The Doors: “The End” (2. Analysis – part 1)

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THE  END

[Chorus]
This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

The song follows a stream-of-consciousness path, exploring into Jim Morrison’s mind and depicting the desperate, meaningless, vulnerable life we live.
The end, the only thing left to him his “only friend” seems an appealing thing: it is the only means of escaping reality.
He himself pointed out the meaning of these words
“Sometimes the pain is too much to examine, or even tolerate….That doesn’t make it evil, though – or necessarily dangerous. But people fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah – I guess it is a friend…”

[Verse 1]
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes again

Jim Morrison’s intent was to write a song about his first break-up, but he admitted that more general interpretations are valid. Therefore “I’ll never look into your eyes again” may have different interpretations according to how the concept of “the end” is interpreted: he’ll never look into his partner’s eyes again because they have parted, or, if the end is death, because one of them is dead.

[Verse 2]
Can you picture what will be?
So limitless and free
Desperately in need
Of some stranger’s hand
In a desperate land

After beaking up with his girlfriend, Jim  has become “limitless and free”, looking for another hand, for someone else’s company. But the repetition of “desperately in need of some stranger’s hand…in a desperate land” gives the idea of the meaninglessness and despair of his life.

 

[Verse 3]
Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah

This verse continues to depict the desperation of life starting right from childhood
The “Roman wilderness of pain” may refer to Roman mythology, which has always represented our innermost life, or to the fall of the Roman empire, or even the end of Western culture.
It may also be an allusion to Roman history, when the empire made the conquered land feel dejected, full of painful memories.
This desperate condition starts right from childhood, when children are insanely happy because they don’t know the cruelty of society yet. Even their “waiting for the summer rain”, is a foolish act since it rarely rains in summer.

“All the children are insane” may also be a reference to psychoanalysis and Freud, who first attributed sexuality to children by defining them as perverse polymorphs, who progress through multiple stages of sexual development, which are not aimed at reproduction.

As it always happens in poetry, and according to Morrison’s own words, the goal of his poems was to get us to look beyond the surface, to see all the possibilities, to take part in the dramatic situation around us

[Verse 4]
There’s danger on the edge of town
Ride the King’s Highway, baby
Weird scenes inside the gold mine
Ride the highway west, baby
Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake, he’s long, seven miles
Ride the snake
He’s old and his skin is cold
The west is the best
The west is the best
Get here and we’ll do the rest
The blue bus is calling us
The blue bus is calling us
Driver, where you takin’ us?

The first line gives an idea of fear and harm, through the use of “danger” and “the edge of town”, which suggests the idea of something unfamiliar, outside our everyday knowledge.
Then there is the reference to a drive down “King’s Highway”, which may refer either to a very important trade route in the ancient Near East, originating in Egypt and ending at the Euphrates River, or to “El Camino Real” running through California, which originally connected the Spanish missions dotting the coast.   It might also be a metaphor for Interstate 10, which stretches from Morrison’s birthplace in Florida, across the Southern US to Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean, or any other westbound route.
The image of the “gold mine” could represent the rich western world or a place where something precious lies buried deeply.
Jim seeks freedom, riding the King’s Highway, a sort of snake leading west, to an ancient lake. and answering the call of the blue bus.
“The snake” is a timeless symbol with many meanings: from the snake in the garden of Eden, to the snake of infinite, esoteric knowledge, it can represent consciousness, the cyclic nature of the universe, regeneration, rebirth .Snake can also mean pleasure and, in the West, it can also be understood as an obstacle, an evil to overcome.

The “ancient lake” symbolizes the end of that journey, the transition from life to death and to renewal.

This snake is “seven miles”  long:  seven is a very meaningful number and also holy, as in the seven days of Creation, the deadly sins, the liberal arts, musical notes, days of the week, etc.
“The west is the best” refers both to western society’s belief of being the height of civilisation in the modern world and Morrison’s love of the west coast of America, specifically L.A.
Once reached, the West is the perfect place: the line “Get here and we’ll do the rest” sounds like an allusion to American propaganda, alluring people to come to the western world.

“The blue bus” has two meanings: it is used to mean Santa Monica’s ‘Big Blue Bus’ system which he must have taken to get from his home address to the school or to the beach, and this latter trip was approximately seven miles. Alternatively, it may represent drug, since blue, a heavenly colour, is often associated with mysticism and trips. Blue Bus was the street name of a powerful painkiller or it can represent the hallucinogenic cactus, peyote, which is referred to as “el venado azul” or the blue deer.
… not to forget that blue is often associated with sorrow and sadness.

The journey on the blue bus is headed for the unknown: “Driver where you takin’ us?”
Even though Jim knows he will reach enlightenment he has no idea on how the “driver” is going to get him there.
This journey to paradise can be accomplished only by surrendering to the decision of driver of the blue bus: the quest for self-discovery may be a call to an unknown (potentially dangerous)  place.

(To be continued)

24 thoughts on “The Doors: “The End” (2. Analysis – part 1)

  1. Morrison’s poetry goes through time and finds so many readings. his immense talent and creativity, reflected in it and in the songs, are very well drawn in your words. dense and strong, they point so many paths, although his was already, who knows, since long before, already decided by himself. essential reading your posts.

    Liked by 3 people

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