Homecoming by Bruce Dawe

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In “Homecoming”, poet Bruce Dawe uses vivid visual and aural poetic techniques to construct his attitudes towards war. He creates a specifically Australian cultural context where soldiers have been fighting in a war in Vietnam, and the dead bodies flown home. However the poem has universal appeal in that the insensitivity and anonymity accorded to Precious lives reduced to body bags are common attitudes towards soldiers in all historical conflicts. Although Dawe makes several references to the Vietnam War, the sense of moral outrage at the futile, dehumanising aspects of war is a universal theme. He also speaks on behalf of the mute, dead soldiers who have no way of expressing their suffering and loss of hope. By “speaking for those who have no means of speaking”, Dawe ultimately exposes the brutal hopelessness of soldiers caught up in foreign conflicts and the shocking impact on families.

The title “Homecoming” is used effectively to contrast the traditional universal implications of the word with the shocking reality of dead soldiers flown home from Vietnam to grieving families. The word “homecoming” usually implies a celebration or Heroic reception for a great achievement, with a return to roots and family. It would further invoke a sense of anticipation for the return of a loved one whom has a real identity and a place in the hearts of those awaiting his arrival. However, the title operates ironically because the “homecoming” described in the poem is related to death, mourning and loss and the arrival of a nameless body is quite different from the heartfelt joy extended to a loved one. By establishing Irony through the globally understood ritual of homecoming celebration, Dawe generates universal appeal. Through the use of Repetition, Dawe establishes the inhuman, machine-like processing of human bodies, a ghastly reality common to all conflicts that use innocent soldiers as cannon fodder. These soldiers will never have an opportunity to voice their...
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