Alice In Chains: Man in the Box Meaning
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Song Released: 1991
Man in the Box Lyrics
Buried in my shit
Won’t you come and save me, save me
Feed my eyes, can you sew them shut?
Jesus christ, deny your maker
He who tries, will be wasted
Feed my eyes now you’ve sewn them shut
I’m the dog who...
anonymous May 28th, 2009 5:00pm report
While a lot of people are interpreting this song as a sort of hymn, I think that its attitude towards religion is not necessary all positive. I base this interpretation on the songwriter's comment that the song is about censorship, as well as the lyrics themselves.
In America, censorship is used to promote decency and traditional values. We associate decency with religion, and our traditional values - which condone sexuality, violence, and inappropriate language - originate in Christianity. If a member of an American rock band was angry about censorship, it's unlikely that he would write a song praising Christianity, which is responsible for censorship.
Now, to figure out this song.
Two things happen to the man in the box. The first is during the verses. He is "buried in my shit", "beat", etc. - being victimized, depressed, fake, suffering, living an unhappy and worthless life. At this point, he cries for someone - presumably "Jesus Christ" - to "come and save" him.
The second event happens during the chorus. His eyes are being "fed" and "sewn shut", in response to his cry for help. Metaphorically, he is being "fed" information, and then being completely cut off from information. By whom? Some people have said Satan, but I don't see Satan mentioned anywhere in this song. I think the person is clearly Jesus Christ. "Feed my eyes, can you sew them shut / Jesus Christ".
The man in the box, depressed and unhappy with his life, turns to religion to save him. And religion does "feed" him the ideas and information he craves - that he is being cared for and loved by a higher power, there is hope for an afterlife, that there is meaning in life. But after "feeding his eyes", religion "sews them shut", by closing his mind to new, potentially dangerous ideas and information. This is the act of censorship, what the entire song is about.
anonymous Aug 28th, 2014 8:48am report
This is definitely a song about struggling with sin.
Layne grew up Catholic. If Jerry took part in the writing, I think he mostly agreed because it sounded moving even if he didn't quite understand all of it. You can really hear Layne coming out here.
The man in the box is the man who is told to do x, y, and z. Shoved his nose in shit is a reference to his repeatedly sinning, i.e., not doing x, y, and z, and God convicting him of his failures.
Then he asks God to save him from his failures.
He says "Save my eyes," implying that he wants to be kept from the temptations to do whatever it is that is plaguing him.
I agree with the earlier commentator, that the second voice is best interpreted as the voice of Satan, or perhaps just the voice of human rebellion against God, angry and impatient for God to come through:
"can you sew them shut?" Is like an, "Oh really, God? Can you answer my prayers? And if you can, will you really? And keep me from my temptations?" Later Satan encourages Staley to deny his maker because God hasn't delivered him from his temptations. But then, he says what I think he genuinely believes, that one who does so "will be wasted." When God sews his eyes shut, it is a commentary on Staley's belief that God has abandoned him and left him to his sin. He fears that he is on the road to God's abandoning him. He does not entirely trust God to save him, or to grant him heaven in light of his failures.
I believe Staley was a Christian, in the sense that he believed that Christ was the savior. He wasn't struggling with this belief. He had a painting of Christ in the apartment where he died in his later years. Why would someone keep such a painting in their house, that was taunting them, if they didn't believe? He was struggling with his sin, and passages in Scripture that say if you live a life of sin, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. He was wondering whether years in the music business and the sin that he fell into denied him of his future in eternity with God. I pray that it did not.
Any Christian who has repeatedly struggled with besetting sin should get this one.
