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The poem “We are going”

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The poem “We are going” takes the form of a single stanza, featuring a mixture of short and long lines comprised of a short description followed by a lamenting monologue. The form ensures that all the information presented is treated equally by the reader, as there is no break in reading the poem. The language features revolve around the repetition of various concepts, words and syllables, however it also incorporates the use of similes. The repetition featured at the start of the monologue of “we are…” is used to present and emphasise the history and close relationship that the aboriginal tribe share with the land, as well as providing a contrast to the treatment of the land by the white men. This can be seen in how the speaker contrasts the word strangers, first applying it to himself before applying it to the white men as well as in how the description shows the treatment of the land by the white people.

The repetition at the end of the stanza which describes the various cultural symbols of the aboriginal people “The (scrubs/eagle/bora ring/corroboree)…” is used to show and emphasise the depth of the culture and is part of the repetition of the cultural ideas, customs and laws presented earlier in the stanza. The repetition of the word “gone” at the end of the stanza is used to emphasise the destruction of the culture as it used in context with the various cultural symbols of the aboriginal people. The final (and conversely the first) piece of repetition in the stanza is the repetition of the title, “We are going”, whereas in other cases the repetition was used to emphasise a certain point, here it is used to show contrast between the start of the poem. At the start it implies a sense of movement and at the end it implies a sense of dread and depression surrounding the destruction of their culture.

The repetition is used to give the reader an understanding of how the culture is viewed as well as the rich history of the culture in contrast with how it has been destroyed by the white people. The simile in the description of the small town of “many white men hurry about like ants” is describing how the white men move around without consideration for the world around them. When ants are born they have one purpose in mind, build the colony; if it meant destroying everything around the colony, it would be done. Although the word ‘ants’ doesn’t have negative connotations, to ‘hurry about like ants’ implies a sense of carelessness and destruction. The imagery featured in the text is used in two different ways, during the monologue and during the description. During the description of the setting and the landscape, the imagery is focused on the scene around the speaker noticing how everything seems civil, with a ‘town’ and a ‘subdued band’ visiting, until the treatment of the land is brought up.

The imagery of a ‘rubbish tip’ or dump is the outstanding point of the description because it highlights the poor treatment of the land by the white people and in how it shows that the land has been commercialised, contrasting the different value placed upon the land by the aboriginals and the white people. During the monologue the imagery is used to convey a sense of how the lives of the aborigines used to be, highlighting their connection with the land and nature in general. The tone of the poem generally overall is one of despair, however, it shifts throughout the piece from despair to wistfulness and melancholy to depression. The poem starts in a sense of despair, with the land that they once saw as their own being desecrated and treated as a commodity. The monologue starts by describing the laws and customs of their culture and how it worked in the past, bringing about a sense of longing for how things were, with a sense of sadness as well that things have changed so suddenly and so drastically.

The monologue ends with a sense of despair and depression, with all the symbols of their culture being gone, having left, and with them soon following. The poem is structured in lyric verse because Oodgeroo expresses her personal views and emotions using emotive language. The poem has no rhyme structure, nor does it have any rhythm, which has led to criticism of the poem, with critics saying that it should not be considered a poem but instead as a piece of propaganda.

The lack of rhyme and rhythm suggests that the poem may be free verse in structure. The poem itself is the story of a group of aboriginal men who return to their original homeland, only to find it inhabited by a small town of white men. The white men have destroyed the land, commercialised it and are using it for their own purposes, which leaves the aboriginals confused. One of the aboriginals then begins to monologue about how thing have changed, describing how the white men have changed it from his culture to theirs. The monologue then proceeds to describe the relationship shared between the nature and them which leads back to how nature has been destroyed, along with the various symbols of their culture.

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