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I was only 19- Redgum Essay

“I was only 19” is a protest song by Redgum which reflects a physical journey of a young boy who is going off to the Vietnam War. When reading the song lyrics it can also be seen as a ballad or a retrospect because the way it has been composed. Throughout the entirety of the song there are many themes like the Vietnam War and Culture which is shown through mention of multiple traditional towns like “Nui Dat” and “Vung Tau”, there is also reference to agent orange which was used during the Vietnam war. Other themes include Australian history, anti-war protest and returned soldiers or veterans.

For the duration of “I was only 19” there are many poetic devices which include repetition, colloquialism, rhetorical questions and metaphors. Repetition is used throughout the song to reinforce that the boy was only 19 and yet he was still being exposed to the horrors and brutality of war. Colloquialism is also used through mention of “VB”, “drinking tinnies” and “til the morphine came and killed the bloody row”, this language allows readers to have a greater connection with the song as it is more relaxed and free flowing. Rhetorical questions are used in this song to get the listeners more involved and thinking about the meaning of the song, an example of a rhetorical questions used in the song is ‘and can you tell me doctor, why i still can’t get to sleep?’. the final technique is metaphors an example is ‘it was a war within yourself’ this is suggesting that the feelings and emotions of the soldiers were going through was just as chaotic and horrific as a war however there wasn’t actually a literal war in your head it was just figurative language.


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