The Good Book
The narrator now reaches a little further back in time to the days of his youth, the late 1950s—a time of sock hops, pickup trucks and pink carnations—as he courts a woman who ultimately spurns him. This is a fickle lady here, and the narrator questions her loyalties. An important verse in that it also introduces a religious metaphor that will echo throughout the rest of the song.
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Did you write the Book of Love
This is a woman of some importance to the narrator—and if she may have written the Book of Love, she is most likely a symbolic figure, as these lines from the 1957 hit by The Monotones, The Book of Love, suggest:
Tell me, tell me, tell me
Oh, who wrote the Book Of Love?
I’ve got to know the answer
Was it someone from above?
And do you have faith in God above
This kind of unquestioning faith also has its corollary in the simpler faith Americans once held in the American way of life, a belief that had many convinced during the 1950s that they were living in God’s country. But who is this woman? Because we will see her rejecting the narrator by the end of this verse, it is safe to say that she represents American herself, as we were about to leave behind the placid conformities of the 1950s for the radical changes awaiting us in the next decade. Though not explicitly stated, she is most likely Miss American Pie.
Can music save your mortal soul
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Well, I know that you’re in love with him
You both kicked off your shoes
I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
But I knew I was out of luck
A picture of a sock hop from the fifties—when high school gyms were used as venues for school dances, where the students danced in their socks to preserve the polished wood floors. We see the narrator being rejected here, as the object of his affection finds comfort dancing with another. She has stood him up, leaving him behind with his flower and his truck: she has moved on beyond this era (the pink carnation and the pickup truck), leaving the narrator alone and stranded. Bye bye Miss American Pie.
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This verse helps us to further identity Miss American Pie, whose brief introduction in the chorus needed this additional exposition; and which, along with verse 1 and the chorus, also serves to establish the 1950s as the reference point for the rest of the song. In so doing, McLean characterizes the period primarily through its musical symbol (Holly), using him and the music (“those rhythm and blues”) as a metaphor for the innocence of the times, and a sacred thing. The “day the music died” now takes on the significance of a lost faith in the values of a passing era and the sorrow the narrator feels at their passing: blow number two. Having personified America as a woman, “Bye bye Miss American Pie” now more clearly becomes a farewell to the America he once knew.
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