Bruce Dawe, an Australian poet, has written the poem ‘Genesis’. The poem compares the beginning of school to Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, hence the title ‘Genesis’. Dawe has put the context of the poem into a modern day theme. Using the comparison of Adam and Eve’s loss of innocence, he describes how the innocence of children is lost at school. This correspondence to the story of God expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden because they had eaten fruit from the tree of knowledge. In the poem ‘Genesis’, children are expelled from innocence into the harsh realities of the world by partaking of the tree of knowledge – education at school. Dawe has used various techniques to convey his message across.
Throughout the poem, there is an underlying criticism of what society does to children by sending them to school, leading us to question the wisdom of “education” as provided at school. He has achieved this critical commentary by lightly incorporating the technique of gentle satire into the poem to attack the human folly. This satire implies that society has not learnt from Adam and Eve’s mistakes and condones the sinful behaviour in the name of “education”. His idea has been put forward by the interpretations that God created Adam and Eve, of whom lost their innocence from the tree of knowledge, but society created the cause of the loss of innocence through education.
In the lines “Ah, what ink-stained webs we weave”(1.23), Dawe implies that the adults of society have created a trap (that cannot be untangled) for their children, in their desire for their children to know more, almost pushing them into losing their purity of heart. This satire has made possible by the technique of irony because the Garden of Eden is supposed to harmonise paradise, but school is far from paradise; yet is respected and designated as a ‘good’ place by society. The predominating mood created by Dawe is quite paradoxical for he has put forward a serious inner meaning, in an informal manner.
The tone of the poem is cynical and sarcastic, occasionally using wry humour to express the feelings of entrapment and unwillingness of the children “Stabbing first flies with new biros” (1.8). In the poem you can almost sense the children’s lack of freedom when the poet describes them “Watching corner-eyed, the sun, No longer at their beck and calling” (1.10-11). The school bell has replaced their freedom of control over the day. Using sarcasm, Dawe describes the different classrooms as prison cells. This implication is made by the words “Like old ‘lags’ to whom all’s one!” (1.7). ‘Lag’ was the name given to a convict in the early days of Australian’s history and refers to the children who are “imprisoned” in their classrooms. The fact that all cells look the same illustrates their lack of interest in their classrooms. It all symbolises the loss of freedom.
The children’s loss of freedom innocence is shown throughout the poem and is illustrated by examples of them choosing bad over good. “Dumping wholesome snacks Mum makes, In the school incinerator” (1.22) and eating “tooth-rotting cakes” (1.19) and drinking “Mind-destroying Fizzi-cola” (1.20). With the help of his mindful selection of words such as, ‘mincing’ and ‘cocky’ he has built up the imagery that incorporates the sense of flirtatiousness and rebelliousness in the students. Other effects of imagery include the use of metaphor where Dawe compares the delay of sound from a jet-plane to the delay of understanding from the school children when faced by the information in their new text-books.
“Like jet ‘planes so far above them, Waiting for the sonic boom” (1.16-17). The use of simile is also closely connected with the metaphor, where Dawe compares the difficulty of schoolwork to the difficulty of reaching a jet-plane. “Text-book whose right answers loom, Like jet ‘planes so far above them”(1.15-16). By using both techniques, Dawe enables the reader to visualise more clearly the poet’s impressions.
The words used by Dawe are vivid and image is substantial, yet simplistic. This allows readers of all levels to appreciate and understand his writing even those who do not normally care for poetry. He has accomplished this in ‘Genesis’ by using compound words throughout the whole poem, which allow him to describe ideas promptly and concisely, producing a clear image of his intentions: “………tooth-rotting cakes, Mind-destroying fizzi-cola” Along with these compound adjectives his rhyming pattern and regular rhythm futher enhances ease of reading and permits the poem to become almost harmonious.
Dawe’s negative connotations of school, aroused emotions of sadness. This is because I believe the poem speaks of truth of that innocence is lost in school, a place that provides one of the most important aspects to life, education. Dawe has created this poem to comment on the tragedy of the human race, that is to say, what children have become since Adam and Eve. However, I find that his negative attitudes are not necessarily accurate. Despite my disagreeing view with Dawes beliefs, he has nevertheless been successful in conveying his intentions – to satirise the human obsession with education and the emphasis placed on school learning. He has achieved by incorporating many techniques into his work.