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Passenger Side

Passenger Side


by Wilco


The speaker is the most important part of “Passenger” because the song is about his demons and personal hang-ups, which reflect a more universal plight of the human condition. Everyone has certain experiences with dependency, whether it is dependence on a substance, a place, another human being, or something else entirely. The speaker's intoxication not only reflects his own way of neglecting his problems, but it also recalls our own tendencies to ignore the consequences of our actions, remain in the present rather than think about the future, and prolong our misfortunes in order to accommodate some temporary solution. Such a character can be found again and again in American literature, as in the case of Blanche Dubois, from A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche Dubois similarly uses alcohol to escape her reality, or at least distance herself from it.

Perhaps it is easy to relate to the speaker of "Passenger Side" because his personality is not a mystery to us—he's not talking about some unknown or unique tragedy or predicament that few have experienced; all he talks about is being drunk and without a driver's license, unfortunately a very common predicament that symbolizes his being numbed to reality and unable to take control of his destiny. In addition to the literary connections, the speaker fits into the spectrum of musical tradition, recalling the aimless wanderings of country outlaws like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams as well as the punk disillusionment of groups like The Replacements, who were somewhat notorious for their alcohol abuse.

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