Date of Award

Spring 1982

Document Type



Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Henry Burgess

Second Advisor

Joseph Ward


I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, and have more recently been enjoying four, years of college in Montana. I’ve never been to the Boardwalks of Asbury Park. I'm not an insider on Springsteen’s Jersey talk, nor am I privy to the locations of "Greasy Lake" or "Bellevue." The interest in Springsteen developed from an admiration of his music and the emotive manner of his performances. My literary background gives me an appreciation of lyrics. I especially enjoy Springsteen's creative stories and characters. I know of no other contemporary lyricist who blends Old Testament allusion into a song about American futility. He creates lives and worlds in single lines. His phraseology is usually brief, always insightful, and often inspirational. His words can reach inside a heart by relating incidents common to many people. Though he continues to compose, I feel that his completed works will stand independently of his future works. (Dwelling, at first, on solo characters facing the world, Springsteen builds toward an acceptance of society as a whole which will culminate in his characters' acceptance of marriage and related responsibilities.) I am certain that Springsteen’s lyrics, unlike too many contemporary composers works, can stand up to a great deal of inspection, criticism and analysis. I originally heard of Bruce Springsteen in the autumn of 1975» when I met a guy known as "Tommy the Dude." I was working in a restaurant in the Chicago suburbs where he was a waiter. He loaned me an album entitled Born to Run which, I later learned, was the third of Mr. Springsteen's efforts. Like numerous other "Rock 'n Rollers" I had known, Springsteen had his share of memorable lines and upbeat songs. After returning "Tommy the Dude's" album, I went out and bought my own copy. I played it every now and then and didn't think too much more about it. In September of 1978 Springsteen issued what critics termed a follow-up album to Born to Run. Entitled Darkness on the Edge of Town, the album was written in a narrow range of emotion centering around life's complexities. I had just graduated from high school and thought I knew everything. Moving far away from home to attend college, I carried many notions of tackling life and wrestling dreams from the unrelenting clutches of reality. Darkness on the Edge of Town tells about people desiring the good things in life, trying to make dreams come true, and encountering difficulties. I thought about working the rest of my life for someone else and also about having the freedom to do as I pleased when work was done. I wanted something more immediate and continuous than a pensioned retirement. I wanted every ounce of freedom I could wring from every day. It seemed that Springsteen put the desire to continually push on the limits of life in words and images that embodied many of my own demands for life. In addition, his demands for achievement in his own life (more than the freedom symbollized in racing cars) went beyond any goal I had imagined for myself. In a real way, this inspired me to believe I could have as full a life as I would be willing to work for. In his semi-autobiographical manner, Springsteen dwells on those places and peoples with whom he has grown-up. The working class Americans he writes about live in fixed environments. Springsteen relates seeing those around him fight'and sometimes lose control of their battles to gain freedom from their mundane existence. He does not really advocate escapism rather, the message pushes his belief that even the hardest conditions of life can be met head-on and triumphed over.