The 60s were typified by a generation's profound political activism. Issues of race, class, gender, among others each came to the forefront at various points throughout the decade, and acts of protest have come to symbolize the movement's desire for change. While masses of people sought to protest by marching on Washington, some wrote. Through works like James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time and Norman Mailer's The Armies of the Night , the struggles that were being so passionately fought by thousands were able to be recorded and preserved for generations that were to come. However, the writer who would come to be most closely associated with the protest and counterculture movements of the 60s was not a novelist or a journalist but a poet. Despite the fact that Dylan's 60s music is primarily political in nature, the truth remains that Dylan was always more of a social commentator. It just happened that his early commentary was on issues that were politically topical at the time, such as civil rights, which subsequently, gave him the unwitting title of protest songwriter extraordinaire and the voice of a generation. As Dylan found this status increasingly undesirable, he sought to shed this image by distancing himself from directly political issues and refocusing his social commentary on more existential themes, exploring the individual's reality and subsistence within society. Regardless of his degree of interest in being a representative of a generation and a movement, Dylan was continually able to capture the cultural and social atmosphere of the 60s, whether it was political or existential, straigthforward or obscure.
Lemieux, Nicole, "Bob Dylan and the Sixties: A Social Commentary Reflecting Politics and Existentialism" (2006). Honors College Theses. Paper 39.