The song Blowing in the Wind has the following lines

How many roads must a man walk down
Before they call him a man

I have no clue what this means

How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand

This seems to refer (metaphorically) to (involuntary) human euthanasia

How many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free

However, this refers much more strongly to euthanasia (people, free instead of dove, sleep) with the exception of "can", which slighlty implies being natural death.

Can someone explain the above couplets?

1 Answer 1


I think the interpretation of these lyrics is still somewhat open and that's partly why people like this song so much. I think they can be taken in the context of the time period, the 60s. Using this time in the US there were two major issues that people protested about, civil liberties and war. So the first line questions when is a man not a man. In terms of war a man is not a man when he is your enemy. In terms of civil rights a man is not a man when he is beneath you or not equal. How can these men who are not men be considered men? How many roads must they walk to be considered men?

The white dove is a symbol of peace. How long must the dove fly before it finds land? When will we find peace?

How long must people exist before they are free? This is more explicit in reference to civil liberties and inequality in general.

  • If I'm not mistaken the Harvard Lampoon did a parody of Dylan in the 70s or 80s in which they skewered him for the obscurity of his lyrics. This seems like a fair answer. +1
    – daniel
    Oct 13, 2016 at 12:19

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