Thursday, December 13, 2018

What does a Blackbird Represent?

Throughout the 1960s, The Beatles wrote and published hundreds of songs, most of which we still hear over 50 years later. However, there is one song in particular that has stood out to me. The song is called "Blackbird" from The Beatles' The White Album. The song, while on a literal sense is only describing a simple blackbird, actually has a deeper meaning symbolically. After researching the song and the time period that "Blackbird" was released, there is a powerful message regarding race and discrimination by the band itself. 

Throughout the song, The Beatles symbolize and personify the "Blackbird," as an African American girl. In the 1960s, girls were often called "birds" similar to how teenage boys today might call each other "bro". The song is cleverly written. At each stanza, there is an obstacle that the blackbird must overcome. For example:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see

There are several techniques used to give these lines a significant meaning. An antithesis is used by placing two unlike things or objects together. In the case of “Blackbird,” the term “broken wings” is an antithesis as these two words wouldn’t be commonly associated with each other. There is also juxtaposition within these two stanzas that not only create a sense of realism within the song but also alluding to racism and oppression during the 1960s.

In the second stanza, the obstacle is the blackbirds “sunken eyes,” which act as a form of symbolism and imagery. Of course, blackbirds don’t literally have “sunken eyes,” but symbolically, they represent someone who is old and trying to “learn to see” again. The “sunken eyes” give a sense of exhaustion and sheer tiredness of the blackbird itself, a common feeling among many African Americans during the 1960s.
Throughout the song, repetition is used throughout the chorus to further drive the message of oppression and racism:

All your life,
You were only waiting for this moment to be free

The message above, used several times throughout the song (repetition), suggests that the blackbird (African American families) has never had a free moment in its life, hinting at the fact that African Americans were never really “free” in America. 

Overall, dozens of literary techniques are used throughout the song to help give the song meaning, depth and a powerful message about oppression in America. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this song! I never noticed the antithesis that you mentioned, I think it's really cool that the song is able to work on so many artistic levels without losing sight of its core.