Study Guide

All Along the Watchtower Isolation

By Bob Dylan

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The joker and the thief are isolated, both literally and metaphorically. Literally because they seem to be traveling alone between cities in a Western or Biblical landscape with the wind and the wildcats and all the rest of it. Metaphorically because they consider themselves to be separate from the people "along the line" who think that life is a joke and who can't appreciate all the good things they use. But the city with the watchtowers is also isolated. It's enclosed by some kind of defensive wall or perimeter, which sets it apart from the surroundings. People approach it on horseback, not with cars or trains. The whole song seems to be set in a different age, when it took a really long time to get from one place to another.

Questions About Isolation

  1. Who is more isolated: the joker and the thief of the people in the watchtower? How does their isolation differ?
  2. We know that the joker and the thief consider themselves separate from (and, to a large extent, superior to) the people along the watchtower. But how do you think the people in the watchtower might respond to the criticisms of the two outcasts?
  3. How does the isolation in the song fit with its apocalyptic, end-of-the-world vibe?

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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