Poem

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Bruce Dawe’s remarkable poem ‘Boat-People’ portrays the perception of the asylum seekers from the aftermath of the Vietnam War in an even tempered, but negative tone. The poem is based on the immigrants in the sense that they were not welcomed and were treated in an unsavory manner. Dawe utilizes a variety of imagery and literary features to further underline the deeper significance while attempting to convey the theme of the text; war and its detrimental effects on the lives of Australians. The text makes use of first person throughout, more so in the second half where the generality of the imagery is demonstrated as well as the first mention of an emotion “sorrow”. There is no specific structure maintained across the whole of the text, which allows for a more particular writing style distinctive to the poet. Due to the relatively vexatious tone the poem reads at a steady pace preventing the possibility of obliviously skipping through. Dawe employs irony in the title ‘Boat-People’, which refers to the immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 1970s, however, Dawe’s ancestors are also categorised as ‘Boat-People’, since they themselves were immigrants from England and Scotland. Furthermore, the use of irony engages the reader’s attention and to develop deeper levels of meaning and context in the poem. The leading stanza is an introduction to the thematic structure or setting of the poem’s plot. Dawe applies personification in “west of sorrow Lay that land...” indicating that the land (Australia) portrays a feeling of sorrow because of the sudden movement of immigrants, moreover the Australians are anxious about their land being dominated by these people. The repetition of first person ‘we’ is present to emphasise the importance of not only an individual, but the whole resident’s perception of the foreigners, as a result, it forces the reader to empathise with the poet. On the other hand, the poet reveals his sympathy towards the immigrants through the use...
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