Synopsis of John Brown by Bob Dylan 

About the Poet Bob Dylan  

Bob Dylan (Robert Allen Zimmerman) was born on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. He was an eminent figure in the world of music as a singer, songwriter, musician, producer, poet, and an artist. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s. He has been influential in genres like rock, folk, blues, rock and roll, country blues, and gospel were often played on instruments like guitar, piano, harmonica

His songs Blowin' In The Wind and The Times They Are A-Changin' are anthems for the American civil rights and anti-war movements. He wrote twenty-four studio albums, thirteen live albums, fourteen compilation albums, and six collaboration albums. His first album was simply called Bob Dylan. Some of his most famous songs are The Times They Are A-Changin', Blowin' In The Wind, Like a rolling stone and Forever Young. He won eleven Grammy Awards, one Academic award, one Golden Globe award, Polar music award, Presidential Medal of Freedom and won the Noble Prize for Literature 2016.

Theme of the Poem John Brown

'John Brown' is an anti-war lyric that highlights the toll war takes on young men. The themes of the lyric are 'knowing the sufferings the soldiers face during wars and peace'. While both themes are mentioned separately, they are interconnected. The motive of the lyric is to make people realise of the pains all men and women at the borders of every country, friendly or unfriendly have to take. Such wars are no good to any society as strength is lost after investing in war.

Summary of the Poem John Brown

'John Brown' by Bob Dylan is an anti-war lyric. It is a lyric, which questions the nature and procedures of mankind. Throughout the lyrics, Dylan has pointed out how prestigious and rewarding might being a soldier be by mentioning situations of glory and great pride. The reader by reading the lyric realises that the military involves unusual amounts of hard work and patriotism towards the country in order to felicitate soldiers with the glorious medals - which are no more than mementoes of their bravery and their experiences during the war.

All civilians, in reality, might find war to be as painful as it actually is until they have a military background or are soldiers themselves. The motive of the lyric is to make realise of the pains encountered at the borders. Such wars are no good to any society as strength is lost after investing in war. While soldiers suffer the most, their pains multiply when they reach their families and the world. The only solution to avoid wars is to live in peace and harmony.

Dylan sets up a vital scene in his lyric- 'that of a hometown'. A hometown is where everything starts and ends. It begins with a soldier leaving his hometown to satisfy his mother's desire to see him in a uniform, hold guns and win lots of medals. Ignoring the dangers of being at the borders, she sends her son to the military, to ultimately destroy his youth, bright opportunities, and life!

Critical Analysis of the Poem John Brown

'John Brown' is a lyric consisting of fifty-one lines, broken into twelve quadruplets and three single lines. The first stanza is an introduction to the war scene. It describes how John Brown, a former civilian dedicates his life for the safety of his nation. The title of the poem is named after the soldier probably because his life is a lesson to the people and wants them to realise the harm of war by emphasizing on the life of a soldier.

The lyric describes essential feelings in and around the life of a soldier. People consider soldiers to be brave, prestigious and reputable members of the society. The families of the soldiers are enthusiastic to send their soldiers to war which is no less than a blessing in the guise of honour. Usually, people are optimistic about wars, which is why they don't understand the true conditions of war.
A war to many seems a team effort, which according to them only is the result and not the effort. By the end of the lyric, the readers come to the conclusion that medals are easy to win but the losses of family and emotions are hard to overcome.

There are three single lines, each of them emphasizing the different situations during the war.

"Oh, good old-fashioned war!" is the first line. It tells that war, irrespective of time and people always remain the same to claim victory over another, not realising the obvious losses on the victorious side. The second line "Oh, lord, not even recognize his face!" describes the terrible fate after surviving war and the third: "Oh, lord, just like mine!" is the most important line of all three. It is the revelation of war. In the end, people realise that they fight against themselves and not against strangers.

The stanza "Oh, and I thought... looked just like mine!" is the message of the lyric. People go to war blinded by the fact that it is prestigious and a great opportunity. However, they forget the wrath of war and that they go against their brothers. Wars are fought for the family and the nation. By waging wars, they fight against their own selves thus, losing the motive of war.


foreign shore - a foreign country:
grin - smile broadly:
good old - fashioned war - a war that has lost its glamour and is now out of date:
brag - to speak in a boastful manner:
ceased - stopped, halted;
metal brace - a metal device to support a part of the body;
in my shoes - in my place:
stink - unpleasant smell;
roar - loud sound.
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