What does The Unforgiven mean?

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Metallica: The Unforgiven Meaning


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Song Released: 1991

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The Unforgiven Lyrics

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New blood joins this earth
And quickly he's subdued
Through constant pained disgrace
The young boy learns their rules

With time, the child draws in
This whipping boy done wrong
Deprived of all his thoughts
The young man struggles on and...


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    Oct 26th, 2006 10:37pm report

    This song is about a boy who is born and raised by a strict family - who lives his life constantly failing to live up to their expectations. It gets to the point that the entireity of his existence is spent trying to please everyone else around him except himself. This makes him a bitter person who, upon growing ld, realizes that he has wasted his life and never become his own person and dies full of regret for never having "lived".


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    May 23rd, 2009 5:10pm report

    The Unforgiven songs are about James Hetfield and his struggles due to the environment he was raised in. A very strict Christian home that did not believe in medicine or anything because God would take care of it. Due to that he watched his mother die of cancer after his father had already left the family.

    He's not talking about growing old either. The guy in this first Unforgiven isn't old nor grows old in the song. It's about the feeling of being young (James was a pretty young guy when he wrote this, early thirties tops) but feeling like your life is over. That the world has battered you so bad that you are, inside, an old man. That's why he says the lyrics "that old man here is me". He means from the years of mental abuse, both in his childhood and what he's done to himself, have turned him into a bitter old man.

    James Hetfield is The Unforgiven. He has stated before these songs are very auto-biographical. The Unforgiven trilogy is like his life. These three songs are him in his own words and in my opinion, that's why they're great. Hetfield is a great mind and to get a glimpse into the darkest corners of that has made for one of the best songs ever. That is, The Unforgiven.


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    Feb 27th, 2008 2:33pm report

    The song is about all external agents of subjigation and socialization (Ex. Religion, society, parents, peers); Also about psychological and spiritual enslavement. Making a prison within oneself to shut out outside influence to stay true to oneself.

    "New Blood joins this earth and quickly he's subdued" - we're branded with a social security number and labeled according to our weight, sex and race, becoming yet another statistic in our culture.

    "Through constant pained disgrace, the young boy learns their rules" - Through punishment, criticism and humiliation by parents, teachers, religion and others the child is forced to conform to external forces rather than act from the center of oneself.

    As kids we make vows to fulfill our dreams, not become a slave to society thus "A vow unto his own, that never from this day, his will they'll take away"

    The chorus lyrics are about unfulfilled life and potential because we have to bottle ourselves up and conform to the larger social organism, or religion, etc.

    The second part is about ultimately failing to please every expectation placed on a person from parents to society, to the morality from religion. Out of bitterness we play the game to survive and hopefully get what we one day really want; to be free as ourselves but ultimately fail.

    I think everyone had pieces of what this song is about. That's the great thing about lyrics, they focus words in such a way that it speaks to us and can be interpreted in many ways.


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    Nov 8th, 2018 11:51pm report

    To me, the lyrics of this song hit almost too close to home for me. I believe “The Unforgiven” is about a child that grew up in the toxic environment of narcissistic parent(s). Because deep down narcissists know they “failed” at getting all the accolades they yearned for, they often torture a child (they typically choose one kid to put all their focus on) by forcing them to do anything possible for the parents to get glory from this child’s success. Second best is never good enough for the narcissists, only perfection is accepted. Not acheiving this “perfection” in school, etc drives the parent(s) to use shame, name-calling, even physical abuse in some families, to make the child push themselves harder to avoid their parents’ behaviour from and to desperately seek approval. Approval which will never be given (“This fight I cannot win”) lest the child stops walking on eggshells and doesn’t keep pushing themselves as hard as ever.
    Finally acknowledging that his parents destroyed his youth with their personality disorder, he feels aged beyong his years because he didn’t get a chance to be a happy-go-lucky kid. He was already full of worry about things a kid should never have to worry about and no other person should ever force onto another, especially at a young age.
    The song does have a glimmer of hope though...at a certain point, maybe age or a man’s maturity, he sees that he was manipulated and that to rise above this abuse, he promises himself that they’ll never take his will away ever again. He was never able to express the things he wanted to as a kid because everytjing he did, he did for his parents (“What I’ve felt, what I’ve known never shined through in what I’ve shown”). He finally realizes that his torment was not from something he did or was something he deserved, he finally knew now who to lay the blame with and that while some memories may fade, he’ll always consider his abusers “The Unforgiven”. They had labeled him and now he gets his turn to label them....a group of people in his mind that will never be forgiven for what they did to him and took from him.

