Saloon, presumably in the Old West, on hanging day.
Lily - a dancer at the saloon. Jim's mistress.
Big Jim - big-shot, diamond mine owner.
Rosemary - Jim's wife.
Jack of Hearts - bankrobber, in love with Lily.
The Hanging Judge - drunk town sheriff.
The story centers around a big show at the saloon. Lily's the star, and Jim goes to see his true love and mistress perform, his wife joining him. While the Jack of Hearts' accomplices break into the bank, Jack sneaks off and goes to see Lily, his old flame. She teases him about his criminal lifestyle, but there is truth to her goading. Eventually Jim gets wind of something going on, and he goes backstage to find out. As he pulls out his revolver and shoots, Rosemary stabs him in the back with a knife. Simultaneously, Jack's gang successfully robs the bank and leaves town, waiting for Jack in a riverbed. The scene then cuts to hanging day, where Rosemary is about to be executed for murdering her husband. The story ends with Lily daydreaming about Jack.
Matter-of-fact, allusive, omniscient.
POSSIBLE ESSAY TOPICS:
1. Dylan never tells us whether or not Jack lives. In refusing to do so, what is he trying to say about the nature of modern story-telling?
2. Only a few, scant details hint that this story takes place in the Old West. Discuss the song in terms of the archetypes of the "Western". How is it similar? How is it different? Cite specific examples from this and other works.
3. One recurring theme in Dylan's work -- and particularly on the Blood on the Tracks LP -- is detachment or disillusionment between lovers. Discuss in the context of "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts".
POSSIBLE QUIZ QUESTIONS:
1. What kind of gun does Jim shoot? "cold revolver"
2. What does Lily have in her poker hand before she draws a Jack of Hearts? two queens
3. Where does Jim think he may have seen the Jack of Hearts before? Possible answers: "Mexico", "down in Mexico", "on somebody's shelf", "a picture on somebody's shelf".
4. What kind of knife does Rosemary use to kill Jim? Penknife