In Bob Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind, who is the speaker and how does the speaker and attitude shift?

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Bob Dylan's 1962 composition "Blowin' in the Wind" utilizes a succession of questions. One way to interpret the lyrics is that the questions are rhetorical; as such, they are answered by the same person who asks them. The speaker repeats that the answer to each of them is elusive and unknowable, expressed as "blowin' in the wind." Another way to interpret the questions is that there is a single person asking the series of questions, or even a number of speakers, each asking a different question. The other person who answers gives the same answer to all.

The shifts in attitude relate to the underlying topic implied by the questions. For example, "How many roads must a man walk down / Before you call him a man" likely refers to the civil rights movement in which African Americans sought to end racial discrimination. The next two questions,

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

How many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?

ask how long mankind will continue to be engaged in warfare.

The rest of the song's lyrics ask more general rhetorical questions about human suffering, but always have the implication of questioning man's propensity for violence. The tone is fairly consistent throughout the lyrics; it could be characterized as plaintive. The use of the singular in "a man" suggests that the questions the speakers ask are uncomfortable ones, which implicate every member of humanity in not doing more to solve the world's problems and injustices.

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