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Bob Dylan's - With God on Our Side




Bob Dylan’s ” With God on Our Side ”

2.3.1. The Motto : ”In God we trust”

” God’s own country ” , this is a popular name the Americans gave their country . On the outside , American everyday -life and religiousness are tightly interwoven . Even the American Dollar-bills state it : ” In God we trust”. In the past , whenever there was the discussion in America , whether to mobilize the army or not , fighting for God was a good argument . 13598xkl59mhp4t

In this well -known protest song of the 60s,Dylan conducts the experiment of critically commentating the Americans and their relationship to God.

2.3.2.Analysis

This poem consists of nine paragraphs , each one consisting of four lines. As a narrator from the Midwest , which played a crucial part in the development of the United States, Dylan guides the reader through American history . The first seven stanzas deal with wars in which one side thought that God was on their side .The last two stanzas could be described as a conclusion the narrator arrives at : It is the statement that if ” God is on our side , he’ll stop the next war”- the clear opposite of what God was evidently to stand for in the described history.

The poet starts with the very beginning of the American nation ( first two stanzas ). The first two lines give a rather ironic characterization of a typical Midwesterner , when saying ” my name it means nothing and my name it means less , thus Dylan gives a description of a person from the Midwest who lacks any personality and individuality. These lines are ironic because they stand in direct contrast to what the Midwest symbolizes. In the very beginning of the American nation , the Midwest was the region from which America expanded westward .On the frontier there were no rules a person had to obey and nothing to restrict his movement. So out in the wilderness of the American Midwest , you could not afford to be one of many , you had to stand up for your own. Even today , people from the Midwest claim this spirit has survived. In the eyes of the poet , however , individualism is wiped out , because the individuals have become victims of conformity. kh598x3159mhhp



The narrator is a typical product of his country and the country’s values (..”I was taught and brought up there... ”) . His opinion and beliefs were formed through his education (the laws to abide ) , and therefore he represents the average American. He learned and obviously seems to believe that his country has always got ” God on its side ”.

The second paragraph retells the story of the American fight against the Indians . Again , irony is used to illustrate the misleading information the history books give : ” they tell it so well ”what happened during those fights . The following lines suggest that the fight between Indians and Americans was unfair and brutal . Dylan uses a parallelism to express the tempo in which Indians were shot in such battles : The lines six and seven are the same except for the last words , first Indians ” fell ” and then directly ” died”.

Although the fight against the Indians could easily be described as an American invasion of foreign territory, the narrator tells us that his young country had ”God on its side ”.

Without going into details , he mentions the Spanish-American War of 1895 and the Civil War in the third paragraph. Here , Dylan probably wants to point out that in the short history of the U.S. so many wars have been fought that they need not be discussed at great length. The only thing the average American needs to know are the names of the heroes , the narrator ” was made to memorize ”.Those who have the guns in their hands have God on their side. With this sharp contrast , (” guns in their hands , God on their side ” ) Dylan stresses the ambiguity of the idea that God is on the side of the fighting Americans. We learn that they , too had God on their side , even if they had ” guns in their hands ” to kill. Both wars were officially fought for idealistic reasons , but if you take a closer look it becomes evident that it was not like this .

Many Americans saw the Spanish -American war as an opportunity for American imperialism , although it was stated that the American troops were sent to Cuba to stop brutal killings . Slavery certainly was an issue over which was fought in the Civil War but basically it was fought for economic reasons. So the actual reasons for those wars were not quite of moral nature , mostly they were fought for financial reasons .Dylan wants to point out that the reasons for the wars mentioned are futile , no matter what kind of pretext they were officially fought over.



In the fourth stanza , Dylan makes the narrator indifferently and shockingly short sum up the first World War, which ” came and went”. Although he could never quite figure out why it was fought , he learned to accept the fighting and dying in a war that is considered the probably bloodiest war , ever .But more than that , he learned to accept ” it with pride ” , because he was taught that God was on his nation’s side . Therefore he did not see a reason in counting the dead .

The fifth paragraph then deals with what happened in the relations between allied forces and Germans after World War II. Although the Germans , as Dylan puts it in an unbelievably brutal image , have ” murdered six million , in the ovens they fried ” , now too have God on their side . Those who have fought all their wars in the name of God namely the Americans , are eventually friends with the murderous Germans of once .

This is for some simple reasons : After World War II , the German Government became democratic and therefore was opposed to Russian Communism. The Germans have therefore accepted the American set of political values , hence have God on their side ( in form of the U.S.! ).




The sixth paragraph depicts the Cold War between the Western Union and the Eastern-Russian Union. Due to the ideological brainwashing the narrator is ready to fight the Russians in a war ( ” to hate them and to fear them ” ) , always with the certainty in mind that the Almighty is on his side. Therefore he will bravely accept it all. He has learned to hate Russians all his life. It is thus emphasized that hate is not an emotion that a person develops out of his own judgement , but something he is ” taught ”. His own critical ideas are eliminated.

The seventh paragraph deals with a possible nuclear war , thus bringing the enumeration of wars to the ultimate. This peak is expressed by the words ” but now ” , indicating its significance within wars .Compared to the other wars , the author has referred to , this seems the very terrible end. This idea is emphasized by the thought that one ” push of the button ” will eventually destroy the world. Again , this war is likely to be fought by those who are told what to do and do it in blind obedience ( ” If fire them we’re forced to , then fire them we must ” ). Therefore , the mental attitude of having God on one’s side when killing other human beings will doubtless lead to the end of all civilization.

Having considered the complete military history , as he was taught in school , from the conquest of the native Indians , then the Mexicans and Confederates , on through two world wars , up to the point where his country trembles on the brink of a nuclear war with Russia , the narrator now comes to a conclusion in the two last stanzas.

These two last stanzas form a contrast because here , the narrator really starts to ” think ”. This thought process puts him in a dark mood : ” In many a dark hour ... ”

He reflects that Jesus Christ , himself , was betrayed by a kiss” .He realizes that God himself was betrayed by what seemed full of love and goodness on the outside : a kiss. Thus he draws the parallel to those who outwardly have the good , ” God on their side ”. In reality , however, this is not love and goodness but evil itself .

Judas Iscariot in this stanza takes the role the U.S. took in the paragraphs before . He betrayed God by his deeds , and therefore it is suggested that the United States by their deeds betray God , although claiming to have him on their side.

Judas Iscariot like the U.S. , however , betrayed God so he could not possibly have had God on his side.

Considering this , the narrator is confused and ”weary as hell ” . He comes to the conclusion that God has never been on the side of nations fighting wars but, on the contrary , on the side of those who try to avoid wars ( ” he’ ll stop the next war ” )

The narrator’s conclusion remains personal , though . ” Each reader is to use his own brain. He is not to accept everything he is told. The author does not want his readers to be uncritical . He rather wants the insight that eventually struck him to be thought over by each individual reader for himself ( ” I can’t think for you ”).

The author consciously puts himself into contrast to those who just make people blindly believe , what they are saying. Hence , this song displays a thought process the narrator is going through , a development which ends in the conclusion that ” if God is on our side he ‘ll stop the next war”.











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