My Own Version Of You

Introduction

The gothic character of the song should not distract from its main concern which is salvation. Although the narrator is trying to create a human being in the way that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein does, the song’s concerns are essentially different to Shelley’s. On a literal level, he wants to bring someone to life. It’s hinted that he holds himself responsible for their death and so is trying to undo the wrong. That, he thinks, will save him. For the most part the song does not operate on such a literal level, however. Identities and times both become fluid so that the narrator seems to take on the identities of both God and Christ, as well as that of the creature he’s creating. Ultimately such changes in his identity are required if he is to be saved.

The analysis has fifteen main sections:

  1. The Narrator as Flawed Humanity
  2. Identities
  3. The Creature
  4. Laughter and Tears
  5. The Knife
  6. The Head                  
  7. Where the Children Play
  8. Resurrection and Redemption
  9. Sight, Hearing and Feeling
  10. Armageddon
  11. Julius Caesar
  12. Hell
  13. It’ll be Done when it’s Done
  14. To be
  15. The Solution

Conclusion


1. The Narrator as Flawed Humanity

The narrator can be seen as representing everyone. This is apparent in two ways. First, he contains within him ‘the history of the whole human race’. Secondly, he’s imbued with a range of ordinary human characteristics. Among these are a recognition of a need to be saved, a determination to bring this about, generosity to the whole of mankind, a dislike of self pity, and a polite deference. At the same time he’s inconsistent. He can be brusque and dominating. He’s distraught, too, and despite claiming not to want pitying, lets it be known he has ‘no place to turn’ and is plagued by voices –

‘They talk all night they talk all day’

Presumably the voices are his conscience. His immediate reaction is to deny responsibility for whatever they’re accusing him of:

‘Not for a second do I believe what they say’

It seems he’s attempting to fool himself, an all too common human trait. It’s a fault which later he seems to recognise:

‘You won’t get away with fooling me’.

A fault that he’s perhaps not aware of is self-deception. When, after saying he’ll ‘balance the scales’ – or make amends for what he’s done – he adds:

‘I’m not not gonna get involved in any insignificant details’,

The impression one gets is that deep down he’s hiding the details even from himself.

A willingness to indulge in self-deception is also brought out by a difference between the printed and sung versions of the song. The word ‘second’ in ‘Not for a second do I believe what they say,’ becomes ‘minute’ in the sung version. He might not believe the accusations for a minute, this suggests, but we can assume that for anything up to fifty-nine seconds he does! One might also doubt he’d be looking forward to being saved if he believed the accusations to be false.

Another all too-human flaw which makes the narrator a representative of mankind is his trying to take the easy way out. In making the creature, he’s not intending to replace like with like. The creature is to be:

‘… my own version of you’

and someone:

‘…  who feels the way that I feel

As such it will be little more than a clone of the narrator, and accordingly no more capable of saving the narrator than the narrator himself. And over the course of the song we find that the narrator’s saviour can only be himself.

That he’s aware he has faults is again apparent when he says:

‘I’ll bring someone to life – spare no expense
Do it with decency and commonsense’

We can assume, reading between the lines, that he doesn’t always spare expense, nor does he always act with decency and commonsense.


2. Identities

The narrator, it seems, has no less than five other identities. What follows are the main, but not the only, reasons for this. These different identities will all play a part in our understanding the nature of his crime and how he is to be saved.

***

Initially, he seems to be the lover of someone who’s died. His use of the expression ‘baby’ suggests a romantic relationship. If so, he would be expressing his loss emotionally when he says:

‘I wish you’d taken me with you wherever you went’.

The manner of her death, which is presumably what he feels guilty about, seems to be reflected in a line which has him bringing her back to life:

‘Show me your ribs – I’ll stick in the knife.’

***

The narrator also seems to be identical with his creation. This is suggested by references to the face of each:

‘Can you look in my face …?’

