Beatles: Eleanor Rigby Meaning
Song Released: 1966
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Eleanor Rigby Lyrics
Ah, look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a weddng
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by
1TOP RATED#1 top rated interpretation:anonymous Jan 9th 2010 report
This song is about loneliness, as given away by the line "Ah, look at all the lonely people."
My interpretation of the song is: Eleanor Rigby is an elderly woman who either never got married or lost her spouse. She cleans up after weddings in the church, which could only add to her loneliness. She is living "in a dream" because she wants to find love and friendship to be happy. As far as waiting by the window, I always saw her in her house, alone, smiling to passersby but feeling desperately alone inside. "A face that she keeps in a jar by the door" would mean her facade; she smiles to hide her misery.
Next, I see Father McKenzie as an older gentleman who is also lonely. His parish doesn't frequent his sermons as much lately, or he just doesn't feel the same comfort he used to, in the line "writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear." "No one comes near," to me, refers to his correct thought that his sermon goes mainly unheard. Or, and I just thought of this, it could refer to changing times, and how not as many people are dedicated to the church and God as in years past, which saddens him. He is sewing up ("darning") his socks, but he knows no one will really pay attention to him anyway, so "what does he care" if his socks are holy? (No pun intended, I promise.)
The next lines could indicate that Eleanor died in the church, maybe of heartbreak, or just of old age, but I see it as more of a sad irony...Eleanor was a churchgoer that needed a companion as much as the priest did, but both were so caught up in their troubles that they didn't find each other in time. ("No one was saved" would mean that neither soul was able to reach out to save the other, "buried along with her name" would mean Eleanor was soon forgotten because nobody knew her, and Father McKenzie "wipes the dirt off his hands as he walks from the grave" because he doesn't think much of his duty because he is caught up in his sorrow.)
Overall, Eleanor was depressed/alone and hid it, Father Mckenzie was sad/lonely and hid it, and both were too distracted by their own self-pity to realize each other and reach out.
2TOP RATED#2 top rated interpretation:
This song is obviously about feeling lonely and depressed. When Eleanor goes out she tries to make people think that she is happy and not all alone.
"Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door"
She wears that face so that no one can see the lonliness and emptiness that she feels. It is a false impression that she is giving to everyone that she sees
You can tell from this story that no one even cared about her. When she died no one even came to the funeral.
"Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear. No one comes near."
Even the minister doesn't care to be at her funeral. He wants to get it over with and go on with his life as if it doesn't matter to all.
"Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave. No one was saved"
(Wiping the dirt from your hands is a phrase often used to illustrate that you are going to get rid of something and forget about it. So obviously if the minister at her funeral is that anxious to be rid of her memory then who else is there to care and remember her.)
3TOP RATED#3 top rated interpretation:
This song is about the people on this world who are lonely, sad, maybe even depressed. It specifically tells the tale of two people, Eleanor Rigby and father McKenzie.
Ah, look at all the lonely people (this is repeated to be sung 2 times in total, this basically says it's meaning 'look at the lonely people')
Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been, lives in a dream. (She has nobody and her job then is cleaning up the church after ceremonies such as the wedding that was at the church. She is cleaning up the rice from the wedding. She lives in a dream because she can't face the hardness and pain of reality)
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door, who is it for? (She's wearing, or showing, a face/expression that is not real, it is fake. She's trying to show that she's happy, even though she is not. It asks who is it for, meaning, why is she faking a face, who is she truly faking for)
All the lonely people, where do they all come from? (it's asking like, why are there so many lonely people around, where are they coming from)
All the lonely people, where do they all belong? (It saying, where should these people that are lonely go to, where should they stay/be at, belong)
Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear, no one comes near. (It means, well first off, to tell you, a sermon is a type of speech you write and give. Next, it's saying that he is writing the sermon to give, but nobody is going to here it though. It says no one comes near meaning that, well, nobody ever usually comes near his church)
Look at him working,darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there, what does he care. (First off,darning means sewing. Now, it's saying that he's sewing his socks in the night, and nobody is there. He doesn't care because he believes it won't get better and they won't ever come but he just keeps doing what he should)
^^^look up a few for the next two parts in the songs.
Eleanor Rigby, died in the church and was buried along with her name, nobody came. (It means that, well, she died in that church. She was buried alongside her name, meaning one that her name was written upon her grave, and two, that her name died with her. Forgotten. It's says nobody came because no one dared to come to her funeral, to visit her grave)
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave, no one was saved. (This means that, he wiped away, erased, basically got rid of, the memories of somebody dying, and of the past, as he walked away from her grave. No one was saved because somebody died of loneliness or something caused from her being lonely and nobody could save her)
^^^^ look up a lit to see the rest of the song and my explanation.
[I was able to come up with this song summary because me, and my friend, we both know how it feels to be lonely, depressed, sad, all of these bad things. We're picked on, abused with harsh words by other school students because of our differences and stuff. My message to you is that is you see someone, meet someone, or know someone who is lonely, depressed, bullied, abused, or just hurt in a way, STAND OUT, help them, comfort them. Even if they reject your help or comfort, keep trying, you might think they don't need it but somewhere inside of them, they REALLY need it. They need to know they have someone to talk to, to trust. If they are being hurt in a physical or bad way, no matter what they say to get you not to, tell someone, let somebody know, no matter if it's a teacher, a parent, or some other sort of adult that can help and you can trust. NEVER be afraid to SPEAK OUT if it could really help or possibly even save somebody's life. Remember this at all times, PLEASE]
anonymous Aug 23rd 2021 report
The song is lonely, desolate, as are the two characters. I think it makes this connection between Eleanor and Father McKenzie to show that even though they had nothing to do with one another, they were kindred.
