on the inside of the concentration camps during the Holocaust.
What initially triggered the idea that it may be about the Holocaust was when I pieced together multiple different stanzas’ that hinted towards it possibly being about the Holocaust. To start off, Dylan constantly repeats that he is looking out from desolation row. For example, in the very beginning when he is discussing the carnival that is in town and says “lady and I look out tonight from desolation row.” In my mine I imagine people standing behind a fence completely helpless, only able to look at the outside world but not interact with it. To add onto this intial thought about the Holocaust, when Dylan writes about Ophelia who’s “profession is her religion” and “her eyes are fixed upon Noah’s great rainbow, she spends her time peeking into desolation row.” I took this as a woman who is on the outside of the concentration camps due to the fact that she is a religious woman who you could assume is a Christian due to the biblical reference of Noah. There are also multiple violent references that are occurring on desolation row that could align with what occurred...
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