Study Guide

All Along the Watchtower Dissatisfaction

By Bob Dylan

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Ever heard the expression, "tears of a clown"? People use it to describe someone who wants people to think he or she is really fun and happy, when in fact they're down in the dumps. The joker seems kind of like that. At the start of the song, he is looking for a way out of some bad situation (maybe even his life). He's totally dissatisfied with the "confusion" around him and with the ignorance of the businessmen and farmers. Come to think of it, maybe he dislikes these two kinds of people because they seem to be enjoying life while he can't. Truth be told, we don't know what exactly is bugging the joker; it's a vague dissatisfaction.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. What might the joker mean when he talks about "confusion" and not being able to get "relief"? What form do you think "relief" would take?
  2. Where or what does the joker want to escape from? His job? Nation? Immediate surroundings? His life? Heck, the guy seems to be on horseback – why doesn't he just ride to wherever it is he wants to go?
  3. How does the thief address the joker's problems? Is it a satisfying answer?

Chew on This

Because this is a rock and roll song, we have decided not to write possible academic arguments, as it seems to detract from the heart and soul of the song. Please let us know if you disagree!

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