'The poet's role is to challenge the world the see around them.' How far is this true for the poetry of Bruce Dawe? How (ie through what techniques) Does Dawe achieve this? Discuss a maximum of 2 poems. Bruce Dawe is one of the most inspirational and truthful poets of our time. Born in 1930, in Geelong, most of Dawe's poetry concerns the common person - his poems are a recollection on the world and issues around him. The statement 'The poet's role is to challenge the world they see around them.' Is very true for Bruce Dawe, as his main purpose in his poetry was to depict the unspoken social issues concerning the common Australian suburban resident. His genuine concern for these issues is evident through his mocking approach to the issues he presents in two of his longer poems, 'Enter without so much as Knocking' and 'Life-cycle'. Both poems have a similar theme - the cycle of life, the mass-production and lack of uniqueness.
'Enter without so much as Knocking's hows how consumerism has a negative impact on society. The poem depicts the life of a typical man, living in the suburbs. It starts off with the birth of a child. The sentences are intentionally made short and clear. As the baby begins to conceive the world he has been brought into, he sees signs, commands and expectations.
Dawe stresses the point that the first thing that the baby heard was a voice of consumerism on television, as opposed to the voices of his family. The baby has been brought into a materialistic world - a world where such an important event has just occurred, a new member of the family has been born, and yet the television is on and Bobby Dazzler is preaching his false cliches to the household. "Hello, hello, hello all you lucky people" Followed by a comment highlighting the innocence of the child - Bobby Dazzler's false heartiness and slogans do not influence the child. 'and he really was lucky because it didn't mean a thing to him then' Dawe believes that the child is lucky because he knows nothing of this repetitive deceit of civilisation. The theme really starts to come through here - these people are brainwashed by television so much so that consumerism is a religion for them.
He is ferociously denouncing suburban life and the fact that people worship the television set. In the next stanza his family is described. The household is described with terms that we see as marketing slogans - "Well-equipped, smoothly-run, economy-size" These terms give the feeling of mass production - just as well-equipped, smoothly-run, economy-size cars, these sorts of households must have been very common. Again the fact that these people lack individuality is being focused on and it is disputed whether this is correct. The rest of the family are presented as stereotypes.
"one economy - sized Mum, one Anthony Squires- Cool stream - Summer weight Dad, along with two other kids, Straight off the Junior Department rack." Every aspect of this family is described in a sexist, impersonal, monotonous manner. His siblings aren't described by their sex or age - they are just summarised as children who wear the same clothes as everyone else. and regulations imposed upon him everywhere he goes. "WALK. DON'T WALK. TURN LEFT.
NO PARKING. WAIT HERE. NO SMOKING. KEEP CLEAR/OUT/OFF THE GRASS" These are all instructions that he must abide.
Bruce Dawe then satirically mocks these signs by implying that everything about a person is controlled in this world, even their breathing. "NO BREATHING EXCEPT BY ORDER." The purpose of this stanza was to show that the car journey described in it is a fairly accurate representation of this boy's life. The first sign of any emotion in the poem is "He enjoyed", the child's opinion, in the fourth stanza. He is challenging this world of people with iced-over emotions. The child is still innocent in this stage of his life - he is enthralled by nature, uninfluenced by material things, and not staring into the screen watching people make "incomprehensible and monstrous love" as all of the adults are. Children are innocent until we pollute their minds with the filth of society is what Dawe is saying.
Owen describes the sky as "Littered with stars", ironically, as the stars are pure and not soiled with the filth of mankind. Thus by saying the sky is littered with stars, he is taking the point of view of society - the fact that they would want to bring order and conformity to everything. These stars are scattered across the sky in an un orderly fashion, and "no one had got around to fixing [them] up yet." He is highlighting that society takes beautiful, unadulterated natural things and pollutes them with their rules and regulations. Moving from childhood to the middle ages in but a few lines, highlighting that it's not worth mentioning the rest of his childhood, as it was all had too much of a resemblance to what has already been said.
There is a quick and noticeable change of tone as the man is described as a "money-hungry", "back stabbing" and "miserable", no longer the image of innocence as he was portrayed in the first 4 stanzas. Not guarded by adolescence any more, he enters the real world and is instantly polluted with the filth of society. He says goodbye to the stars - their natural splendour no longer interests him, he is now a part of the materialistic world. He will no longer show any emotion, and he is now 'realistic', in other words, fake. The following dialogue is a symbol of the man's beliefs, what he has been taught and what he now accepts morally. "I'm telling you straight, Jim, it's Number One every time for this chicken, hit wherever you see a head and kick whoever's down" The basic message behind this dialog is the fact that you have to get your own way in life - thinking of no-one else but yourself.
Use people, back stab, kick them when they " re down - everything is justified as long as you end up on top. Bruce Dawe notices that a large percentage of the population live by these morals, and he is showing through the example of this man how futile such a materialistic life really is. An abrupt change in the dialog and we hear the words of the man thanking a woman, Clare, for a lovely evening. The readers hold their breath, thinking that maybe there still is some humanity left in this man who has just said such harsh words.