    I did the same thing to those who abused me, especially my narcissistic mother. She is my “unforgivable”.


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    Mar 7th, 2018 3:15am report

    My interpretation:

    New blood joins this earth
    And quickly he's subdued
    Through constant pained disgrace
    The young boy learns their rules

    (Boy born with ADHD, his parents decided to medicate him, he didnt have a choice but to take his medication)

    With time the child draws in
    This whipping boy done wrong
    Deprived of all his thoughts
    The young man struggles on and on he's known
    A vow unto his own
    That never from this day
    His will they'll take away.

    (He was always seen as the naughty one and trouble maker. He does his best in school, but its never enough. He made a promise to himself that he will never let anyone's opinion get him down)

    What I've felt
    What I've known
    Never shined through in what I've shown
    Never be
    Never see
    Won't see what might have been
    What I've felt
    What I've known
    Never shined through in what I've shown
    Never free
    Never me

    (Because of medication he was never himself. And he will never know what could have been if he wasn't medicated.
    He was never free.)

    They dedicate their lives
    To running all of his
    He tries to please them all
    This bitter man he is
    Throughout his life the same
    He's battled constantly
    This fight he cannot win
    A tired man they see no longer cares
    The old man then prepares
    To die regretfully
    That old man here is me

    (His parents dedicated their lives to "help" him, took him to doctors and opinions.
    He worked hard to please everyone, and it made him bitter as his best was never enough. Everyday with ADHD is a battle and a fight you can't win. He simply gives up. He is tired)

    Never Free
    Never Me
    So I dub thee UNFORGIVEN
    You labeled me
    I'll label you
    So I dub thee UNFORGIVEN
    Never Free
    Never Me
    So I dub thee UNFORGIVEN
    You labeled me
    I'll label you
    So I dub thee UNFORGIVEN
    Never Free
    Never Me
    So I dub thee UNFORGIVEN

    (He can't forgive the people that was part of his journey coz he was constantly medicated (parents and teachers) He was labelled with his disability... ADHD)


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    Oct 10th, 2017 10:35am report

    The Unforgiven is simply whatever we need it to be at any given point and time in our lives. The song represents the unspoken "inner" voice in ALL OF US..as individuals and most importantly as human beings!


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    Mar 17th, 2017 3:22am report

    Satan is unforgiven so.. they want as many human to join them n unforgiven too... all are by the new world order.... check out the unforgiven 2 song....

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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    Apr 22nd, 2013 4:43pm report

    this song reminds me of what occurs in the George Orwell novel "1984".


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    May 6th, 2012 5:52am report

    I have loved this song for years, never grasping the true meaning of the words...Of course the true meaning of any song always changes according to who is hearing it, and whatever happens to be going on in that persons life at the time. Anyway,I think the entire unforgiven series is describing someone suffering from NPD.I'm pretty sure,so im going to google james hetfeild and NPD to see if I might be right.GO GO GADGET GOOGLE!


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    Nov 21st, 2011 11:48am report

    This song makes me feel ill it seems that the lyrics speaks about my miserable life because every lyrics I heard reminds me of an enslaved childhood.


    Joshua Webb
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    Oct 22nd, 2011 10:06pm report

    All of middle school for me was getting picked on and me trying to "please them all" it kinda sucked. i would go home and cry myself to sleep. Changed now, but I can see where James is coming from. Anyways. like everyone else is saying it's basiclly about a "boy" who lives his whole life learning the unwritten rules and standards of society, which he cannot live up to, even though he trys hard to because, well we all want to be loved and have friends who will say good job to you or pat you on the back. He takes this to a extreme level, to the point where his life is consumed with wanting this love and to be Accepted by others that by the end of his life he dies wishing he lived his life.


