The Times They Are Changing by Bob Dylan


The poem was released in 1963, during the hippie/civil rights movement in America. The song “The Times They Are A-Changing” became a rallying cry in the early 1960s. The poem calls on the common people to band together and question the flaws of government. Through the line “For The Times They Are A-Changing,” Bob Dylan also provides an optimistic assurance to those who stood up.



Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'

• The opening line “Come gather ’round people” is a typical language used in the folk traditions of telling villagers to gather around to announce new – and in this case ominous – things that are about to happen.”

• Asking people to gather around together, to unite.

• People need to see the flaws of the government; what is happening with racism and poverty.

• Existing system needs a change. It is unjust.

• And now there is a change happening outside that stand up against the injustice.

• It is better you start swimming so that things won’t end up worse.

• During the Civil Rights movement- black people- Afro-American.

• American civil rights movement, mass protest movement against racial segregation and discrimination in the southern United States that came to national prominence during the mid-1950s. This movement had its roots in the centuries-long efforts of enslaved Africans and their descendants to resist racial oppression and abolish the institution of slavery ( institutionalized racial discrimination, disenfranchisement and racial segregation in the The United States).

• The first stanza perfectly sums up what the song is all about.

• As Dylan asks the people of the world to “admit that the waters around [them] have grown,” he means that change has arrived.

• Water has cleansing power.

• He says that if people don’t accept and embrace change, they’ll drown in the past.

• This was released in 1964, At that time, the Civil Rights Movement was at its peak and anti-war sentiments in the midst of Cold War tensions were going strong.

• He is trying to show that with all this call for change, those who wish to maintain the culture of the past will eventually fall because the new movements are growing at a fast rate.


Come, writers and critics,
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'

• The folk atmosphere provides a simple rhythm that Dylan repeats in the second stanza, but he shifts his attention from everyday people to writers and journalists.

• He calls for those who prophesize with their pens to take careful note of change for when the times are changing, you never know what can happen.

• He tells them not to speak ill of them.

• The news has been talking badly about the times they are in and about the crisis.

• Since the “wheel’s still in spin,” meaning that a lot of change is still happening, Dylan explains that “the loser now will be later to win” so this is the time for journalists and writers to watch the world with sharper eyes.

• This is a universal idea that applies to journalism, and we see it every day.

• Surprising events happen all the time and modern journalists should try their best to foresee them.

• Tells them not to speak too soon because everything is changing.

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Come, senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'

• Addresses the senators and congressmen.

• The third stanza focuses on politicians, who are tasked with answering to the will of the people.

• He asks them to listen to the call from those who want the change and to act responsibly.

• As Dylan points out, unfortunately, many senators and congressmen and those involved in government affairs, only work in their own best interests.

• When the people demand change, Dylan points out that the congressmen cannot “stand in the doorway” or “block up the hall.”

• He urges them not to block those who fight for freedom.

• He shows that the stalling politicians will ultimately be the ones who lose in the end because the demand for change (the raging battle outside as Dylan puts it) near the doors of the Capitol building will eventually overpower even the strongest of politicians.

• If the politicians block the people who want the change, they will be hurt badly, they’ll break your windows and shake your walls.


Come, mothers and fathers,
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’ Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'

• The last group of people that Dylan addresses consists of parents.

• In the fourth stanza, he reminds parents that the children are the future.

• Since times are changing, parents don’t really have a say in criticizing what they don’t understand.

• He says that parents should not attempt to send their children on the path of the dusty, ageing old road for their lives are unpaved.

• It’s the sons and daughters who must forge the new road, and if parents don’t want to help, Dylan argues that they should “get out.”

• This is Dylan’s stance on cultural change.

• It’s controversial due to the argument that parents want what’s best for their children and sometimes their “best” is different from that of the children.

• He may be addressing the parents who hinder the decision making processes of their children really stand in the way of the future.

• Every child has dreams and aspirations, and every time that a parent stands directly in the way of a dream, the future grows less bright.


The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'

• The fight has begun and the line is drawn by the youth.

• The curse of the past will be overthrown.

• Those who are fighting for the freedom and rights are now the minority, but they soon will be the ones ruling and making the change-as the present now will later be past.

• Jesus made the statement “many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30) in the context of His encounter with the rich young ruler.

• The last stanza shows the universal and perpetual nature of change.

• The established order is rapidly fading- it shows that there is a change taking place.


I. Choose the right answer from the following:
1. To whom does the poet say “Don’t stand in the doorway/Don’t block up the hall
a. Writers and Critics     
b. Senators and Congressmen
c. Mothers and Fathers
d. None of these

A: b

2. What is the figure of speech found in the line “Or you’ll sink like a stone?”
A: Simile.

3. Which is the refrain that recurs in the poem?

A: “For the times they are A- changing.”

4. In which year was Bob Dylan awarded the Nobel prize for literature?
a. 2010
b. 2015
c. 2016
d. 2012
A: c

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II. Answer the following questions in a sentence or two.
1.What does the expression ” the waters around you have grown” mean?
Answer: The poet calls the people’s attention to the injustices around them and asks if they do not see what is happening.

2. Explain “you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone.”
Answer: The poet asks the people to react to the injustices around them, or else one will perish.

3. What does the poet ask the writers and critics?
Answer: To keep their eyes wide open to the changes around, so that they could write about it. If they miss there won’t be a second chance.