But as everyone has said, this is my interpretation, as an ardent AIC fan and a Christian, who spent most of my life as an atheist, but have been a Christian long enough now to see how the continued struggles with sin could tear a man apart, if he did not quite trust God
not to condemn him. But it is not my part to judge the limits of God's mercy. I pray they are beyond my comprehension.
anonymous Dec 15th, 2007 12:17pm report
Jerry Cantrell AND Layne Staley wrote this song. They were out eating with vegetarians. They explained how the calves were raised in little boxes only to be slaughtered and that's how we get veal. This inspired "man in the box". from Cantrell's point it is mainly about censorship, Layne felt it was more about most people, living in the placed the grew up, day to day routine, creating a type of box around your life and leaving you stuck with bills and job you hate, etc.
anonymous Aug 19th, 8:28am report
My Grandpa who fought in Vietnam said it was about a P.O.W. that they locked in a box and left him there until he was released during a prisoner exchange.
anonymous Feb 24th, 2016 2:01pm report
The song is about giving his soul to Satan. Feed my eyes, meaning wanting the spirituality, because he's empty. Satan replies can you sew them shut. He cries out to Jesus Christ, Satan replies deny your maker. He thinks about trying, Satan tells him that trying only leads to waste, then when he says feed my eyes, Satan has taken over and his eyes have been sewn shut.
anonymous Feb 13th, 2015 2:25pm report
You are all way to deep for me. It's about fucking animal abuse!
The beauty of this song, as well as soooo many more is that it will mean different things to different people, at different times, including the artist's themselves. I love the interpretive banter and perspective many of you have shared. A good song will make you FEEL something. If that is accomplished then the purpose is filled.
anonymous Oct 17th, 2013 10:35am report
The man in the box buried in shit is a priest in a confessional booth who he himself is a sinner and in need of salvation regardless of being an anointed absolver of sins. (Feed my eyes) the eyes are the window to the soul and the priest has his eyes closed praying in petition to God to feed his eyes with heavenly glory and true light in regards to disciplining in spiritual matters by which Jesus says: If your eye causes you to sin then it is better for you to pluck it out rather than walking in hell blind -Your eyes are like a lamp for the body.When your eyes are sound,your whole body is full of light;but when your eyes are no good,your whole body will be in darkness.
The lyrics with the dog is translated as God correcting His servant for insubordinancy.The servant is experiencing difficulty in what God's will is or how to appease Him.
anonymous Sep 11th, 2013 9:31am report
It's about animals that are treated unfairly and caged its brilliant its thief voice and how gov hide it from us - not everything is about humans the time
betternotfigureitout May 31st, 2013 5:50am report
In case you haven't figured out the nature of the music, or indeed, the entertainment industry, I recommend you attempt to understand why so many in that field die or appear to go nuts. This song is an unanswered appeal for help. Pete Ham of Badfinger committed suicide and wrote this on his note: "I will not be allowed to love and trust everybody. This is better." It also included an accusatory blast toward Badfinger's business manager, Stan Polley: "P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me." Check out the website Vigilant Citizen.
anonymous Mar 5th, 2013 3:35am report
i see it differently i guess. great song. Im the man in the box, this is him in the world, buried in my shit, fighting an up hill battle with sin and worldly things, problems. won't you come and save me, save me? asking Jesus to save him. Feed my eyes, can you sew them shut? i think he is asking Jesus to feed him the light, the Bible references light as holy and darkness as evil. light salvation. notice there are 2 singers i believe when the 2nd singer asks can you sew them shut its a question reference to staying away from the light for good, always being in the darkness by sewing them shut. he says, he who tries (2nd singer)-will be wasted. he is trying, asking Jesus to save him again, with conviction-notice his strong voice in the chorus.the (2nd singer) will be wasted, is satan telling him Jesus won't save him he is wasting his time, not worthy. last one. feed my eyes, notice his voice not quite as intense, trying once more to be saved, now you've sewn them shut, he didn't get saved, remaining in darkness. could also be a reference to the past as if he is looking back on it. im the dog that gets beat, meaning he tries to do good but he is a product of his environment, so to speak, reference to sin, he is the dog as Jesus his master. shove my nose in shit. punishing him for sinning. then its the same over again.
pay attention to his voice intensity throughout the song and listen to the 2 singers as it references 2 people or 1 person 1 being. thanks Just my .02
anonymous Dec 5th, 2012 12:41pm report
I’m the man in the box
Buried in my shit
MEANING: I'm miserable
Won’t you come and save me, save me
MEANING: God please save me.
SINGER: Feed my eyes, DEVIL: can you sew them shut?
SINGER: Jesus christ, DEVIL: deny your maker
SINGER: He who tries, DEVIL: will be wasted
SINGER: Feed my eyes now you’ve sewn them shut
Just my interpretation.