‘I can see the history of the whole human race
It’s all right there – it’s carved ­into your face

***

If his creation is someone he has killed being brought back to life, then his identity with the creation makes him identical with her. It follows that in killing her he has killed himself. And in recreating her, he is attempting to recreate himself.

***

The narrator is also to be identified with God. Not only is he a creator but, like God, he creates a human being in his own image:

‘Someone who feels the way that I feel’.

***

Finally, he can be identified with Christ in that he wants to:

‘… do things for the benefit of all mankind’

That it’s Christ who is speaking through the narrator here is suggested not just by the desire to benefit mankind but by the somewhat stylised expression.

***

We needn’t take it that these identities are purely metaphorical. The song seems to be suggesting that the narrator really is the victim of his crime, and that to recreate himself he really must be God and Christ respectively. Even though from an everyday, temporal perspective he appears as himself, there are numerous other indications in the song of the five other identities. Their significance will be made clear in what follows.


3. The Creature

The addressee – the creature – can also be seen as Christ. That would make sense of the narrator’s saying:

‘I’ll be saved by the creature that I create’

And the creature’s being Christ would provide a less-literal sense in which, representing mankind, he’s responsible for the creature’s death.

That he has an inkling that the creature is really Christ, rather than just having Christ-like qualities, is also apparent when he asks:

‘… should I fall on my knees’

and

‘Can you give me the blessings of your smile’.

Again, the language is slightly formalised, suggesting now that the addressee is being treated with unusual reverence.

***

Since the creation is supposed to be the narrator’s potential saviour, it’s curious to find that in addition to comprising remnants of dead bodies, it’s to be made from the remains of gangsters:

‘I’ll take the Scarface Pacino and the Godfather Brando
Mix ‘em up in a tank and get a robot commando’

The significance of this is twofold. First, the creation’s gangster-like nature makes it unlikely that the creation will save the narrator. Accordingly, given the narrator’s identity with the creation, it seems unlikely that the narrator will save himself.

Secondly, that such a spiritual rebirth is nevertheless possible is hinted at in the origin of the first film. The film Scarface, starring Al Pacino, was a remake of the 1930s original, which makes Pacino a reborn version of the original actor. The reborn version is presumably better than the original.  A related idea is perhaps present in the languages that the narrator is learning:

‘I study Sanscrit and Arabic to improve my mind’

The living Arabic language has developed from, and is presumably an improvement on, the essentially dead Sanscrit.


4. Laughter and Tears

We’re reminded at the end of the song that the narrator has a gangster-like nature which would be incapable of saving him. The last line is:

‘Do it with laughter – do it with tears’,

the repeated words ‘do it with’ suggesting that laughter and tears are not to be distinguished. They too are one and the same thing – signs of mirth. The mirth will accompany the narrator’s act of murder – his sticking in the knife. And the crudeness of the laughter is reinforced when we contrast it with the comparative serenity of Christ’ smile as it bestows blessings. On this view, one feels that there are no blessings accompanying the narrator’s laughter. He has no hope of being saved.

Yet ‘tears’ also suggests that the narrator considers the situation to be anything but a cause for laughter. As such they represent the tears of Christ. The knife is not just a murder weapon but a conduit for a life-creating electrical current:

‘Show me your ribs – I’ll stick in the knife
I’m gonna jump start my creation to life’

 Sticking in the knife is not just an act of murder, but an act of spiritual renewal.*

5. The Knife

There is a further significance to the knife. It’s implicitly present again when the narrator, addressing his creation, says:

‘I can see the history of the whole human race
It’s all right there – it’s carved into your face’

The narrator, and the creation with whom he’s identical, is the product of all that has gone before him. The concept of carving suggests that the creation is being treated as a sculpture, the sculptor having delicately carved a perfect human race. On the other hand, it’s a manifestation of all the evil in the world, as if the face of the human race has been carved-up throughout time by a vengeful gangster.

The narrator’s creation, then, is a mixture of propensities.  In so far as he is creating himself, in the sense of bringing about his own salvation, he needs to behave like the delicate sculptor rather than the gangster. If he does, he will not just be renewing and thereby saving himself, but renewing and saving the whole of humanity.

