Another Brick In The Wall: the meaning of Pink Floyd’s song

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Few albums in the history of music have explored the universe of human feelings such as The Wall, the eleventh work of Pink Floyd, released in 1979. Childhood trauma, anger, despair and sense of emptiness: these are the experiences and emotions with which Pink, the protagonist of the story, builds the wall around him. Piece by piece, the walls gets bigger, isolating him more and more from the world.

Once the barrier construction process has begun, any negative experience becomes the brick that, together with the others, acts as a shield against a hostile reality.

In Another Brick in The Wall, one of the most famous tracks of the group, Pink’s detachment already has a form, and it is the title itself that suggests it: any tragedy, injustice or abuse can only be “another brick” in an already existing wall. If in the first of the three parts that make up the song we find the painful memory of a child raised without a father who died in the war, in the second we refer to the unacceptable situations that Pink, a future rock star, is forced to live in school.

A protest chorus rises and turns directly against the bullies in charge:

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers, leave them kids alone
Hey, Teachers, leave them kids alone

A question could arise spontaneously in a listener, if he sees just the surface: are we facing a song that denies the importance of education? No, certainly not. If anything, it is a critique of an educational system which, instead of guiding young people towards the discovery of their own abilities and inclinations, too often suffocates their creativity with the imposition of schematic teachings that risk delaying the development of a critical and personal mindset. Not to mention the public humiliations by certain professors who undermine the already low self-esteem of the students.

When you hit puberty and start getting snotty, it’s good to have an adult around who will say, ‘Well hang on, let’s talk about that,’ rather than ‘be quiet.’

Roger Waters

Our Pink, however, with a past as short as painful, seems to already have some awareness of his own existence, as shown in the next two verses:

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall

The atmosphere is tense. Gilmour’s guitar, which eventually frees itself in a great solo, helps to make it so. But if the anger due to the authoritarian behavior of who should be an example is almost tangible, so is the disillusionment with a possible change. The teachers cannot fail to represent for Pink one more reason to stay closed inside his shell.

In fact, Another Brick in The Wall is not a mere consideration of the educational institution, as Waters points out:

Really, the most important thing about that song is not the relationship with the school teacher. It was the first little thing I wrote where I lyrically expressed the idea that you could make or build a wall out of a number of different bricks that when they fit together provided something impermeable, and so this was just one of them.

Roger Waters

With these words, the legendary bass player is obviously talking about himself. The song, as well as the entire album, is a system of experiences he lived, the existential cry of an invisible person, whose condition is attributable to sometimes insurmountable difficulties in communicating with others.

Fear is precisely the cornerstone of the song: the fear used by arrogant people as an instrument of control and domination over those who have no power, be it a country, a community or a class of students; the fear that forces us to silence and withdraw into ourselves and admits no alternatives.

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