“He Is Who I Used to Be”: Escaping the Past in Jason Isbell’s “Live Oak”
While the persona attempts to hide or escape his past, each interaction with other people in Isbell’s “Live Oak,” he demonstrates that he cannot, leaving him with the reality that he is only one version of himself, unable to live in fantasy.
Isbell’s persona is attempting to escape his criminal past by hiding it from himself as he refers to it as the “Man I used to be.”
When interacting with his neighbors, “rumors” force the persona to expose his past to his unnamed lover.
While the plot of the song shows a desire to leave the past behind, the revelation of the past and the lover’s acceptance demonstrates that it may not be necessary to leave it behind.
The decision by the persona to kill the lover shows that her ability to accept his criminal past allowed him accept it.
Ultimately, the deaths of the lover and the personas attempt to not be a criminal lead to the persona of the song accepting his own reality and moving on, rather than continuing to live in fantasy.
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