The Paraklausithyron In Theory Of A Deadman’s “By The Way”

The song, released as a single in 2008, is about a man who discovered that the possessions in his house disappeared and his girl left him. It was not even a heart-felt departure, rather it is an emotionless departure with a barebone explanation for doing so in the form of a letter on the door. The song gets into detail about the subject’s feelings about the departure.

The early discography of Theory Of A Deadman dealt mainly with bad relationships that either begin or end roughly–mostly on the woman’s part. These relationships end with her infidelity–with such songs as Little Smirk and No Surprise–or it ended because the spark was no longer there with Not Meant To Be, Hello Lonely (Walk This Way), and Me And My Girl. However, this song is the exception, since there is no explanation for her departure–which definitely makes this song quite haunting to the subject, therefore to the audience.

“Simple Explains/It’s All That Remains”

And unlike many other songs which have an up-beat, cheeky rhythm mocking the pitfalls of tumultuous relationships, this song has a very somber tone to it. The guitar has a gritty reverb, which matches the aesthetic of the abandoned house of the music video; while vocalist Tyler Connelly delivered a droning plea throughout the song, while guest musician Chris Daughtry delivered powerful accompaniment.

The subject goes so far as to defer blame onto the girl with the line “Would it have hurt you to try?” Basically, the subject is accusing her of not doing enough to maintain the relationship. Of course, when anyone is faced with a situation like this where they are given very little explanation for the ending of a relationship, it leaves a lot of questions to be asked.

Indeed, we as the listeners do not know who was the instigator of this separation because we do not know the history behind this dramatic departure. Not even the letter seems to explain. In a careful choice of words, the letter specifically mentions how it “…simply explains.” This implies that only the bare minimum is listed, but of what? Is it the items she took with her? Is it the reason why she left? The song goes on to say that her departure is not like anything before, which implies that the relationship was already rocky to begin with. Only this time, she took with her the possessions, which can be inferred that despite the previous break-ups, she always intended on going back.

“Twisting And Turning, It Rips Through My Heart”

These unanswered questions are the reason why he feels paradoxical pain, which is killing him inside, but is also keeping him alive. This definitely resembles Romeo’s first appearance in William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. Before meeting Juliet, Romeo relays to his cousin Benvolio about the contradictory pain he is feeling after being denied courtship by a woman named Rosaline. Shakespeare purposely made the monologue contradictory, so as to represent the disorientation Romeo is feeling at that moment.

O brawling love, O loving hate,

O anything of nothing first create…

Romeo & Juliet 1.1.169-70

Of course, these contradictions also come in the form of the phrase “scars and souvenir,” which is where the 2008 album gets its name. Connelly explained how they represent the emotional struggles and the good times the listeners might have while listening to the song. This could also play out in the song as well. They could very well represent the struggles and conflicts that the couple would have endured for years together.

Whether it would be financial, emotional, or mental concerns, these “scars” were left behind along with the mementos of their relationship–the “souvenirs.” Of course, as the song makes clear, she took everything with her. So, it is easy to say that the dust of those mementos are what have left behind.

“By The Way, You Left Without Saying Goodbye To Me”

The loneliness with one’s own emotions is definitely a saddening theme in this song that is the reason behind the subject’s dirge for his lost love. This comes to mind the song that had been sung by a tenor in James Joyce’s short story The Dead, which takes place in a banquet. When Gabriel is asking Gretta why she is crying, she responds how she kept thinking about the song that he sung, which was titled The Lass of Aughrim. It was sung by a young man she knew named Michael Furey. Although she fell in love with him, he was afflicted with consumption during the winter. When he asked to be let in her grandmother’s house, she told him to go home otherwise he would die. He stated that he did not want to live, then returned to Oughterard, and he died within a week.

The tragedy of the song The Lass of Aughrim is how much it relates to Gretta’s sorrow. The ballad, otherwise known as The Lass of Roch Royal, was penned by Francis James Child. It is about a woman who is begotten with a child by a royal named Gregory. One winter, she pleads to be let inside, but is turned away by his mother. In both versions, she ends up dying.

Amidst the clear differences, therein lies the commonality, which is the tragedy of unreciprocated love, namely the Sisyphean attempt to appeal to the other party’s affection, only to be turned away.

“It’s No Wonder I Have Not Slept In Days”

In the case of By The Way, the subject is not only left with “scars and souvenirs,” but with lots of unanswered questions that will haunt him. It is no surprise that the music video of the song features main vocalist Tyler Connelly wandering around in an empty house with the ghost of his love haunting him. Although it is not a physical death, rather it is an amorous death.

The concept of death also plays out in another literary allusion that is made with Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem The Raven. The subject of the song is mourning his loved one, while a raven perches itself upon his door and taunts him repeatedly by answering his every question with “Never more.” Like the subject of By The Way, the narrator is left behind with nothing but questions which he will never receive the answer for.

“All I Can Think About Now Is You And Me”

All of these circumstances can be traced back to the motif called paraklausithyron, found in Augustan love elegies. It derives from the Ancient Greek phrase meaning “lament besides a door.” Originally, it applied to the drunken debauchery of young people outside of the symposium. However, works such as The Raven, Romeo and Juliet, and The Lass Of Aughrim easily implement the theme of a “lament besides a door,” since it involves a forlorn lover lamenting the loss or denial of love.

Coming back to By The Way, there is a subversion of the theme, not just in the music video but in the lyrics. The narrator of the song lamented the loss of his love, though not outside of the door, rather inside the door. The music videos casted Connolly singing the song throughout the house, as though he has become a spector, forever haunting the abandoned house, while his love joined her besties outside by the end of the song.

The nature of a relationship is determined by its adaptability and how it weathers out the problems of the world. This song details the tragic ending that could befall upon an already rocky relationship.

Sources

  • By The Way, by Theory Of A Deadman.” Songfacts.
  • Canter, H. V. (1920). “The Paraclausithyron as a Literary Theme”. American Journal of Philology41 (4): 355–368. JSTOR.
  • Child, Francis James. “The Lass of Roch Royal.” English and Scottish Popular Ballads.
  • Joyce, James. “The Dead.” 2nd Edition. The Longman Anthology World Literature: Volume F: The Twentieth Century. Edited by David Damrosch and David L. Pike. 2009. Pg. 146-72.
  • Livingstone, Niall and Gideon Nisbet, Epigram (Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 73–75.
  • Paraklausithyron. Wikipedia.
  • Shakespeare, William. “The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.” 2nd Edition. The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Edition. 2008. Pg. 910.
  • Theory of a Deadman. “Scars & Souvenirs.” Roadrunner. 2008.

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