The Cardigan Under the Bed

Taylor Swift is a master story teller. Through her range of music genres, the artist has been telling stories of love, heartbreak, youthfulness and loss throughout her career. With her indie/alternative album Folklore, she not only writes songs about her own experiences, but of other characters. Specifically in the song “Cardigan,” she seems to write in the point of view of a teenager that has experienced her first heartbreak, and is very aware of the betrayal and pain it has caused her. The song indicates that in retrospect, heartbreak and pain can make a person stronger, and can have a impact at any age.

Cardigan utilizes metaphors, simile, allusion, repetition and imagery to express the lingering pain of heartbreak. As stated in the first verse:

Vintage tee, brand new phone
High heels on cobblestones
When you are young, they assume you know nothing
Sequined smile, black lipstick
Sensual politics
When you are young, they assume you know nothing

The first two lines of the song are very descriptive and convey the speaker’s youth. The line “when you are young, they assume you know nothing” is the most repeated lyric in the song. The speaker is not only reflecting on life as a teenager, but also the fact that she has become experienced with love and pain. It also indicated that she knows more now, and that everything in the past is a learning experience no matter how much pain it caused.

In the refrain of the song, Swift sings,

And when I felt like I was an old cardigan
Under someone's bed
You put me on and said I was your favorite

The old cardigan is a metaphor for the speaker’s low self and tendency to feel forgotten. She felt that her boyfriend made her feel valued and cared about. This is the speaker reflecting on how ‘seen’ she felt while in this relationship in her youth. The matureness of the speaker is showcased through her ability to pinpoint the exact factors that made that past relationship what it was.

Tried to change the ending
Peter losing Wendy, I
I knew you
Leavin' like a father

In the third chorus, the speaker says that she tried to save the relationship from ending, but it wasn’t able to be fixed. Swift alludes to the story Peter Pan with the lyrics, “Peter losing Wendy.” Peter Pan wants Wendy to stay with him in Neverland, but Wendy wants to grow up. In regards to the song, the speaker may think that that her past boyfriend wasn’t mature enough, and that is why their relationship ended. The lyrics “I knew you” are also repeated multiple times in the song, indicating that the speaker nevertheless, felt a real connection to this person in her youth. The simile, “leaving like a father” shows how her boyfriend left her, similar to a father leaving his family.

Overall, Cardigan reflects the story of a speaker reflecting on their first heartbreak. Through it’s past tense point of view, the song showcases that heartbreak and loss can be a reflecting point later in life. It also establishes that even though teenagers are young, they still are capable of knowing things. I highly recommend this song, and all of Swift’s other songs for that matter. They communicate experiences that others can relate to and gain information from. Isn’t that poetry?

3 thoughts on “The Cardigan Under the Bed

  1. Marina T

    I didn’t even pick up on the Peter Pan reference! It’s amazing how she managed to put that in there and how perfectly it encapsulates the feeling of the theme. Having a first heartbreak, especially after feeling wanted and appreciated for one of the first of few (if any) times in your life is a difficult thing to capture. The youthful phrases in the beginning show just how raw and vulnerable you are when you are young. While you don’t “know nothing” everything feels much more powerful and impactful.

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  2. Maggie Rose B

    I love this song and your analysis! I think that the extended comparison of the girl and a cardigan provides a lot of imagery and really helps the listener imagine the emotions this girl is feeling. I think that when the speaker says she felt like an old cardigan “under someone’s bed” it could also allude to her being tossed aside as a past relationship ended, which makes it all the better for her when someone comes along and shows her love.

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  3. Evelyn R

    I haven’t gotten a chance to listen to her new song yet but I love you analysis of it! Its so similar to her other music talking about how the public views her and often how love breaks her. But the diffrence in this song is how she is trying to break the mold and she is returning once again with a country song. All together one of my favorite aspects of poetry that is alluded from her song is the use of story telling giving us her experience.

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