The meaning of this extreme song would probably vary according to the social context in which it was sung. For instance, in his book "Dark Laughter" (1994), a unexpurgated study of military folksong, Les Cleveland explains that soldiers like himself perhaps found some symbolic resonance when singing "The Great Big Wheel":
"This sadomasochistic parable of a death machine devouring its individual victims is paralleled collectively on the battlefield by the larger spectacle of a whole civilization caught up in the murderous complexities of military technology." (p.28)
I think Gershon Legman makes a similar point, that the song can be read as a protest against industrial civilization - an inhuman techno-Moloch that "f***s people up".