Layne had such a powerful voice, and range.
anonymous Oct 26th, 2012 10:39am report
The world medias drama propaganda and the churchs "churchiness" offer no lasting relief from the pain of abuse. Just more rules and overconsumption. Insisting upon the blind sheep to reject messianic revelation for continual hope for a new jesus according to "their" plan.
anonymous Jul 23rd, 2012 7:20am report
They may have been thinking about censorship when writing this song, but the song is not about censorship. It is about Cantrell or the band blaming Christianity for the censorship, among other things.
This message is flawed in so many ways, but I'll just get to the meaning. I'm a guitar player. I'm a huge AIC fan, a Christian, and this meaning is extremely cut and dry, IMO.
(I'm the man in the box)
We live and die. We're born into the grave. They mention this in other songs, and a lot of their songs obviously deal with the topic of death.
(Buried in my shit)
This could mean sin, or a shit life [he's not dead yet here]. Interpret this how you want, it's not a pivotal point in the song.
(Won't you come and save me, save me)
Here, he is talking directly to Jesus (or God), but he is not asking for help like many others have said. They do not reveal the meaning of the song yet.
(Feed my eyes, can you sew them shut?)
Here is the meaning of the song: He can't believe in God (Jesus) and be delivered into the afterlife by Him, because he needs something more tangible - a sign.
(Jesus Christ, deny your maker)
This line basically sets up the next, and finally reveals that he is addressing Jesus by naming him.
(He who tries, will be wasted)
Exhibits some superficial knowledge of the Gospel [although in disbelief... remember he needs a sign to believe]. The knowledge is that, if you reject Christ as the only way to God [or in other words Jesus Christ as your Saviour], you're done at death... or worse go to hell [wasted].
(Feed my eyes now you've sewn them shut)
Again, pleading for a sign, but then you guessed it... he's dead now... it's too late. Makes another reference to death [eyes sewn shut], but in this scenario he's not being delivered into the afterlife [or everlasting life] by God.
(I'm the dog who gets beat)
(Shove my nose in shit)
Now, finally, after laying out their flawed [IMHO] beliefs, they [or perhaps Cantrell alone] go on to complain about censorship - apparently at the behest of some Christian "moral authority," as the song's previous complaints suggest. Then the chorus repeats. Don't make me explain it again.
Since I am a Christian, and have helped to enlighten you mere mortals of this song's flawed yet esoteric meanings, I feel as though it is my duty to leave you with something more substantial.
"But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:39,40
anonymous Jul 21st, 2012 7:32am report
to be honest I didn't read every one of the things written here, but I always took it to be sorta about censorship, AND in a sarcastic way attacking religion..
but then again I am an atheist so I don't get religion, and think of all the people that are religious as the "man in the box"
anonymous Oct 11th, 2011 10:55pm report
I met a guy who was the guitar tech for the Seattle band Grunttruck who also got a record deal at the same time as all the grunge bands. He told me story of a guy who won the state lottery and got a hotel room and bought insane amounts of drugs,and for a year did nothing but party. He was the man in the box, Lane Staley bought drugs off of this dude,with the way he died it makes sense.
anonymous Jun 26th, 2011 6:13pm report
Analyze the lyrics and then watch the official video... this song is about veal? hardly... that is the politically correct message of someone with an agenda. This song is screaming of a man's person struggles with his own personal demons (...something he wants to be saved from personally) The video shows an ominous figure walking around in "grim reaper" robes.. This is classic good vs. evil as is evidenced in the chorus with a call and response between the lead singer and the back-up vocals... his cry for help and his personal demons telling him he has no hope. Veal, yeah right... the man in the box is trapped and looking for a way out. He feels frustrated and like a victim in the second verse referencing himself to a dog being beaten... while calling for help, his personal demons tell him he has no hope (Jesus Christ....deny your maker...) and even if he tries he will return to his vices trapping him right back in the box... watch the official video... this is a metaphoric scream for help in the midst of hopelessness, covered with some ridiculous story of veal to cover something darker and deeper while also making a political statement that would make for cause celeb... this is 101...
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