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Analysis of “One” by Metallica

This song was written by the band “Metallica” and released in the album ” … And Justice for All”. It is composed of 9 stanzas and 39 lines. There are two evident choruses each of which is made up of two identical sentences. This song is about a surviving soldier gravely injured by a mine. The protagonist of the song has lost all his corporeal sensations (legs, arms, sight, hearing and speech are totally irretrievable), so he exists only through his thoughts, and he so isolated from the concrete and physical world he used to know that he can’t distinguish real life from dreams. This sudden estrangement has caused a great interior dejection so that he begs God to take his life and release him.

The title “One” maybe emphasizes that there’s only one part of him that completely survived, his soul: destroying his means to interact with the surrounding reality, the mine imprisoned this soldier, keeping him conscious of his dreadful and hopeless situation. The title can also mean that he is lonely and powerless now that all his material world has gone. So the most important themes of this song are spiritual despair and anger for this dramatic and rare condition.

From a linguistic point of view the length of lines is mostly irregular, periods are brief and simple; because of this the rhythm is quite rapid and pressing. Syntax is plain and linear, there are lots of parallelisms where subjects and verbs are arranged symmetrically. In the first stanza the songwriter introduces the painful state of the soldier, in the following lines the protagonist admits that the only thing he considers perceivable is physical and moral suffering.

He is in a delicate equilibrium between life and death, in this phase of uncertainty, he has no requisites to live normally because he lost his senses as well as he is not dead since his heart and brain work, his body refuses to surrender. There are lots of run on lines such as between lines 6 and 7. In the first stanza there’s an epanalepsis, can’t is repeated after a short interval. In the lines 4 and 25 there’s a sort of personification: the songwriter gives Silence and Darkness the human power to immobilize the soldier. There are various anaphoras just like in the last stanza where the word taken is repeated at the beginning of each line, the soldier explains his agonizing situation, the reason of such a pain is clarified only at the end of the song. There isn’t an evident rhyme scheme: in some stanzas there’s an enclosed rhyme, others contain the rhyming couplet. Finally there’s an alliteration of thumping consonants and closed vowels (O/U) which have a hollow and lugubrious sound.

Metallica, One

I can’t remember anything
Can’t tell if this is true or dream
Deep down inside I feel to scream
This terrible silence stops me

Now that the war is through with me
I’m waking up, I cannot see
That there is not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please, God, wake me

Back to the world that’s much too real
In pumps life that I must feel
But can’t look forward to reveal
Look to the time when I’ll live

Fed through the tube that sticks in me
Just like a wartime novelty
Tied to machines that make me be
Cut this life off from me

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please, God, wake me

Now the world is gone, I’m just one
Oh God, help me
Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please, God, help me

Darkness imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell

Landmine has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell

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