Themes in "Poison Oak" by Bright Eyes

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  • Topic: Conor Oberst, Bright Eyes, Poetry
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  • Published : May 8, 2013
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Themes in Conor Oberst’s “Poison Oak”
The poetic song lyrics of “Poison Oak,” written by songwriter Conor Oberst and performed by Bright Eyes, display many powerful uses of figurative language that give the song a deep meaning and produce strong themes. The puissant and mournful metaphors used by Oberst create important themes that allow the reader to get a taste of the emotional experiences he has gone through. Although the sound devices in “Poison Oak” may be viewed as important factors in molding the themes of the song, Conor Oberst mainly uses metaphors to emit the powerful themes of childhood innocence, feelings of meaninglessness, and loneliness.

Oberst begins to create the theme of childhood innocence and simplicity through one of the earliest lines in the song. In line 2, Oberst writes characterizes childhood using an example - “When a telephone was a tin can on a string.” The simplification of a telephone into a “tin can on a string” is related directly to Oberst’s feelings about childhood. The complicated nature of a telephone correlates to the complicated nature of adulthood, while the empty cans and string parallel the simplicity of childhood. The tin can telephone displays a lack of convolutions that come with the technological complexity of an actual telephone. The one, simple line exemplarily illustrates the minimal issues and the overall innocence that comes with childhood.

Oberst puts feelings of meaninglessness into words through in three lines in the song, particularly. The first two lines that display these feelings, 17-18, develop this theme as he writes, “Let the poets cry themselves to sleep/And all their tearful words will turn back into steam.” Oberst includes himself as one of the “poets.” He conveys his belief that the poets’ words will not affect the world, or “turn back into steam.” Just as steam simply drifts and disappears into the air, Oberst feels that the poets’ “tearful words” (and his own) will be unheard, unnoticed, and...
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