This is the sense in which the narrator is both God and Christ. He’s God in that he produces a creation which has propensities for both good and evil. And he’s Christ in that he saves God’s creation from evil. But independently – as himself – the creation might or might not save him. Put differently, insofar as he is the creation, he might or might not save himself.


6. The Head

The ‘it’ which is referred to when the narrator says:

‘You can bring it to St Peter …

You can bring it to me on a silver tray’.

is not specifically identified. But from the line just quoted we can assume it’s the head of John the Baptist. After his decapitation on the orders of Herod, John’s head was brought to Herod on a platter (cf. Mark 6:14-29).

Since it’s a head, it is probably also the head the narrator has acquired for his creature and which, if put on straight, will enable the narrator to be saved by his creation. As such it’s simultaneously the head of Christ. And by way of the narrator’s identity with Christ, it is the head of the narrator. Furthermore, the narrator’s incessant feelings of guilt also suggest it can be seen as the head of his victim.

Why St Peter? St Peter was one of the disciples who discovered Christ’s empty tomb – a sign of the resurrection – and can therefore be directly associated with salvation. By requesting the head, something associated with death, be brought to St Peter, the narrator seems to be scornfully dismissing what St Peter stands for.

At the same time, the narrator seems unconsciously to have stumbled on a way of making amends for the murder – a murder which now goes beyond that of a lover but which is simultaneously the murder of John, the murder of Christ and, by way of those, his own spiritual self-murder. By requesting the head be brought to both St Peter and himself, the narrator will be associating himself with the spiritual life represented by St Peter.

But redemption, it seems, is not so straightforward. The head still has to be put on straight. Less figuratively, the narrator has much to do to recompense for his wrongdoing.


7. Where the Children Play

The head is also to be brought to

‘… the corner where the children play’

This suggests that the children will be corrupted into learning the evil ways of the past and passing them on. The process will continue as each generation of children grows up and corrupts the next until the whole future of humanity has been corrupted.

However, it’s not only corruption that will continue down the generations. The narrator’s concern that his creation be able to:

 ‘(p)lay every number that I can play’

is suggestive of good being passed on. The good is represented by musical skill. And because ‘play’ is here a pre-echo of the children’s activity at the corner, we get the idea of skills being passed down the generations.

It’s not just the future of humanity that gets corrupted, however. That humanity has been corrupted throughout the past is implied by the double occurrence of the word ‘play’ in thev line so that it can be associated not just with the creature but the narrator too. The narrator learnt from a generation prior to his, and presumably the process went on back down all the previous generations.

This treatment of the narrator as a child is also apparent when the narrator asks:

‘Can you cross your heart and hope to die?’

‘Cross my heart and hope to die’ is an expression used by children to convince their hearers that they’re being truthful.

Accordingly, whereas the head represents evil taking over the human race, the narrator’s concern to pass on his musical skills and his concern for truth are both suggestive of good being  passed down the generations.


8. Resurrection and Redemption

Since the death for which the narrator is responsible can be seen as Christ’s death, the narrator is now attempting to make up for it by bringing about a form of Christ’s resurrection. He’s bringing Christ back to life.

Thus, just as traditionally Christ’s death and resurrection are what saved mankind, so they are saving the narrator. But what this amounts to is the narrator saving himself. It’s to be through his own efforts, using:

‘… all my powers’

The word ‘powers’, archaic in this context, is also suggestive of Christ’s ability to raise himself from the dead, thereby further implying that the narrator’s redemption is to be independently brought about by Christ.

***

That the narrator can save himself is hinted at throughout the song by references to Christ’s pronouncement:

‘I am the way and the truth and the life’ (John 14:6).

which implies that one finds salvation by actively following Christ’s moral example. The words ‘way’ and ‘life’ continuously occur in what the narrator says, as does the concept of truth, implying that unconsciously the narrator knows how to bring about his salvation.

