Josh Ritter is an artist that my parents always played when I was little: a time where I sang the lyrics not recognizing meaning, just saying words. After finding him again, I found that he was one of my favorite songwriters with his Americana style and narrative lyrics. “Girl in the War” is one of my favorites, where he sings about the dangers of maintaining an inflexible worldview, while a man is worrying about his girlfriend/lover that is serving in the war.
Ritter uses the symbol of the disciples, Paul and Peter, twice in his song:
Paul said to Peter you know all those words we wrote
are just the rules of the game and the rules are the first to go.
I think the disciples symbolize an anti-war sentiment, saying that the governments role of how they do good for their country is changing, and that the people who make decisions about participating in war are focused on the wrong rules. Ritter continues talking about Paul and Peter:
Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder
Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire.
Paul and Peter continue be a symbol of the urge to protest war, saying that people have to fight a little harder against the government. Ritter is talking about politics in a way that doesn’t take the politician’s side but the side of the people and what they are going through.
The metaphor of the dove and the dragon also give another layer of meaning. Ritter is saying that people cannot blindly believe, but actively protest, and to find the same sense of urgency that you would if you were on fire. He wants people to get past talking about problems and into acting on them. He continues to use metaphors throughout his song:
Because the keys to the kingdom got locked inside the kingdom
the angels fly around in there but we can’t see them
This metaphor depicts the government as a kingdom, or the people who have the power to stop the war. Ritter is expression his feelings of frustration through this metaphor, and is exasperated that they “key” to change is our of his hands.
Finally, Ritter talks about a woman he loves that is serving in the war. He characterizes her in many lines:
Her eyes are like champagne
sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain
This simile makes us feel more connected with this woman, and the imagery of her eyes and how bright, bubbly, and sparkling they are show how attached this man is to her. He also repeats this line over and over again, almost as a chant to soothe him into not worrying about her. We get angry at this situation where she is in danger at war, and it makes us lean towards Ritter’s anti-war view.