How does Bob Dylan's "John Brown" depict the universality of war?

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The poem and song "John Brown" by Bob Dylan speaks to the universality of war in that it is not about any specific conflict or people. Instead, the reader or listener could probably ascribe the soldier, the mother, and the background to nearly any place or any time in the history of human conflict.

Instead of providing details, this song deals mostly with human emotions. Dylan mentions the mother's pride when she sends her son off to war and her shock and dismay when he returns a broken man, robbed of his vitality, innocence, and youth. The young soldier describes his feelings of terror on the battlefront and his shocking realization that he and his enemy are not different at all. His conclusion that "I was just a puppet in a play" is one that soldiers and veterans of numerous conflicts and wars have come to.

By being vague in details and focusing on the emotional aspect of war, this poem transcends national identity or any specific historical context.

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