‘Papa, don’t preach’ – Commentary INTRODUCTION This document is a song entitled ‘Papa, don’t preach’. It was sung by the famous American singer called Madonna. The lyrics were written by a man named Brian Elliot, but Madonna wrote some of the words too. This single appeared in 1986. This song caused a lot of controversy in the US as it deals with a very serious topic. This document is about a young teenage girl who is expecting a baby. She is not married, she could very well become a single mother, but she has made a big decision: she is going to keep her baby, she’s not going to abandon her child or abort.
The name of the narrator and the name of the main protagonist are not mentioned. Any young girl in the same situation could easily identify with her. In her monologue, she is addressing her father. She wants her father to help her. In fact, she wants him to give her some advice about what she should do. The text is not a dialogue, the father never answers and we don’t know what he is thinking. The document deals with the problem of teenage pregnancy, it is aimed at
STRUCTURE The song is composed of eleven stanzas and the chorus line ‘Papa don’t preach’ is repeated ten times. In the first stanza, the character tells her father she considers herself as an adult now and not a child any more. I quote line 4 ‘I’m not a baby’ In the second stanza, she asks her father to help her and she thanks him for having given her a good education. Stanza number 3 is about her boyfriend. Because of him, she is now in trouble, she is in a terrible situation. Apparently, her father had told her to be careful and advised her to stop seeing him.
Stanza number 4 corresponds to the chorus of the song. It is repeated many times. She says she doesn’t want her father to treat her as a child or to speak to her in a moralizing way. She admits she is feeling bad and announces she has decided to give birth to her baby. I quote lines 14 and 15. In the next stanza, she talks about her future with the baby and the her boyfriend. They are going to get married and bring up their child together. She realizes to have a baby at her young age represents her sacrifice: she has to sacrifice her youth.
What is worrying is the word ‘maybe’ in line 18, she is not completely optimistic about her future, she has doubts. Stanza number 6 is about the advice she has received from her friends who must be the same age as her. They advise her to stop her relationship, to enjoy life fully and not to keep her baby, considering she is too young for this sacrifice. Apparently, the girl disagrees with her friends on that point, that’s why she is turning to a more mature person: her father.
After the chorus, stanza number 8 is about the strong love she has for her lover. She tells her father her boyfriend is a very nice person who respects her. She insists on their mutual love. She is so in love with him, she is so infatuated that she forgets how difficult things are going to be for her. The song ends with the repetition of one main idea: her determination to become a mother. What is interesting is the status of the character: is she a child ( I quote line 2 ‘your little girl’) or is she an adult (I quote line 8 ‘I know what I’m saying’) ?
Is she a child who is asking for her father’s protection because she has done something wrong or is she a responsible young woman who is able to make her own decisions? THE SONG’S MESSAGE Madonna declared the song was , quote ‘a message song that everyone is going to take the wrong way. I am not advising anyone to go out and get pregnant. That’s not true. This song is simply about an independent girl who is making decisions in her life’, unquote. In the US , pro-abortionists (the people who are in favour of abortion) said Madonna was irresponsible because her song encouraged pregnant teenagers to have their children.
Conversely, anti-abortionists (the people who are against abortion) liked the song because they thought Madonna was speaking out against abortion. The singer refused to take sides. TARGET AUDIENCE Who is Madonna talking to through her song? Parents or teenagers? In fact, any girl who is in the same situation as the main protagonist in the song will easily identify with her. Maybe Madonna wanted to warn young girls about the terrible problems that this type of situation will bring about. Perhaps, it will dissuade young girls from making the same mistake.
On the other hand, it could convince some teenagers to act as independent and responsible individuals. PERSONAL OPINION This personal story is very moving. We sympathize with this pregnant teenager. I personally feel concerned by this problem because … I personally do not feel concerned by this problem because … I think the girl is right / wrong when she decides to keep her baby. She has made the right / wrong decision. I approve / I disapprove of her comportment. I have finished, do you have any questions?