Thus, he repeatedly announces that he wants to bring someone to life, and says he’ll do it:

‘… in more ways than one’

One of the extra ways might be his following Christ’s example as a means of bringing himself, as distinct from his creature, to life. This is reinforced in the song by numerous further occurrences of ‘way’.

The narrator’s concern with truth is apparent when he asks his creation, and therefore effectively himself:

‘Can you cross your heart and hope to die?’

In using an expression normally used to imply sincerity he’s accepting that being untruthful will amount to spiritual death.

The question might also be aimed at the voices plaguing him with guilt. If so, he would now seem to be moving away from his previous refusal to accept the truth about himself:

‘Not for a [minute] do I believe what they say’

– and accepting that he has something to atone for.

9. Sight, Hearing and Feeling

The narrator’s sight – which can be taken to represent his understanding – is deficient. This is made apparent by the parts played by feeling and hearing in the contradictory attitudes he takes to his moral wellbeing. On the one hand he’s plagued by the internal voices he hears constantly reminding him of his guilt:

 ‘They talk all night and they talk all day’

– while on the other we find him confidently asserting  his moral worth, but only as something which he hears and feels:

‘You got the right spirit – you can feel it you can hear it’

and

‘You can feel it all night [-] you can feel it in the morn’

That both the expressed pessimism and optimism are misplaced is clear from there being nothing he sees.  And this would seem to suggest that at present, while nothing is assured,  he still has a chance of being saved.

That the narrator’s understanding is inadequate is also apparent from his requiring help in seeing light:

‘Is there light at the end of the tunnel – can you tell me please?’

And it’s because the person he wants to bring to life is:

‘… someone I’ve never seen

that he fails to recognise that the resurrection he’s planning can be as much Christ’s and his own, neither of whom he will have seen, as that of the lover.  It’s ironic, then, that in addressing the lover he says:

‘I’ll see you baby on Judgement Day’

for the person he sees on Judgement Day will be Christ.

That the narrator fails to understand the identity of his creation at this point becomes further apparent when he makes the creation seem as sightless as himself:

 ‘Can you look in my face with your sightless eye’

He seems to realise only that his creation is himself.

Despite his metaphorical blindness, however, the narrator is in danger of making matters worse by exhorting himself to work without light:

‘Do it in the dark …’

He’s refusing to see that he can save himself. It’s not total dark he’s in, however. The darkness, as it happens, is relieved by the moon:

‘Can you help me walk that moonlight mile?’

Salvation requires his own effort – walking the mile – but Christ, as represented by light from the moon, is making it easier for him.


10. Armageddon

When in despair with ‘no place to turn’ the narrator feels forced to:

‘…  pick a number between one and two’.

From the context the only choice he would seem to have in mind is between behaving morally and immorally. It seems there’s a double significance to this.

First, he’s going to make various pianists – and non-pianists, because bizarrely they include St John the Apostle:

‘[p]lay every number that I can play’.

In other words, he’s going to bend people to his will. St John the Apostle, it seems, will have to adapt his doctrine of the Resurrection, an event which with St Peter he happened upon first, to the narrator’s own Frankensteinian approach to how redemption is to be achieved.1

Secondly, we find that number the narrator opts for is two:

‘I’ll be at the Black Horse Tavern on Armageddon Street
Two doors down not that far to walk’

He chooses the right solution in that if it had been only one door down the destination would have been hell. That’s because we later learn that hell is a mere step away:

‘Step right into the burning hell’

Although ‘two doors down’ is the right choice, he makes it only because he assumes it’s his lover he’s addressing (he’ll hear her footsteps) and accordingly that it won’t be himself who’ll be walking.

When instead it turns out that the addressee is Christ and that he, the narrator, is the one who must make the effort to meet, the distance seems beyond him.  What he’s called ‘not that far to walk’ becomes a mile:

‘Can you help me walk that moonlight mile?’

