How does Dawe demonstrate concerns about society and humanity in his poetry?

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How does Dawe demonstrate concerns about society and humanity in his poetry?

The desensitisation and dehumanisation of modern society is a concern that plagues the entire western world today. Since the development of television and societies exposure to the media, humanity has evolved into an existence where the gaining of commodities has taken over human morality and consciousness. Dawe testifies the dehumanisation and desensitisation aspects of war upon the human race as a whole. Concerns about society are evidently represented in Bruce Dawe’s poems Homecoming (1968), Weapons Training (1970), and The Not So Good Earth (1966). Each poem explores the harsh realities of war on humanity illustrating the complexities of dehumanisation and desensitisation via the composer’s exploitation of techniques including literary techniques and poetic devices. These techniques and in correlation with certain concerns aid in outlining humanities impassiveness to the human suffering of others.

The senseless reality, tragedies of war and foremost the dehumanising and desensitisation effects of war are conveyed in the elegy for the Australian soldiers in the Vietnam War, Homecoming. Dawe epitomises dehumanisation in the first stanza, by exposing a decline in the moral values of humanity. This is revealed through action verbs “they’re picking”, “they’re zipping” “they’re tagging” “they’re rolling”, which emphasise the physical act of relocating these dead soldiers, rather than the emotional trauma and loss associated with death. The  “whining like hounds” highlights the destructive characteristics of war, also depicting dogs as sympathetic feelers of human emotion. For these dead soldiers, there is no big parade and music, only “the howl of their homecoming”. Although these men have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving up their lives, the fact that they get no recognition for this act except from their dogs emphasises the global concept of war as dehumanising. The use of third person narration exposes the emotional detachment of society “They’re bringing them home” demonstrating the desensitisation of humanity. The dead soldiers are nameless, coming home from war unidentifiable, “piled on the hulls of Grants”. Furthermore, Dawe utilises cumulative listing conveying the endless nature of death in “curly-heads, kinky-hairs, crew-cuts, balding non-coms” to exemplify societies impassiveness to the tragedy of war. Homecoming exposes the decline of human morality, through the maltreatment of dead soldiers.

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Weapons Training explores the concerns of dehumanisation and desensitisation through the manipulation of an army sergeant. Portrayed within the opening of Weapons Training, the immediate verbal onslaught from the army sergeant inflicted upon the newly enlisted soldiers engages the viewer’s full compliment of senses, via Dawe’s use of rhetorical question “why are you looking at me are you a queer?” illustrating the sergeant’s degradation of the soldiers and heightening his superiority. Dawe utilises enjambment as the sergeant is now focusing on a soldier and shouts “what are you laughing at” the soldiers freedom is now destroyed and humanity stripped from him as ...

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