Bruce Dawe is a famous and iconic Australian poet; his poems feature his numerous personal experiences and opinions about the futility and brutality of war. Bruce Dawe oft questions the need and validity of war; he talks about the dehumanization and utter brutality the young Australian men face. The poem “Homecoming” raises the public issue of military dehumanization and the futility of the men who enlist. This poem provokes us as individuals, and as a society to question why.
In Bruce Dawe’s “Homecoming”, he explores personal and public issue of lack of identity and the indiscriminate slaughter of young men in the Vietnam War. Dawe refers to green bodies in “green plastic bags”, shows the lack of identity and invokes emotions from the reader. The dead soldiers are also being categorized as “curly heads, kinky-hairs, crew-cuts and balding non-coms…” this categorization further reinforces the idea of dehumanization and lack of identity. This certain technique gives us a detailed insight into the personal and public issues that families and the public would have faced.
Another technique used in “Homecoming” that helps us gain an insight into the personal and public experiences is the use of irony. The title homecoming usually implies a heroic or celebratory return with family and friends. It also invokes a sense of anticipation for the return of a particular individual, however the title is ironic as the “Homecoming”, is related to the mourning and death of a nameless soldier. Another affective us of irony would be the repetition of the suffix -ing; “picking”, “zipping”, “tagging”, “giving” and “bringing”. These words are the actions of the processors; they usually imply life and strength but are used ironically as the processors handle the cold, limp and lifeless bodies. This also gives us an interesting insight into the personal problems families and friends would have to endure.
Bruce Dawe explores different personal and public issues within his poems. In “Homecoming”, he talks about the futility and lack of identity these young soldiers face. He explores these different personal and public issues through a use of effective techniques such as irony, repetition, imagery, metaphors and rhythm. All of these techniques give us a compelling insight into the personal experiences and public issues of the Vietnam war.