"When I fall" is a lyrical song written by Steven Page and Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies. It is about a window washer who is at a critical moment in his life. The song is structured in such a way that a progression and transformation is seen in the window washers troubles from worrisome to life threatening. The window washer is the persona of the poem, and in the first stanza he expresses a fear. He is somewhere he doesn't want to be and is scared. This is followed by the chorus of the song in which it is made clear that he wants to make a change in his life, but is afraid of failure.
At this point the window washers troubles take on the form of deep mental anguish where he resorts to prayer and laments on the physically and mentally troubling aspects of his world. In the next stanza, the window washer comments on the prestige of the boardroom he looks into as he washes the windows. Here he addresses the change he wants to make in his life and states that he would like to swap places with the business men in the room. However, he realizes that this is impossible because they would never agree to lower themselves to the stature of a window washer. When he realizes this, his thoughts become radical and he contemplates suicide. By the end of the song however, he pulls himself together and realizes that what he does and who is does have some value in the world.
All of this is brought to the reader by an abundant use of figurative language throughout the song. For Instance, the scaffold the man is standing on symbolizes his position in life (he is scared and wants to escape. In the third stanza, after describing the problems with his world and how he prays, he curses the windstorms. This is actually a metaphor for his mental confusion and despair. In the next stanza, the prestige of the boardroom is made evident by the allusion of it towards a pharoah's tomb. We know in the end that he has pulled it all together when he calls his "crystal clear canvas" (the windows) a "masterpiece".
He has given value to his work and thus, value to his life. The son has a definite rhyme scheme which lends itself well to the theme of the poem. In the stanza which addresses his fears and problems and troubles etc., internal rhyme is used to give the lines a broken, choppy feel (perhaps much like the mans thoughts). However, when he speaks of escaping and going to better places in life (or death), the meter flows much more nicely and reflects a pleasant stream of consciousness.
Overall, I think Ed Robertson and Steven page wanted to depict those moments in life that everyone has where they want to make a radical change. Im sure many of you have felt that way at one time or another and I know that I have. This however, is an extreme case in that the window washer contemplates suicide. Like most cases however, there is no major life alteration..