"John Brown" is an anti-war poem and song by lyricist Bob Dylan. The song describes a young man named John Brown leaving for war as his mother proudly looks on. His mother tells her proud young soldier that he will return home with medals and honor. His mother represents nationalism, and John Brown represents the pawn in the nationalist game of war. The audience does not know where John Brown goes off to fight, but we know it is "a foreign shore." For the nationalist Americans, it is enough to know the enemies are "foreign."
At first, John Brown's mother receives letters from her son, and she is pull of pride. Eventually, she stops receiving letters, until one day, she receives a letter telling her to meet her son at the train station. His mother, in all her nationalistic pride, prepares to greet her soldier son, home from fighting that "good ol' fashioned war."
However, once her son steps off the train, she is horrified to see he has sustained immense injuries and is disabled from the war. Painfully and slowly, he tells his shocked mother about the horrors of war, the humanity between him and the so-called enemy, and how he realized he was just a "puppet in a play." In painful irony, before he turns away to walk with assistance of a metal brace, he drops medals into his mother's hands.