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    Aug 3rd, 2011 8:53pm report

    It is about the New World Order (Disorder)


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    Jul 17th, 2011 7:31am report

    Maybe with the first look at the “Unforgiven”, we assume that it’s kind of poem with a negative point of view to the whole world but “Unforgiven” in one hand take a short look at the truths of our lives and on the other hand illuminates the difficulties, dellima and fate in this universe which a human being struggles through his/her life. Pain, Dejection, tough rules and lack of thought declares this subject.
    In the first stanza, poet creates a child who comes into this universe and from the very first moments he understands that he must get familiar with the tough rules and regulations of this universe to decrease the harsh pain and unfaithfulness of it.
    The next stanza draws the next period of this child. We may comprehend this part by looking at our lives. He searches for the Key to open the door to the salvation and serendipity but he can’t find it, so he decides to make a way to them. This young man is forced to do some works without his wills would be considered. He is a young man who can’t achieve anything without pain and so much effort and to get them he is always in rush and prowl. He is a young man who sometimes must close his eyes to the truth! It seems for the mistake that Adam & Eve had done, he must be punished!
    The last stanza takes a glance to the last period of this man. After so much struggles and bearing pains and unfaithfulness life makes him old. The old man succeeds to make a way to the salvation and serendipity but it’s too late and he’s too old to pass it. So the old man, tired and exhausted from constant efforts and sick and tired of his birth, prepares himself to die. The old man who calls himself “the Unforgiven!”.


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    Jun 26th, 2011 6:40pm report

    i have read several of the interpetations above and agree strongly with many of them. This is how i see it ( and understand i see it this way from living this kind of life) basicly a child was born into a very unloving and unsuportive family. Told through out his life that he was useless. no matter what he did it was never good enough. He learned young that to just survive.... to feel just the smallest amount of acceptance... he had to try to please everyone around him. He had to give up everything that he was to fit in. eventually he grew tired of trying to fit in ...tired of trying... he lost himself in the process he is truley the unforgiven because he gave up. he regretts all of it but now feels there is no more reason to try.


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    Jun 3rd, 2011 6:13pm report

    I Believe this song is about unrealized potential. when the chorus says "What i've felt, what i've known, nothing's shined through in what i've shown" it's saying that the man never got to show the world his talents, and just followed rules set by others. "New blood joins this earth, and quickly he's subdued" means that the boy learned to never challenge others and simply follow their rules.


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    Apr 18th, 2011 4:02am report


    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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    Apr 16th, 2011 4:12am report

    I hate to disagree with you guys, but everything I read stated that the first Unforgiven song was about a boy who was locked in a dark stone room with no windows. He spent his entire life carving a window into the stone, and not long after he succeeds it appears in the video that he dies before being able to leave. Now, I don't know if this is a metaphor for something like James' life, nor do I know about parts II and III. But that is how I see it.


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    Mar 4th, 2011 3:02am report

    To me this song tells the story of the life of a boy who becames an insane old man. "This fight he cannot win" the man is fighting a futile fight with the world itself. "So I dub thee unforgiven" the man is saying to everyone in the world that he cannot forgive them for all the pain and suffering they have caused, and he plans to end it with his own two hands. I'm not saying this could be true, but perhaps this song would relate best to a person from the middle east. Perhaps a terrorist, who wants revenge from the United States, for the destruction of his home and the slaughter of his people. "New blood joins this earth and quickly he's subdued" a young child witnesses the bloodbath. "Through constant pained disgrace, the young boy learns their rules" He realizes the insignificance of his life and the people around him. "Deprived of all his thoughts the young man struggles on and on he's known" the boy becomes a man and a strong man that the ones around him come to rely on him. "A vow unto his own, that never from this day, his will theyll take away" He promises to protect his people, and take revenge for the hardships they have gone through. "They dedicate their lives to running all of his, he tries to please them all, this bitter man he is" Hardened by the cruelty he has faced, he tries to lead his people as best he can. "Throughout his life the same, he's battled constantly; This fight he cannot win. A tired man they see no longer cares, the old man then prepares, to die regretfully...that ol man here is me!". This part makes me think that perhaps it's some guerrilla or revolutionary, who believes he's becoming disillusioned, and can no longer support the actions his people are making for revenge and only wants peace. Of course at this point in his life he is tired of fighting and is unable to stop them, leaving them to be killed off. So at this point "The Unforgiven" becomes more than just his enemies, it now encompasses his comrades. The man becomes angry at his people for not listening to him, and also at the ones themselves for killing them so mercilessly, so that he cant forgive any of them. And in essence he dubs the entire world "Unforgiven".

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