Goodbye Cruel World

[Roger Waters]
Goodbye cruel world,
I'm leaving you today.
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
Goodbye, all you people,
There's nothing you can say
To make me change my mind.

Song In A Sentence:

Pink bids farewell to the outside world, locks himself in his hotel room and places the last brick in his mental wall.



T hough a cursory listen to “Goodbye Cruel World” might lead one to believe that Pink is on the verge of committing suicide, the song is more about metaphoric rather than physical death. Having decided to isolate himself completely from the world, Pink sings his final farewell as he arranges the last few bricks in their places. As Waters said in his 1979 interview, Pink is “going catatonic, if you like…he’s had enough, that’s the end.” Similar to the all-encompassing accusations of “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3,” here Pink says his curiously calm goodbyes to “all you people,” which in one sense is addressed to everyone in his life who contributed to his wall, but in another seems to break the fourth wall (while ironically completing his own barrier) in arguably addressing us, the audience. The first half of the album began with such an address in “In the Flesh?” – Pink warning the concertgoers, and us by extension, about life’s cold-eyed disguises. And so it similarly ends; though rather than a mere warning, we now glimpse the full consequences of being weighted down by those million tear-stained eyes in our protagonist’s heedless readiness to totally severe ties with the world and, thus, reality. But unlike the manic rage of “One of My Turns,” the duel-edged desparation of “Don’t Leave Me Now” and the frenzied abandon of “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3,” the last song of the album’s first half is decidedly restrained, hinting that Pink is fully resigned to what he sees as his fate. After battling the world and all its betrayals for so long, the thought of detaching himself completely is undoubtedly one that brings tranquility to his myopic mind. Gone are the furious drum beats, the sharp guitar riffs and barbed lyrics. In their place are a lilting bass guitar riff set to the pace of calm breathing, and simple, straightforward vocals momentarily unfettered by any artificial disguises. With his final “goodbye,” Pink places his last brick, abruptly cutting off the music and his farewell, as if we’re stationed on the outside of his wall along with the rest of the “cruel world.” On an album where nearly every song segues into the next via an instrumental or sound effects interlude, the silence that cuts into the end of the album’s first half is instantly jarring, the immensity of Pink’s wall felt in the void where only seconds before a musical life existed. Figuratively speaking, the wall silences all.


Similar to the bookending riots of “In the Flesh?” and “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3,” the opening shot for the movie sequence of “Goodbye Cruel World” circles back to catatonic Pink watching TV with a cigarette burned to ash all the way down to his fingers. The shot creates a time arc, linking the beginning of the film with the end of its first half, reestablishing the present frame of time and suggesting that all that has happened in between has been in the past. The reintroduction of the scene into the movie shows that Pink had already completed his wall even before the audience came into the movie, adding to the overall sense of futility. The overall sequence for “Goodbye Cruel World” acts as a sort of visual chiasmus (or antimetabole), a linguistic technique by which words or clauses are structurally reversed to draw attention to the larger themes at play. “When the Tigers Broke Free, Part 1” began with a shot of the playing field (A), then cut to a close up of Pink’s cigarette (B), then an overall shot of Pink (C) before zooming in with an extreme close up of his eye (D); “Goodbye Cruel World” partially inverts the order, going from the cigarette (B) to Pink (C) to Pink’s eye (D) to the memory of the playing field (A). And so the first half of the film ends with a reversal of its beginning, mirroring in a sense the regressive decay Pink is undergoing at this point in his narrative.


Although the end of “Goodbye Cruel World” on the album highlights the schism between Pink and the rest of the world with the sudden silence, the song’s ending in the film allows a further glimpse into the very heart of Pink. Seen only in brief flashes in songs like “When the Tigers Broke Free, Part 1,” the playing field scene takes on a slightly more significant role at this point in the film, playing out long enough for Pink to make it across the field and find something on the ground. For the audience, questions still abound as to why this one moment out of a lifetime of moments sits at the forefront of Pink’s mind as he imprisons himself with his last brick. What exactly does this childhood memory emobody that it becomes Pink’s sole thought when faced with self-imposed isolation? In order to find out, the audience must now venture with Pink into the mental darkness behind his wall.


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