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

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...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    May 23rd 2009 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.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Apr 11th 2010 report

    I feel that this song means that a boy growing up up felt uunloved a lot. He did what he could to please everyone, but in the end, it was never enough, and when it got to be too much, I believe that he commits suicide because he can't take it anymore, hence "What I've felt [the frustration of not being able to please anyone], what I've known [that the influences on his life think he is a failure, so they judge him as a failure regardless whether or not he is], never shined through what I've shown [ignoring the put-downs and being shunned]... Won't see what might have been [he will never see what could've/might've been because he committed suicide to free himself]

    That is just my 2 cents


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    Oct 26th 2006 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".

  4. anonymous
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    Sep 13th 2022 report

    Wow! The song’s meaning or ‘story’ is so simple that it’s hard to believe some of the stuff people come up with. The author (Hetfield) is describing a child ( based on his own strict, hyper-religious childhood) that is never allowed to have or express his own thoughts or anything else for that matter. Thus, the child grows to resent those that imposed their will upon him and is “bitter” and unwilling to forgive those people. Parents, preachers, and quite possibly even God.

  5. anonymous
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    Aug 31st 2022 report

    Dub betekent letterlijk ' tot -ridder- geslagen worden. In dit geval dus ' Ik sla u tot onvergeeflijk '

  6. anonymous
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    May 2nd 2021 report

    It's about narcissistic parents. In therapy, you may reach a stage called "radical acceptance", where you come to the realization that your parents aren't good people. Narcissistic parents don't care about how you (the child) think or feel. One odd thing they do is label their children. "You label me, I label you, and I dub thee Unforgiven". It's a hard thing to NOT forgive your parents even though they were horrible to you.

    A lot of Metallica songs are about narcissistic parents. If you watch a YouTube video about narcissistic parents it will explain a lot.

  7. anonymous
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    Apr 22nd 2021 report

    I believe this song is about all "people" he tried to lve but he was never corresponded since most likely was a very emotional person and as you see in real life, emotional man or women tend to be the ones with broken hearts. He's an old man with no love saying "you labeled me" because every love he had, left him because of his intensity. I pray for all people that can relate to this and tell you that you will be loved eventually and that the one person you find that will love everything you are, will worth all the years you felt all over the the place.

  8. anonymous
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    Sep 19th 2020 report

    This is the perfect description of someone who is born and raised in a socialist country. People in North Korea, China, Cuba and Venezuela will afirm whether is true for them or not.

  9. David37
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    Aug 23rd 2020 report

    I think this song is about a boy that is subdue by other people values and whishes and when he notice that he is pleacing others and not acting with freedom he make a vow to act acording his own thinking, to be free. Then he tell to those that make him feel opressed a story of how his life would have ended if he would had follow their rules and values. So he label the ones who rejected him for that unforgiven.

  10. DaniH
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    Nov 8th 2018 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”.

  11. anonymous
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    Mar 7th 2018 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)

  12. TammyB
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    Oct 10th 2017 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!

  13. anonymous
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    Mar 17th 2017 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
  14. anonymous
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    Apr 22nd 2013 report

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

  15. anonymous
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    May 6th 2012 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!

  16. anonymous
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    Nov 21st 2011 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.

  17. Joshua Webb
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    Oct 22nd 2011 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.

  18. anonymous
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    Aug 3rd 2011 report

    It is about the New World Order (Disorder)

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