In twenty-five lines of dramatic and shocking poetry, Bruce Dawe’s “Homecoming” manipulates the audience to view the tragedies of war and the lack of respect that is given to those who fight within it.
A methodical production line of bodies is created with the use of “-ing” throughout the first lines of this stanza. “Bringing”, “picking”, “zipping”, “tagging”, and “giving” once again provide a horrible contrast between the living and the dead, as the verbs indicate the vibrance and life of those bringing home the dead lifeless bodies. Furthering this methodical sense is the repetition of “they”re”, which detaches the living from the dead and shows the lack of compassion which is afforded to those who have died for our country, building the image of the mass quantity of the dead.
Dawe constantly reminds his audience of how ones individuality is stripped from them when they die in war. As “they”re giving them names” the audience is repulsed as this is one of the last remaining individualities that is afforded to the dead of war, along with the categorical listing of the soldiers with their “curly-heads, kinky-hairs, crew cuts (and) balding non-coms” showing that background class and race no longer matter; your individuality lost. The repetitive reference to “them” adds to the lack of individuality and the continual building quantity of the casualties a war has.
The “sorrowful quick figures”, the “coasts (that) swing upwards” and the “knuckled hills” all imply a greater presence within the poem, possibly of a God who takes the soldiers “high high and higher” away from their loved ones and histories. The “old ridiculous curvatures” are no longer able to be appreciated by these men as they make their “homecoming” journey. The “desert emptiness” also echoes this theme and that of the futility of war. .
The “mute salute” within the last lines mock the twenty-one gun salute which is given to the living retuned from war.