They were both older, both alone in life, and the only real thing they care about that we know of is the church they both work at. Eleanor works there, maybe as a volunteer or as a payed job, and "wears the face that she keeps in the jar by the door". We all feel lonely at times, but depression is a long, hard-fought battle that sadly either goes unnoticed or is purposefully hidden. "Who is it for?" Eleanor wears a mask, to hide what she may be going through, but I don't think it was because anyone around her may have noticed something wrong. Sometimes, hiding vulnerable emotions and or feelings makes you feel better,as if you may not feel normal but at least you know you act and look like everyone else, and isn't really done for the benefit of hiding it from people. She wasn't looking for someone to listen to her, as she didn't really have anything to say.
Father McKenzie "writing the words to a sermon that no one will hear; no one comes near". He wants to say something, give people advice, give a speech, but no one will hear it and no one cares to hear it.
"Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody's there; what does he care". I always hear an emphasis of the last 2 parts.There's nobody there that cares what he does, what he may or may not do, so why should he care that his socks have holes? (to darn something is to patch or sew it up)
They both were two sides of the same coin. Eleanor was lonely, maybe by choice maybe not, but she had accepted it and got so used to it that she wore a face to mask it. Father McKenzie acknowledged he was lonely, but hadn't accepted it as Eleanor had. He wanted to be heard, he wanted someone to care that there were holes in his socks that he patched, or that he wrote a sermon for that day. But just the same as Eleanor, no one was there.
That's just how I interpret the song whenever I hear it :)
anonymous Oct 16th 2017 report
This is a song which is meant to make people think about focusing on others rather than wallowing in self pity and personal troubles. It is intended to make people realize that everyone has their troubles and it is more efficient for us to see others in trouble and help than it is to focus on ourselves and personal problems. This section "waits by the window / wearing the face she keeps / in a jar by the door" is referencing a sort of symbolic mask of a smile and joyous appearance that people today, like Eleanor, put on to hide the pain and loneliness that they are feeling inside.
Eleanor Rigby is a woman who is lonely, as portrayed by her picking up rice after a wedding and hiding her emotions behind a "face in a jar". Father McKenzie is a man who is, like Eleanor, lonely and feels as though people do not care about him or his ministry anymore. Because each of these two characters are so focused on their self-pity and personal problems, they do not see the troubles of each other, which leads them to be selfish. Eleanor dies without anyone caring, not even Father McKenzie as he walks away from her grave dusting his hands off as though he had no emotion regarding her passing.
This song was intended to call attention to the selfishness of our world. By bringing this issue to the attention of people all over, the band hoped to improve generosity and all around caring for people.
anonymous Aug 12th 2016 report
as a girl of fourteen i identified with eleanor rigby which was rather sad. and now as a woman in my sixties i still wear a face i keep in a jar by the door. so the beatles wrote my life story in this bleak beautiful song before i ever lived it. there are really so many lonely unsung people in the world
anonymous Dec 19th 2015 report
I would like to point out that a lot of people think that the lyrics "Waits by the window, wearing the face she keeps in a jar by the door" is about how Eleanor Rigby is trying to hide her sorrow and despair by putting a smile on her face. But I think that it is in fact what is has been mentioned to be about her putting cream on her face to make her look younger.
anonymous Sep 12th 2013 report
To me, this song means more about being lonely than people not caring about you. No one might have attended her funeral, which is sad enough as it already is, but she probably did not know that many considering how lonely she was. I do not know if Father McKenzie had a relationship with Eleanor Rigby, but I think some part of him must have cared enough to give her a funeral, he did not need to. Also, do realize, that Eleanor Rigby died as an old woman, so if she did have any true friends, they probably were not around anymore. I must say, though the lyrics do make me sad and uncomfortable, I love this song, it is one of the Beatles' best.
anonymous Mar 11th 2013 report
This song is mainly about two lonely people who never awknoledge anyone but themself because they live a lonely life. They both also hide their sadness and feel very lonely inside.
Both Eleanor Rigby and Father Mckenzie are two names that lennon and mccartney randomly through into a song for no apparant reason. They later traced the names back to 2 grave stones in Liverpool graveyard which they spent alot of their times in when they were younger. It is thought those 2 names were mearly names that stuck in their minds and never gave any thought to the origin. These graves are now shrines to the beetles legends.
anonymous Feb 14th 2013 report
what are you lot on? very simply written in response to Mc Cartneys Penny Lane (about a bus route)Lennon wrote Eleanor Rigby. The church where John had been a choirboy for a very short period as a boy, close to his home ,close to where he and Paul would meet had a small graveyard ,of which he was very familiar. Eleanor Rigby is a name on one of the grave stones "buried along with her name" because her husbands name was Woods ,not Rigby. Father Mackenzie was exactly that on another grave, a father of children buried with him! not a priest, "all the lonely people " was an idea from George. So it goes that the song although melodic and sad is retrospective of Johns quite sad moment in time, roughly when his mother had been killed an a car crash, finding solace in a church yard, and in time the inspiration to this song. The words have feeling yes and a level of meaning, but not as deep as you would wish to explore
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