“A HARD RAIN’S A-GONNA FALL”
Every piece of literature, be it a book or a song, literary devices have always been used to support their theme and meaning. The stronger the use of these devices, the stronger their impact would be. Most of the times, writers and authors use imagery as a tool to create this effect, but in terms of songs, artists make use of different techniques such as repetition, to make their songs stay longer inside the head of the listener. In this essay, we have analyzed such a song called “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan. Also, the lyrics of the song are explored as well as their context.
2. The Song and its Lyrics:
This song was released in 1963 by Bob Dylan in his album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. Bob Dylan described his song in the linear notes of this album and said “Hard Rain is a desperate kind of song. Every line in it is actually the start of a whole song. But when I wrote it, I thought I wouldn’t have enough time alive to write all these songs so I put I could into this one.”
The lyrics of the song are very ambiguous in nature overall. They represent different interpretations to different people. But, once the lyrics are listened to closely, it is quite evident that it holds much more meaning than what appears. The structure of the verses are very identical, especially the beginning which questions a ‘blue-eyed boy’. The theme of these lyrics suggests that the song hints towards war, particularly the Vietnamese War. Other common interpretations include imagery linked to injustice, pollution, suffering etc.
Bob Dylan tried to make his opinion heard. He expressed his thoughts and ideas about war and its implications and consequences. When the song was first made public by Dylan in one of his performances, the lyrics clearly pointed out to a then major issue “Cuban Missile Crisis”. Even though the song was released a month before this incident but still it seemed to have all the right connections to political chaos.
3. The Literary Devices Used in the Song:
The lyrics of the song use a number of literary devices. Bob Dylan cleverly made use of them to make his song a stronger and more influential. Due to these techniques, the song and its meaning are even applicable in today’s world.
Hyperboles are such statements that cannot be possible in reality. Exaggeration is a common factor in hyperboles. Dylan used this device quite a lot of times throughout the song to overdo the covert meaning. Some of the lyrical hyperboles in this song include:
- “I’ve heard ten thousand whisperin’”
- “Roar of the wave that could drown the whole world”
- “Been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard”
All of the lyrics mentioned above, have an over exaggerated element. The lines express what cannot be taken literally and cannot be claimed to be possible either. For example, in the first lyrical statement Dylan’s sings that I’ve heard ten thousand whispering but in reality it is quite impossible for a person to actually hear ten thousand people talking in whispers. The song presents such lyrical representations of scenes that are not practical but it strengthens its meaning and provides it with an intense influence.
A paradox is a self-contradictory statement. The lyrics of the song also include several paradoxes that have been used in the verses. These lyrics have elements which negate their own ideas. Such statements include:
- “Guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children”
- “Sound of a clown who cried in the alley”
- “Newborn baby with wild wolves all around it”
These lyrics have been taken from different verses of the song. As a general analysis, these statements are very unlikely to be real but may be true. They are unexpected and surprising. Dylan created a paradox when he talked about guns and swords in the hands of young children. It is very unlikely to see kids having such weapons in their hands. Another example states that new born baby is seen with wolves all around it. This lyric is also a paradox as it contains contradiction of innocence being present among violence.
Alliteration is another literary device which refers to the repetition of sounds among connected words. Alliteration has can be found among following lyrics:
- “Black branch with blood”
- “Miles in the mouth”
The repetition of “B” and “M” sounds make the song last longer inside the head of the listener and create an echo of lyrics.
Bob Dylan’s song “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” presents a number of interpretations and meanings. There have been different views about its context as well. The lyrics of the song, however, present meanings that are very impactful and influential. A number of literary devices have been used which make it a perfect protest song.