In Dan Davis' poem regarding the Stolen Generation of Australia's Aboriginal citizens "What Becomes of Us Now," what are the poetic devices/techniques used and what effect does the author hope to have on the reader by using them?
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In Dan Davis' "What Becomes Of Us Now," the first literary device used is allusion. Line one refers to "Rudd":
So what becomes of us now, since Mr. Rudd has said sorry...
An allusion is a reference to a well-known person or event with which the author believes his audience will be familiar. To an Australian reader or one well-versed in world affairs, this reference immediately would bring to mind the day Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia, moved former P.M. Howard's "Motion of Reconciliation" to a full apology to the Aboriginal population.
For many years, the Aboriginal community has been marginalized by descendants of white European settlers who took over the land of Australia's people. A major offense was the separation of Aboriginal families:
Aboriginal children [were] separated, often forcibly, from their families in the interest of turning them into white Australians.
Another literary device used is diction, which refers to the appropriate use of words relevant to the written piece. It creates the mood for the reader, among other things—
The word choice a writer makes determines the reader's reaction to the object of description, and contributes to the author's...tone.
With the topic at hand, positive and/or funny words would confuse the reader as the author tries to convey the seriousness of his subject. Words that Davis uses to support the poem's somber tone include: suffering, struggle, fighting, bleed, intimidated, etc.
Tone is another important literary element (in both prose and poetry) because it reflects how the author feels about his subject. Careful inspection by the reader can reveal the author's...
...underlying attitudes that control and color the story or poem as a whole.
Whereas mood is how the author wants the reader to feel, tone reflects how the author feels. (Generally, the only time mood and tone would not be the same would before example—with satire: a parody might be comical to the reader, but the author may be striving to share a more serious message. See Gulliver's Travels as an allegory.)
Davis also uses structure to organize the specific parts of his poem. For example, the first six lines of the poem list the questions the author has, now that the apology has been offered. Will it change anything?
Will our people be treated equal? That's my biggest worry.
What becomes of us now, we're still fighting for our own native land.
The next two lines share the history of his people in Australia:
Australia, it's our birth right, this dirt is where we bleed.
The final four lines shift to advise the reader that the speaker will make things change rather than waiting for someone else to do something:
I'm gonna stand up for my mob with pride...
Another poetic/literary device Davis also uses is a play on words—a double entendre (which in French means double meaning):
Our ancestors walked and breathe on this earth, it's here they planted their seed.
Planting seed has several meanings. Historically, planting one's seed meant to populate, fathering children. Biblically, this is a reference to planting something and reaping the harvest—whether by physically planting seeds or creating things like love or dissension. Finally, it may be a literal reference to planting crops to survive off the land. As Australia is mainly arid, this would have been a difficult task. The idea of planting and use of the world "bleed" may well refer to the Aborigines' battle to survive as a race.
A final allusion is found in the last two lines:
I wanna make everyone hear my voice, make them turn around and see,
Just what's gonna become of this Kukuyalnjii Murri.
The Murri are the "Indigenous Australians" who were forced out of their homes to live at Christian missions with other native people, often separated from their children (as mentioned above).
While the speaker's intent clearly states that he is going to be a force of change, he is also assuring his audience that he will not turn his back on the roots of his ancestors—his pride in his people still remains.
All of these devices have been used to organize Davis' message of countless years oppression and a need for change. The diction supports the serious nature of the poem's message. Davis' references to the past assures us that regardless of the long-awaited apology to his people, more must be given than words on a paper. He is prepared to fight for change that will bring his people into the successful "mainstream" (as he calls it) of survival in Australia, no longer being marginalized by "The white fella [who] just don't get it."
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