That the meeting’s to take place on Armageddon Street makes it clear that the narrator is engaged in a final battle between the good and bad parts of himself. It’s promising that he asks for help in ‘walking that moonlight mile’, but only partially so. The moonlight, representing Christ, should be all the help he’d need. The light is at the end of the tunnel if only he’d recognise it.

***

There’s an absurdity, then, in the question:

‘Can you help me walk that moonlight mile?’

in that it suggests that the narrator hasn’t realised that Christ is available to help him. He made a similar mistake earlier when he announced:

‘It must be the winter of my discontent’

The line is based on the contrastingly optimistic opening of Richard III:

‘Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York’

But whereas Richard sees ‘glorious summer,’ the narrator sees only winter. But he shouldn’t. He’s aware of summer, and not just one summer. The opening of the song is:

‘All through the summers and into January’

He’s failing to see that his spiritual wellbeing isn’t necessarily as compromised as it seems. Just as he doesn’t need help because the moonlight is already providing it for him, so in the context of so many summers it shouldn’t now be the winter of his discontent.


11. Julius Caesar

On a literal level the method the narrator is using to bring about his salvation is ludicrous. There’s no need to literally resurrect the lover.  Metaphorically he does need to, but then it’s not the lover he’s resurrecting but himself.  For this he needs a reliable method. Things seem promising when he asks:

‘… what would Julius Caesar do?’

but his response is inadequate. It’s full of inconsistency.

There are two things worth emulating  Caesar for, and it’s curious that the narrator doesn’t straightforwardly do either of them. Prior to crossing the Rubicon and defeating Pompey, Caesar famously said ‘Let the die be cast’. The narrator, however, has already with apparent self-satisfaction declared:

‘… I don’t shoot no dice’,

This suggests a determination not to model himself on Caesar’s determination to do what needs doing. The inconsistency is matched by a further inconsistency when, while claiming not to gamble with cards or shoot dice, he seems quite prepared to trust to luck:

‘I pick a number between one and two’

And as already shown, he makes the right choice.

A further, more important, inconsistency is as follows. It’s more important because it reflects the human and divine sides of the narrator’s character.  After Pompey is murdered, his head is given to Caesar who, it’s said, sheds tears when he receives it because he’d intended to forgive Pompey. The narrator, in contrast with Caesar, calls for a head to be brought to him ‘on a silver tray’, in the manner of John the Baptist’s.

Nevertheless, we’re reminded of Caesar’s tears in the last line of the song when the narrator exhorts himself to:

‘Do it with laughter – do it with tears’

These tears are not now tears of mirth but tears shed in the spirit of Caesar – out of regret for death. The narrator has caused a death and like Caesar he is shedding tears of regret for it.


12. Hell

It’s curious that the narrator condemns the past:

‘… the hell with all things that used to be’

This is particularly so since he’s learning Sanscrit, a language from the past, and because he wants to emulate Caesar. It’s curious too that he condemns Freud and Marx, who lived in the past, as ‘enemies of mankind’ even though they obviously weren’t.

He seems to have misunderstood both when he describes them as:

‘Mister Freud with his dreams and Mister Marx with his axe’.

Freud didn’t have dreams in the implied sense of far-fetched aspirations but attempted to explain the role of dreams in human psychology. And not only didn’t Marx have an axe in any relevant sense, but the narrator seems to have confused him with Engels who looked forward to the day when the state would be confined to:

‘… the museum of antiquities, next to the spinning wheel and the bronze axe’2

In any case the phrase ‘enemy of mankind’ is disconcertingly reminiscent of the phrase ‘enemy of the state’ as used, not to describe either Freud or Marx, but by tyrants to describe dissenters from their tyranny. The narrator’s condemnation of Freud and Marx accordingly seems to cast him in the mould of such a tyrant. That this is so is reinforced when he exhorts us to relish the evil he imagines being meted out to them:

‘See the raw hide lash rip the skin off their backs’

He claims to want to do things:

