Americanized: Poem Analysis

1256 words - 5 pages

This darkly satiric poem is about cultural imperialism. Dawe uses an extended metaphor: the mother is America and the child represents a younger, developing nation, which is slowly being imbued with American value systems. The figure of a mother becomes synonymous with the United States. Even this most basic of human relationships has been perverted by the consumer culture. The poem begins with the seemingly positive statement of fact 'She loves him ...’. The punctuation however creates a feeling of unease, that all is not as it seems, that there is a subtext that qualifies this apparently natural emotional attachment. From the outset it is established that the child has no real choice, that he must accept the 'beneficence of that motherhood', that the nature of relationships will always be one where the more powerful figure exerts control over the less developed, weaker being. The verb 'beamed' suggests powerful sunlight, the emotional power of the dominant person: the mother. The stanza concludes with a rhetorical question, as if undeniably the child must accept the mother's gift of love. Dawe then moves on to examine the nature of that form of maternal love. The second stanza deals with the way that the mother comforts the child, 'Shoosh ... shoosh ... whenever a vague passing spasm of loss troubles him'. The alliterative description of her 'fat friendly features' suggests comfort and warmth. In this world pain is repressed, real emotion pacified, in order to maintain the illusion that the world is perfect. One must not question the wisdom of the omnipotent mother figure. The phrase 'She loves him...' is repeated. This action of loving is seen as protecting, insulating the child. In much the same way our consumer culture cushions reality. The mother makes the choices. She is passing on her limited view of the world: that it is to be feared, 'full of nasty cars and men', making the child fear and loathe anything beyond her sphere of influence. She promulgates prejudice and paranoia, ironically making the child fear what he is to become. The child is powerless before her strength as she pops 'him on the plastic pot'. Even the most basic of human functions are rigidly controlled by his mother, who chooses when he is able expunge that which is no longer deemed necessary, as he 'strains to be a good boy'. He must conform to her desires. The phrase 'it takes years of training' suggests that growing up is about discipline and repression in order to become a part of our modern society. Dawe is critical of the way consumer cultures impose their way of thinking and acting on other less corrupted societies. Entrapment is a strong motif throughout this poem. The child is trapped in his high chair as other societies are similarly imprisoned by the conformist nature of consumerism and capitalism. The announcement that 'Today, I'll let you play with Mummy's things' marks the beginning of his indoctrination into the consumer culture. It is...

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