Pop Culture Analysis

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LIKE A ROLLING STONE: A MORAL ANALYSIS

Bob Dylan’s classic, Like a Rolling Stone, offers powerful images and musical brilliance. But underlying it is a surprisingly moral message. What is this song about? The singer is obviously addressing someone he once knew. Is it a man or a woman? By the third line, we know it is a woman: “People call and say/beware down you’re bound to fall.” We have a hint at this point in time that we may be talking about the sin of pride, since as we recall, “pride goeth before the fall.” And sure enough, a few lines later, we see the claim “now you don’t seem so proud.” So we know the song was written to/about a woman who once embodied the vice of pride. In this case, we are presented with a very moral state of affairs: a vice (pride) is punished. The person has obviously fallen into a lowered state and is “scrounging (i.e., begging) for her next meal. This (people being punished for their vices) doesn’t always happen in life or in art, so the fact that this is the center of this song tells us something about the moral leanings of the song. The song represents a world where people are punished for their sins. Next we find this is someone who has “gone to the finest school” and so obviously had a lot of money. Elsewhere we hear she should “take her diamond ring and pawn it.” We cannot necessarily on the basis of wealth alone convict her of the sin of greed, but it remains a possibility. It seems we can, however, charge her with gluttony, which applies not only to food but to drink as well, since she went to the finest schools she “only used to get juiced” i.e., drunk in it. Is this a good person? If so, we might think her fall is a bad thing and not see the depiction of her fall as a virtuous state of affairs. But we have evidence this is not a good person. She used to laugh at people (you used to laugh about/everybody that was hanging out), she used to get drunk in school (gone to the finest schools but you only used to get juiced...
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