‘… for the benefit of all mankind’,

but in condemning mankind’s benefactors he’s doing the opposite. Furthermore, he can be seen as exacerbating the amount of evil in the world so that what should have seemed an exaggeratedly pessimistic, Mephistophelian description of life on earth –

 ‘.. the burning hell’ –

turns out to be accurate. The narrator, the representative of mankind, is turning mankind against itself and creating a hell. He invites his creation to:

‘Step right into the burning hell’,

to witness the agonies of those being tortured there, but unnecessarily. The creature will be stepping into hell just by coming into existence. There’s a suggestion that the creature too will be creating hell. Like the creator, it will be mean-spirited. What the narrator thinks of as ‘the right spirit’:

‘… creeps in your body the day you are born’

With the creature having inherited its creator’s capacity for hell-making from the day it’s born, it becomes even more absurd to rely on it as a saviour.


13. To be

There’s a different way the narrator can be saved. He wants to know what it is:

‘… to be or not to be’

Despite the wording, it’s not the same as the question that troubled Hamlet. One answer is that to be is to be God. God is identified with existence – being  – throughout the bible where his name is given as ‘I am’. That the narrator’s being, in the sense of spiritual fulfilment, requires his identity with God is suggested by his also being a creator, by his identity with Christ and by his desire to walk the ‘moonlight mile’.4

The narrator doesn’t fully understand what it is to be in this sense. Contrary to what he thinks, he does not have the right spirit. While he condemns pre-Christian atrocities such as slavery which took place:

‘(L)ong ago before the First Crusade’

he pays no attention to the fact that slavery has gone on in the Christian era. Furthermore, in implicitly approving of the First Crusade, he seems to be guilty of a superficial, unthinking approval of Christianity at its worst.  It goes along with his relishing the suffering in hell of those he assumes to be enemies of mankind.


14. It’ll be Done when it’s Done

The narrator’s method for achieving salvation is to:

‘… turn back the years’

to a happier time before his crime and his consequent sense of guilt. He tries to recreate himself at a time prior to his guilt, even though he realises that the new version of himself will be born with the same defects as the original. Turning back the years seems the only option given that he has ‘no place to turn’.

In what sense, then, does the narrator try to turn back the years? Instead of ‘to be’, his answer is ‘to do’:

 ‘I want to bring someone to life – is what I want to do

The narrator places a lot of emphasis on doing:

‘If I do it upright …’

‘I want to do things for the benefit of all mankind’

‘And I ask myself what would Julius Caesar do

Do it with decency and commonsense’

Do it in the dark …’

Do it with laughter – do it with tears’

 And in the future perfect:

 ‘…  it’ll be done when it’s done

Doing is, nevertheless, a futile option. The words:

 ‘… it’ll be done when it’s done

falsely suggest that the answer to his problem is simple. His emphasis on doing rather than being is not going to bring about his spiritual rebirth.

Alarmingly, the words are reminiscent of Lady Macbeth’s immediately after the murder of Duncan. She tries to raise her spirits with the thought that ‘What’s done is done’ (3.2) Previously, while washing Duncan’s blood from her hands, she had declared of his murder ‘A little water clears us of this deed’. Ironically a little water would clear her of her guilt  –  if only she saw it as baptismal water. In other words, paradoxically, for her what’s done isn’t necessarily done, provided she makes the right choices.3

Just as Lady Macbeth mistakes the sort of water that will clear her, so the narrator mistakes the sort of resurrection that will clear him of his guilt. Simply bringing someone back to life in a bizarre nocturnal ritual, or condemning the whole of the past, or returning to the past, will be no substitute for the narrator’s self-redemption through following Caesar’s – and hence Christ’s – example.


15. The Solution

The narrator’s confident assertion that:

‘… it’ll be done when it’s done’

itself seems misjudged. It looks as if his method of doing is never going to reach fruition. He’s been working at it for years:

‘All through the summers and into January’

with nothing to show for it.

