Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” Lyrics Meaning

“Hand in My Pocket” is more-intricate than how it may sound, as it deals with a bunch of different, even complex subtopics simultaneously. For example, in the first verse alone Alanis Morissette introduces the themes of poverty, self-image, mental health and perhaps even a preference for intoxication.  However, with all of these she also puts forth a paradox if you will, as in how she is not letting such situations overwhelm her. So for instance, despite being “broke”, she is also “happy” and “kind”. She perceives herself as being “short”, as in height-challenged so to speak. Yet she still relishes the fact that she is “healthy”. 

In terms of her mental disposition, she is in fact “sane”, but that does not mean that the issues of life don’t sometimes ‘overwhelm’ her. And perhaps the best way to summarize all of these different reality is with the line she concludes the first verse with, that being Alanis acknowledging that she’s “lost” but still “hopeful”. Or another way of looking at it is that various unfavorable factors which exist in her life have not weakened her optimism.

Optimistic in the face of Trials of Life

Thus in the chorus we have the singer exclaiming that she’s going to be “fine, fine, fine”.  That is the ultimate sentiment upon which this song is based.  And yes, she does go on to mention other parts of her life, such as she being “young and… underpaid”, which are less than ideal. In fact if you really want to get philosophical, the lyrics contained in the versus seem to point to the idea that there will always be both good and evil in life. This is really made evident in the third verse, where Alanis details how she is both “sad” and “laughing” at the same time.

But again, it is her optimism which ultimately defines this track. Or another way of looking at it is that if such dichotomies are indeed perpetual, the singer still feels that at the end of the day the positives outweigh the negatives.

What really does “Hand in my pocket” mean?

Honestly, no conclusive interpretation has ever been put forth concerning what exactly the phrase “hand in my pocket” means. We do see that during the choruses, Miss Morissette does in fact have one of her hands in her pocket, while the other is engaged in varying activities such as the following:

  • “Giving a high five”
  • “Flicking a cigarette”
  • “Giving a peace sign”
  • “Playing a piano”
  • “Hailing a taxi cab”

Going out on a limb here, perhaps the hand in the pocket symbolizes the monetary concerns, i.e. stresses, of life. It has also been reasonably postulated that this term refers to the weaker – i.e. fearful, hesitant, etc. – side of her personality.

Either way the implication is that the other hand is enjoying itself – or at least is more active – than the one that is in the pocket. So whatever the specifics of this metaphor may be, it seems that in the grand scheme of things it is pointing to the same type of general contrast that has been mentioned earlier.

Lyrics of "Hand in My Pocket"

Facts about “Hand in My Pocket”

Alanis Morissette co-wrote “Hand in My Pocket” along with the track’s producer, Glen Ballard.

In a lot of ways this is actually the song which put Miss Morissette on the international map. For instance, the songstress performed this track when she first appeared on “Saturday Night Live”, which was on the date of 28 October 1995.

“Hand in My Pocket” charted throughout Europe and Oceania and actually scored a number one on Billboard’s US Alternative Songs Chart as well as being certified Silver in the UK.

The reason “Hand in My Pocket” did not make the Billboard Hot 100 itself was because it was never released as a single in the United States.

Moreover “Hand in My Pocket” was also the first time Alanis Morissette topped her native Canada Top Singles chart, even though she had already experienced considerable success in the Great White North.

An interesting thing to note is that the popular 1990s teen television show “Dawson’s Creek” was actually slated to use this track as its theme song.  However, Alanis didn’t agree, and at the end of the day they winded up using “I Don’t Want to Wait” (1996) by Paula Cole, which in some ways sounds a lot like “Hand in My Pocket”.

“Hand in My Pocket” is featured on Alanis Morissette’s third album, “Jagged Little Pill”. The song was released by Maverick Records with the album on 13 June 1995.

7 Responses

  1. Timothy Lucas Jaeger says:

    (Emphasis added via underscores):
    “Going out on a limb here, perhaps the hand in the pocket symbolizes the monetary concerns, i.e. stresses, of life. It has also been reasonably postulated that this term refers to the _weaker_ – i.e. fearful, hesitant, etc. – side of her personality.

    _Either way the implication is that_ the other hand is _enjoying itself_ – or at least is _more active_ – than the one that is in the pocket. So whatever the specifics of this metaphor may be, it seems that in the grand scheme of things it is pointing to the same type of general contrast that has been mentioned earlier.”

    I’m not so sure about this. I find it more compelling that the hand in the pocket is wrapped around a handgun, thereby ‘ensuring’ (in the narrator’s mind) that despite his/her insecurities everything is going to be “fine, fine, fine”, as the narrator has now a means to be “brave” even though s/he is in reality “chickenshit”.

    For a moment the narrator even feels superior and is “flicking a cigarette” (this would make more sense if this came before the high five), but gradually comes to realize that the way s/he has empowered him/her-self is not a means to superiority but to equality and presents him/herself with first a peace sign (not dissimilar to the “Palm hold fist” salute in Chinese culture) a song (on the piano) and then in a taxicab (traveling freely through the people without fear as s/he has now acclimated to her/his new power.

  2. Eugen Donaldson says:

    For me, the one hand in the pocket is her security that her Higher Power gives her through all the ups and downs of life. “Hold on to the hope that is within you” (Paul, the apostle)

  3. Anonymous says:

    One hand in one’s pocket is an old phrase that meant to give to charity

  4. otter says:

    Hand in my pocket to me is self-comforting and a no f–ks given attitude staying true to yourself while the world around is chaotic.

  5. Mike Deluca from Pennsylvania says:

    YOU all are on the right track and smart , IMO it shows that the world has uncertainty and confusion. Literally hand in my pocket breaks me down, I do shed tears. I’m a 63 year old man and alanis is a goddess and I connected with her brilliant mind ( Im sure not in politics) other than that this song is so powerful to me , love your heart alanis thank you

  6. Simon Carter says:

    It’s a work of dichotomies. Of all the good and bad things that assail us and which we have to resist. I’m brave but I’m chickenshit isn’t everyday writing. One of my favourite songs.

  7. Andy says:

    Yin and the Yang…live a life of balance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like...