‘Homecoming’ is a poem written by Bruce Dawe during the Vietnam War

‘Homecoming’ is a poem written by Bruce Dawe during the Vietnam War. ‘Homecoming’ was composed in 1968 when Australia was against war. Political decisions resulted in the dismay of the general public because of the uselessness of Australian soldiers being in Vietnam at the time. ‘Homecoming’ is an elegy that was written as a lament for those who fought and died in Vietnam. The poem ‘Homecoming’ by Bruce Dawe is a virtuous example of Australian anti-war poetry, because of Dawe’s attitudes and beliefs’ about the senselessness and tragedy of war that are portrayed in his poem. In ‘Homecoming’, Bruce Dawe uses numerous poetic techniques and language features to build his attitudes towards war.

In Bruce Dawe’s ‘Homecoming’, he explores the personal and public issue of lack of identity and the slaughter of young men in the Vietnam War. Dawe’s ‘Homecoming’ describes the calamities of war, the return of young soldier’s bodies and the lack of respect attributed to them. ‘Homecoming’ the title usually suggests a congratulatory return with family and friends however title is ironic as the ‘Homecoming’, is related to the mourning and death of a nameless soldier. The soldiers aren’t returning home for a celebration, they are being brought home dead: ‘they’re bringing them in, piled on the hulls of Grants, in trucks, in convoys, they’re zipping them up in plastic bags’. Through Dawe’s description of the events that followed the return of bodies of the soldiers as they returned from Vietnam, he productively establishes and displays his views on war.

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The theme of melancholy in ‘Homecoming’ is presented in a way that positions the reader to sympathize with Dawe’s opposing views on war, this effect is predominantly created in the subtle use of poetic techniques. All of these techniques give us a captivating insight into the personal experiences and public issues of the Vietnam war.
Dawe refers to bodies in ‘green plastic bags’, displaying the absence of identity which invokes emotions from the reader. The dead soldiers are being labelled as ‘curly heads, kinky-hairs, crew-cuts and balding non-coms…’ this labeling highlights the idea of dehumanization and lack of identity. This technique gives us an insight into the personal and public issues that families and the public would have faced. Dawe makes an emotional connection to the reader through the use of personification, ‘their shadows are tracing the blue curve of the Pacific with sorrowful quick fingers, heading south, heading east’. Dawe relates lifeless objects to emotions and feelings that the reader may have towards war. The overall tone of the poem addresses the hopeless sorrow that Dawe feels for the young people who are killed in wars all around the world every year. Dawe’s skillful use of figurative provokes sympathy from the audience and cunningly manipulates the audience to understand and reflect upon Dawe’s own attitudes towards war.

In Dawe’s poem ‘Homecoming’, poetic techniques assist in portraying the senselessness of young men going to war. Throughout his poem, Dawe discuss the senselessness of war and absence of identity that these young soldiers face – he explores this through a use of effective techniques such as irony, repetition, symbolism, metaphors and rhythm. Simile and metaphor is used in the quote: ‘telegrams tremble like leaves from a wintering tree…the spider grief swings in his bitter geometry’. Through this quote, Dawe portrays the coldness of death and the spreading of grief throughout the community. Repetition of the suffix ‘-in’ in ‘bringing’, ‘zipping’, ‘picking’, ‘tagging’, and ‘giving’, describing the actions of the body processors, establishes irony.
Through the use of repetition, Dawe effectively highlights the brutality that has happened in all wars throughout history. The technique of symbolism applied in ‘Homecoming’ evokes the pain of death through ‘dogs’ as sympathetic persons and their haunting ‘howls’. They raise their ‘muzzles in mute salute’ respectfully. The lack of full stops (enjambment) in this poem shows that the war was endless and there was no time to stop and relax. Dawe effectively describes his own attitudes and beliefs about his dismay of war through various poetic techniques and the use of an expressive text structure.

Bruce Dawe successfully establishes the uselessness of war is his poem ‘Homecoming’.
Dawe provokes sympathy and manipulates the audience to reflect upon his own views towards war through the use of poetic techniques, language features and text structure. ‘Homecoming’ is a poem that is uniquely Australian and portrays personal and public issues about war. Through his poem ‘Homecoming’, Bruce Dawe gives a voice to the belittled fallen soldiers in the Vietnam war and successfully conveys his representation of the futility of war.

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