Question :The careful use of language is what makes a text valuable
Reading about the difference in opinions in regards to war can really expand your mindset about what war is like and can also make you consider whether if war is really worth it. Both Homecoming and Weapons Training by Bruce Dawe are poems which are set at the time of the Vietnamese war, where young men, had to go to battle and got severely injured or killed, these poems really shows the horrors of war. Although both poems are written in different contexts, they have identical ideas when it comes to how horrible the Vietnam War was. By comparing the two poems the reader can use the poems to challenge their own personal views on war.The use of careful language techniques makes the texts a valuable learning tool for the reader.
Both texts can teach the reader that war does not have time to factor in emotions, this is observed through the careful use of language. An example of this is where dead soldiers are not treated as humans, rather as objects. The poem “Homecoming” has multiple language choices like “bringing, tagging, zipping, rolling them”, these are all used to show the process of how dead soldiers are systematically handled without empathy or respect. The men who handle the bodies treat the bodies like objects as a coping mechanism to deal with the situation of handling dead human bodies. This is because the vast majority of people would not choose this as their first line of work due to the despairing nature the war has placed on the soldiers who participate in it, and in order to combat the melancholic feeling present, they prefer to dehumanise the soldiers. However, this does not mean that the combatants are devoid of basic human feeling, as seen in the poem “Weapons training”. In this poem a drill sergeant uses racist comments calling the vietnamese people “a mob of little yellows”, this dehumanises them with racist comments making the soldiers able to cope with killing them. He does this in order to negate the negative mental issues most people suffer after killing another human. As the majority of war veterans come back home with mental scars of the people they have killed and the comrades they have lost. This can really drive home the impact that war has on people due to its repressive nature in regards to emotion as soldiers are expected to be stoic and emotionless.
Another idea present within the two texts is how devastating war really is. It shows how devastating the US actions had been for both the soldiers and the Vietnamese people. Through structure, the poem shows the reader how big the effect of the vietnam war really is, Dawe really shows the effect of the war “on to small towns where dogs raise muzzles in mute salute and on to cities in whose wide web of suburbs”. This quote shows that war is not picky it takes men from all around the country whether it be in the suburbs or farms. It also gives insight to how war works, a bullet doesn’t kill just one man but continues its devastating path, hurting those around him. Meaning that the death of a man had also affected his community greatly, so much so that even the dogs had to “raise muzzles in mute salute”. In “Weapons training” we see how the sergeant has complete control over all the trainees this seen when no one is talking during the sergeants instructions. As well as when nobody challenges him after he uses insults such as “if you had one more brain it’d be lonely” and “between your elephant ears open that drain you call a mind”. The recruits silence signifies the power the sergeant has over them as no one is willing to protect their honor from the derogatory comments. This is further seen when Dawe uses a rhetorical question “are you a queer?” as a challenge to the man to assert his authority.This is a valuable lesson to the reader to show how traumatizing the sergeants actions can be.
In weapons training, an important use of language is how the drill sergeant comes across as extremely hostile and rude as well as authoritative. This is seen by how he uses insults and personal pronouns to get the message embedded more into the soldiers. The sergeant also puts the soldiers in a hypothetical situation “A brand new pack of charlies are coming at you you can smell their rotten fish sauce breath”, this creates a fight or flight response due to the invasion of personal space and prepares the soldiers for the upcoming problems. The drill sergeant also uses repetition as in “dead, dead, dead” to try and drill in the message about how real and possible the threat of death is on the battlefield, he also uses this as a numbing agent to make the soldiers less likely to break down out of fear. Whereas in “homecoming”, the lack of listening to the drill sergeant can be shown. As homecoming deals with how great the amount of dead soldiers is, that Dawe uses repetition “All day, day after day they’re bringing them home” to show the amount of casualties caused, how it is nonstop. The fact that he calls the soldiers “them” several times throughout the text, conveys to the reader how he does not personalize with the soldiers but rather thinks of them as just objects being transported and packed away. The amount of dead soldiers the war has claimed is furthered signified when the soldiers are being moved “onto small towns” and “onto cities whose wide web of suburbs”. This gives the reader an idea on how much death is caused through the war.
In conclusion I agree definitely with “the careful use of language makes a text valuable” statement. As Bruce Dawe has taught the reader how techniques used throughout the text such as repetition and listing has taught us that war is a horrible experience where many lives are lost, where human decency does not exist and where people will do whatever they can to stay alive.