Literary Analysis Of The Poem Homecoming By Bruce Dawe

The anti-war elegy poem ‘Homecoming’ was written by Bruce Dawe, in 1968 to speak on the behalf of the soldiers who died during the Vietnam War. Dawe gives a strong use of literary techniques to empower the imagery used in his poem. Through Bruce's use of language, it not only shows his attitude towards the war but the criticism of the society. Dawe fundamentally speaks for the people who cannot, and exposes the truth behind the worthlessness of war, and the families impacted by them.

The opening lines of the poem, talk about the gathering of the bodies in the jungle of Saigon. Dawe shows his attitude towards the war with the use of repetition to the word ‘they’re’ indicating the non-existing respect from handlers to soldiers. It’s as if the handlers have lost feelings towards the soldiers as if they have seen it all too much. This gives the audience an understanding of the sheer number of bodies, being meaningly picked up and thrown onto the pile as if it was all simply a part of the handlers everyday job. The second segment of the poem suggests that the bodies are now being brought home over the Pacific. Taking the words from the poem “they’re high, now high and higher, over the land, the steaming” is hinting about the soldiers being brought into heaven to finally rest. The alliteration of sad sorrowful words in this segment implies the depressing situation to which the soldiers are being returned home. The arrival of the soldiers is now prominent with the opening line to phase three “taxiing in, on the long runways, the howl of their homecoming rises.' The ‘howl’ refers to the families crying for their loved ones to which they have lost. As the arrival of the soldiers has happened Dawe stops using the words ‘they’re’ and ‘their’. This indicates that the dead bodies are no longer the handlers' manner and have now been given over to the families. This gives a more personal feeling towards the end of the poem as if the families are now speaking. Another part of the poem Dawe has utilised is the title ‘Homecoming’. A homecoming would usually state that the soldier returns from a heroic victory to celebrate their survival within the war with their families. With this being the title it is constantly reminding us of what it could have been but wasn’t.

Dawe’s use of imagery in the poem creates a very Heavy-hearted vibe for the audience. Picking, bringing, zipping, tagging, giving, rolling, freezing, and bringing. This form of this alliteration, being ‘ing’ creates the imagery of the so-called handlers motionlessly doing his job day after day. The handlers then differentiate all the soldiers into ethnic races such as ‘curly-heads’ and ‘balding non-coms promoting the loss of identity the soldiers receive. Dawe seems to attach the repetition in his poem towards the soldiers being brought in ‘all day, after day’ showing the gruesome reality of war. Removing all full stops and keeping it separated by commas Dawe slows down the reader in which helps intensify the lament of the poem, giving better imagery.

The criticism of the society at the time towards the soldiers was dishonourable. Dawes clever word use within the last phase of the poem really narrows down how society portrayed the war. The lines ‘sorrowful quick fingers heading south’, and bringing them home now, too late, too early’ wasn’t about them dying at a young age but more about them dying too soon for society to show any respect. ‘The howl of their homecoming’ is also not talking about the loss of a soldier and the mourning of families but the weeping of the dead soldiers, for they are contradicted by their people. They have been brought back into the cities and old wide suburbs where they were raised. Which so forth gives a bitter contradiction throughout the towns, cities and suburbs catching us all ‘in bitter geometry’. Now they only receive ‘mute salute’ from their dogs and not their people.

Dawe’s use of literary techniques and language has given us a deeper understanding of the futility of the war and the soldiers who were merely being chosen as cattle. He uses a variety of imagery through his short but detailed lines that evoke the reader's emotions. It discusses the contradiction with the soldiers and fellow people. Dawe has shown his attitude towards the war and the senselessness of it. ‘Homecoming’ is a time to celebrate with your people but in this homecoming, there is only worthlessness. 

16 August 2021
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