Sometimes I think like this:
Born in the USA is in time close to Nebraska, and still so different. The heroes of the two albums are all alienated, but it seems to me, that the heroes of Born in the USA are double-alienated: they are alienated from the society, but also alienated from the poet who performs them. If that is so, how can we understand the reason for this difference?
The poet who created Darkness tried to secure an existence for him selves by pretending he could himself overthrow the badlands and in its place establish the promised land by renunciation of the ties that bind. And he propagate this his renunciation via the heroes of the album. But in the end the poet experienced, that the use of this mean did not give him an existence, instead it threatened to dissolute him into nothingness. He then realized, that what could save him from tumbling down into this nothingness was the ties that bind. Hence in the River the heroes a) propagate the necessity of the ties that bind (The Ties That Bind ), b) despises the idea of his earlier propagation of the one mans fight for a promised land (The Price You Pay), and c) lend his voice to people, who, seemingly unlike him selves, not by an voluntary act, but by socioeconomic circumstances lost the ties that bind (The River).
But his new mean is not enough. For he is, as a poet that tries to tie the binds that ties, still a poet. And as a poet he still is forsaking. What, then, is he forsaking? Well, a real life. A non-poet life. He sees, that he in the poet is just as alienated from a real life, as is the heroes of Nebraska. And so he finds that he in that, in which he during his whole life has tried fo find his existence, namely the poet, is prevented from acquiring a real existence. To really exist, he has to escape his narrow existence in the Poet. This contradiction is his existential crisis.
He tries to work his way out of this crisis by freeing himself from his prison: the poet. But who is he outside the poet? Outside the poet a life can consists in having a family, friends and income. Is this what he wants? Anyway, he wants to be free from him selves as Poet. Because as a Poet he lives via his heroes, and he wants to live with walking, talking human beings, not to be confined to live with and through his heroes. And so he tries to create a life in which his heroes are no longer necessary for his existence. He openly turns his back to them. They no longer speaks through him, he speaks through them. He is permanent in the center of it all, and his heroes, well they come and go. They are his servants, he not theirs. He performs them with haste, without inanimateness. Not they, but he is dancing in the dark.
And so he may for a moment imagine that he is free. It seems to him, as if his own life is the base for his heroes, not as if his heroes still is the base for his life. But of course, in reality he now is his own hero that he as a poet creates. And so he will in the end experience, that he himself as this poet-hero is in contradiction with himself, and with contrasting solemnity he later on has to confess: two faces have I.