It’s hinted that instead of not caring how long it takes, he’d do better to avoid a temporal solution altogether. That an eternal – that is, timeless – Godly existence should be the narrator’s aim is hinted at in the lack of a clear temporal order in the song. It’s rarely clear, for example, how far the narrator has got in producing his creation. He speaks to it on several occasions as if it’s alive, and yet by the end bringing it to life is still something that hasn’t happened. Also, the use of the present tense to refer to the ‘right spirit’ as something which:

‘Creeps in your body the day you are born’

suggests that being born in the sense of spiritual rebirth – is not an event which happens in time. Rather it’s ongoing. One is continuously being born. Being born as a permanent state is what it is ‘to be’. Only outside time – and space, since he has ‘no place to turn’ – will he be able ‘to be’. It’s in his eternal, not his temporal, existence that can be identical with God and Christ.

The final hint of an atemporal solution is in the line:

‘Show me your ribs, I’ll stick in the knife’

since it makes the act of murder the same as the act of redemption, which would be impossible in the temporal world.

As it is, there’s a danger that true being will elude him. Each winter will be the winter of his discontent, because by each January he will have failed yet again. 


Conclusion

This is an extraordinary song. Its success lies in the way it plays with identity and temporal order, and interconnects a multiplicity of disparate ideas and images, first using them in one way, then in another.

What might on first hearing seem to be a gothic horror story turns out to be a representation of what’s required to make up for one’s moral failings. On the surface level, the narrator is incompetently attempting to assuage feelings of guilt by resurrecting the body of someone he has killed. Success, he thinks, will be tantamount to having turned back the years to a time before his crime. He’s like Lady Macbeth in his failure to see the need to get rid of the wrongdoing itself, rather than just its outward signs.

Nevertheless, having failed at living and at accepting the truth about himself, he wants to know what it is properly to exist. The song implies that to exist is to be – to be God and to be Christ. He needs to be God as creator, and Christ as redeemer. As creator, he needs to create himself.  And as redeemer, he must resurrect himself. But only from an eternal perspective will creation and resurrection will be literally the case. From a temporal perspective they cannot literally occur. Success at redemption and resurrection will only be achieved by following the ways of Christ and Caesar.

Since the narrator contains within himself ‘the history of the whole human race’, his story is humanity’s story. The way for him to achieve existence and be ‘saved’ will be the way for humanity generally to achieve existence and be saved.

 

Notes:

1. When addressing himself he says:

‘You know what I mean – you know exactly what I mean’

The emphatic way in which this is put suggests that the narrator is being self-critical for not having admitted to himself that he knows the identity of the person he’s bringing to life – himself.

2. Friedrich Engels, ‘Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State’, 1884.

3. Cf ‘Long ago before the first Crusade’. The Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade reference in I Contain Multitudes further reminds us that cruelty still goes on. The film also deals with the finding of one’s father where ‘father’ can be taken to represent God. That theme is also present in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

4. ‘I am’ appears explicitly in two later songs on the album, I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You and Murder Most Foul.

5. As the doctor says ‘More needs she the divine than the physician’ (Macbeth 5.1.74).

4 thoughts on “My Own Version Of You

  1. Applying a Christian template to the narrator in this song is dubious in that the narrator from a Jewish point of view is not about to accept guilt for the death of Christ as the biblical John would have.
    After all, Christ failed to save mankind, and waiting for the Second Coming or the true Messiah to come along and save humanity has apparently become a bit tedious.

    The song is rather cynical in that the narrator is left feeling that he has to try and do it himself.

    Like

    • Thanks, Paul.

      It occurs to me that the phrase ‘I’ll stick in the knife’ at the end of the song may also be significant in that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death. In stabbing his creation the narrator is thus being identified with Caesar’s murderers and his creation with Caesar. He’s killing the person he’d intended to emulate. Furthermore this is another example of the theme of assassination which runs through the album

      Like

  2. Mr. Weir dies in the long snowstorm trying to chase down his own creature – he wrong-foots himself by so easily dismissing Gothic writers in the introduction that interest Dylan- Poe, Keats, M. Shelley.

    Like

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