What does Portable Television mean?

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Death Cab For Cutie: Portable Television Meaning


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Portable Television Lyrics

Portable television, shrouded in snow
In a raggedy van on the side of the road
The night it had frozen through my little bones
So, you took me in your arms, you squeezed out the cold

And oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh


  1. folboteur
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    Jul 18th 2021 report

    In the first and last stanzas, the characters are numb, in the wake of either a funeral or a memorial service for the "son's" father. Numb from cold and numb from grief, watching static on a portable television that receives nothing but white noise.

    The singer doesn't want to be there at the cemetery, as the symbols remind him of religious themes he has apparently outgrown or discarded. He attends, out of familial/societal/ritual obligation.

    The centerpiece is the verse in which the son stands over the father's grave, reflecting on mortality in a field of headstones (rows of teeth) seeded as far as eye can see, to the inevitable conclusion that he, too, will die one day.

    The theme of television snow appears in "Long Division" ("the television, was snowing softly), and the image of structures representing teeth is also used in "Crooked Teeth." ("the skyline looked like crooked teeth, devouring us all.)

  2. Bey0ndBelief
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    Jul 18th 2021 report

    Reminiscence on a required road trip to participate in the funeral of the main character's father, buried in a cemetery in upstate New York.

    Family dynamics mingled with meditations on mortality.

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