4. What is the battle implied in “There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’?”
Answer: Youngsters have already started their protest and they are strongly revolting against corruption.

5. What does the line “the first one now will later be last” imply.
Answer: Those who are in power now will be pushed down as powerless because no one can stay long on a throne of deceit.

6. Explain “Your old road is rapidly agin'”
Answer: The olden days of the previous generation are gone and the present times are new and should be approached with newer thoughts.

7. What is the context of the song” The Times They are A-Changing”?
Answer: During the American civil rights movement in the 1960s, Bob Dylan wrote the song as an anthem of change for the time.

8. Why does Bob Dylan say that the present now will later be past?
Answer: Change is inevitable and is the only constant. Change happens during every time so this present can change at any moment.

Long Answer Type Questions

III. Answer the following questions in a paragraph of about 100 words each:
1. Why are the people asked to gather round?
Answer: The poet is calling the people to unite to face the flaws of the government. He asks them to admit that if they do not react against it they will perish. The government is for the people, so they should observe its working and raise voice against injustices like poverty and racism and think about an upcoming change

2. Comment on Bob Dylan’s use of language.
Answer: Bob Dylan’s use of language is often challenging and complex. The poem has short concise verses. He comments on current life and times with wit, insight and astonishing imagery. He was also influenced by Beat generation poets, whose style were to make use of free-style, nonrhyming and highly vivid word play. He wrote with freedom, without the traditional constraints.

3. Discuss generational conflict in “The times they are A-changing”.
Answer: In the fourth stanza of his poem, Bob Dylan’s asks “Mothers and Fathers- Throughout the land” to not criticize what they do not understand. The generation of their sons and daughters are beyond their command now. Youngsters can make a change in the society. So when they do gather for a change, the older generation shouldn’t stop them. Bob Dylan doesn’t force everybody to stand up against the injustices in society. If anybody can’t accept or understand let them move away from the way of the ongoers of protest.

Essay Type Questions

IV. Answer the following questions in not more than 300 words each:
1. Consider Bob Dylan’s “The Times -They are A-Changing” as a song of protest.
Answer: The poem was performed in 1963 during the political and military upheaval. The song is a call for youngsters to come together and bring a needed change. It is often viewed as a reflection of the generation gap and of the political divide marking American culture in the 1960s.

Music can convey meaning and values. Bob Dylan influenced from Woody Guthrie the legendary folk singer of the 1930s and the beat generation promoted a hippie culture in his songs modelled on traditional folk songs. His album The Times They are A-Changing, firmly established him as the new voice of the 60’s protest movement like traditional folk ballads, Bob Dylan starts his song telling people to gather around. There has also been critical discussion if the song is really a protest song. It is just a wake-up call to make people realize that the world has moved on. It is about perception. The poet just asks people to accept the truth rather than overthrowing the power overnight. There is a conflict with power, war, poverty and racism. Dylan asks all people to come around and accept certain truths happening around them. He also asks to react against it or like a sinking stone one is pushed down. In the second stanza, Dylan is calling writers and journalists and asking them to keep an attentive eyes.

In the third stanza, Dylan addresses the senators and those involved in government affairs. Bob Dylan is telling them to hear the call from those who want change and do not block. Next, he addresses mothers and fathers and tells them not to criticize what they do not know. Bob Dylan says there is a need for fighting for freedom. He also reminds that sons and daughters and beyond parents’ age. Those who are standing up for their freedom and for civil rights are now the minority, but soon they will be the ones ruling and making change. The song is timeless especially because of the meaning portrayed. Good intention breeds good results.

2. How does Bob Dylan present the generational war that happened in the America of the 1960s in the context of counter-culture?
Answer: After the end of World War II, there were a series of change in culture in America. There was the Vietnam War and civil rights to be won. It was a decade of turmoil that saw one President (John. F. Kennedy) shot. So many historic moments occurred within close proximity of time. All these historical happenings lead to a counterculture in America. As change progressed throughout the 1960s so did the music scene. Bob Dylan began music directly targeting the changes taking place around them. The youth of the country were lashing out against the values and goals of their parents and cultivated a hippie culture. It essentially started off as a rebellion at home and against their parents. Bob Dylan’s lines could best be placed in this context

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“And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command”

America was trying to get up from the “crisis” of post World War II and the Great Depression of the 1930s. There was a decay of social order in 1960s. The decade was also labelled the ‘swinging sixties’ because of the fall or relaxation of social taboos especially relating to racism and sexism that occurred during this time. There was an extreme deviation from the norm. Bob Dylan wrote this song in 1964 at a time when all of these upheavals were going on and it stirred the then society to bring a “change”. The song instantly clicked with the youth of America. Youth were no longer to be held in the constraints of family do’s and don’ts. There was a need of social reform against the injustices in society. Bob Dylan not only addresses the youth but also all writers, critics, senators and congressmen.
In a wealthy nation like America “The order is/ Rapidly fadin’” Bob Dylan is optimistic about the future.

“The slow one now
Will later be fast”

Bob Dylan challenged the accepted beliefs of American Society, focusing on the feelings of individuals rather than entire social groups and many young people looked up to him for their ideas concerning social ideas. His lyrics came out with a deep message for the audience to think about. He encouraged his audience to move in a direction for change.

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