But in the sixth stanza it is revealed that he was merely being two-faced and fake. He is in the car with his wife. There are no signs of affection, his wife is just like another possession to him. "I've had enough for one night, with that Clare Jessup," Here he reveals the truth - a total opposite of what he told Clare herself. Or perhaps this too is not the truth, and he is also lying to his wife in order to gain sympathy. At the end of the paragraph Dawe abruptly stops the man in mid sentence and leaves only a dash, showing how quickly and suddenly one can lose ones life.
In the seventh paragraph the true extent of people's brainwash is underlined. Such a tragic event has just occurred, and the funeral guests pay attention to only the materialist aspects of his death. They notice that he looks very good, tanned, healthy. This could also be a paradox for the fact that what people look like on the outside can be the opposite of what they are - the insincerity in society.
The unsympathetic guests are emotionless and fake, just like he was. Dawe then describes the place the man goes after death as an underground metropolis - underground hinting that due to his dishonest nature and lack of morals he went to hell. "permanent residential's, no parking tickets, no taximeters ticking, no Bobby Dazzlers here, no down payments, nobody grieving over halitosis" It is a place with none of the materialistic beliefs that litter this world. It is imposed that people in our world grieve over halitosis, or bad breath, but as we saw at the funeral, do not grieve over death. He's six feet down and nobody's interested - they " re all too busy going about their own selfish, self-centred lives.
"Blink, Blink. CEMETERY. Silence." The last word is not done in block letters, as all of the other signs - because it is not a sign. There is silence in the cemetery already, and there is no-one to hush up there. "Momento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulver em reverter is... ." A definition of this epigraph is very important to the moral of this poem.
"Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return." This ties in with the theme of this man's whole life going past, and having no impact on the world. Having lost his individuality, he fitted in with society only when he gave into mass-conformity and consumerism. The futile cycle of human lives in a materialistic world is portrayed in this poem, underlining all of the shallowness and facades in society. It is clear that Bruce Dawe's purpose in writing this poem was to challenge this cycle that he observed, and to show people, through only a few moments in a person's life, the extreme of this problem. Blinded by materialistic things this man sacrificed his morals and ethics, no longer caring for his fellow humans, or for nature. And neither did those around him.
Dawe is showing us how lonely and emotionless a person's life can really be. The other poem, 'Life-cycle', is one of his well-known poems that deals with how Victorians are influenced by football. It ridicules the fact that football for people has become like a religion. Not speaking of a specific event as in 'Enter without so Much as Knocking', this poem describes the general cycle of life of a resident of Victoria. From birth people are encouraged to barrack for their teams, and build a life around football. This 'religion' is implied on the 'innocent monsters' by their parents and surroundings.
"they are wrapped in the club-colours, laid in beribboned cots, having already begun a lifetime's barracking" Dawe is showing that this will be the purpose of the child's life. He will grow up living & breathing football, and worshipping it without giving a second thought to the true purpose of life. Using simple structure and simple language, he is able to best convey his morals to the common people that it affects. Gently mocking people with his vibrant expression of the game, with Christian symbolism he compares it to the bible - highlighting that it is, but shouldn't be regarded of the same importance as Christianity. "They will forswear the Demons, cling to the saints and behold their team going up the ladder into Heaven" Dawe describes the actual important things in life - marriage, proposals, as just a sidetrack to football, done quickly in between games. Football is the focus of these people's lives - anything else is merely a diversion to football and should be taken care of quickly so that they can get back to the game.
"- the reckless proposal after the one-point win, the wedding and the honeymoon after the grand-final... ." We almost begin to pity these poor people, to whom living their lives has taken second place in importance to football. By using triumphant words such as 'behold' 'passion' and 'empyrean' Dawe is showing great sarcasm, as he did with the Christian symbolism. It is like he is asking the readers why football is now as important to the Victorians as their religion, and highlighting the fact that it is not supposed to be like this. "having seen in the six-foot recruit from Eagle hawk their hope of salvation" Bruce Dawe purposefully makes the last word of the poem salvation.
This word, generally associated with heaven, and the fact that living a good, Christian life will lead to our salvation and we will go to heaven, not hell. But it is not from God that these people gain their salvation - they see salvation in the recruit, the strong football player who has come to play for their team and could bring the team victory. With that Dawe makes obvious the skewed priorities of these people, and how futile and pointless their existence is. 'Carn, carn' they cry, from birth unto death, never knowing anything else, never living. We can see by Dawe's techniques and words in both of these poems that his main purpose was to open the public's eyes to the mishaps of society. He challenges society, pointing out all of the injustices and hardships that ordinary people face every day.
He shows us how we can become selfish and materialistic, and how we can become so involved in something that we no longer recognise the beauties of life and nature. He makes these morals accessible to all people through his simple poetry, communicating his ideas and ethics accurately. v.