Bruce Dawe explores the complexities of modern life in Homo Surburbiensis and Enter Without So Much as Knocking. Dawe conveys the ideas through references to everyday life and what the protagonists experience throughout their lives. The author’s perspective on life is contradictory in the pair of poems and this is shown through the use of imagery, description of the characters and the tone of his language. In both poems, the main characters are not seen as individuals but are used as metaphors to represent the rest of the people within that world or society.
In Enter Without So Much as Knocking, one of the major concepts that Dawe is trying to get across, is that materialism and consumerism affects everyone and it will impact your life in one way or another. At the very beginning of the poem, a child is born and the first thing he hears is not the voice of his mother but instead a host on a TV show. This shows how quick and early materialism has a direct effect on people, and they don’t even realise it, yet it is what runs their lives in this society.
In contrast to this, Dawe projects a different idea in homo surburbiensis that people are able to take control on what their thoughts and actions are. The last two lines in the poem “A man alone in the evening in his patch of vegetables, and all the things he takes down with him there” shows he is now in his own personal territory, alone with his thoughts, free of consumerism and materialism. The theme materialism in further established in Enter Without So Much as Knocking when the family of the protagonist are described with advertising labels and they are all without character or emotion, as if everyone in society is mass produced.
This idea is backed up in the final stanza of the poem, where the protagonist’s death is regarded as inferior and the most important thing is how he looks. Observe how similar the beginning and end of the poem is, thus showing that life is a natural cycle and life and death can occur within a blink of an eye. Homo surburbiensis has a much more positive output on life because there is genuine emotion being portrayed to us, and even though his life may be ordinary, he can still find happiness and be satisfied with the small things in life.
Even though are a “single constant in a world of variables” we can still make an impact and offer our experiences and knowledge to the world. “time, pain, love, hate, age, war, death, laughter, fever” are all things we go through in life whether it is positive or negative, but we should make the most with our lives since our time on this world in short and the end is inevitable. Another concept Dawe conveys in Enter Without So Much as Knocking is how controlled and restrictive our lives are. Imperatives are used in the third stanza to depict the degree of confinement that the society is in.
While the imperatives may seem realistic, you eventually realise that the law is trying to maintain complete control over everyone in society. “Like every other well-equipped, smoothly-run household” uses imagery to visualise the fact that everyone is living in accordance to the law and nothing is out of order. Dawe uses personification in the second stanza of homo surburbiensis to describe the pumpkin’s clumsy growth which can correspond to the growth of civilization since it is free and erratic unlike the growth of society in Enter Without So Much as Knocking which is predictable and restricted.
This comparison shows that despite the ordinary exterior of suburban life, there is potential growth that is unable to been seen since it progresses at such a slow rate. Contrast the protagonist in homo surburbiensis to the people in Enter Without So Much as Knocking and it is clear that everyone needs to work together and assist each other during times of hardship to progress and develop society. In Enter Without So Much as Knocking, everybody is emotionless, selfish and independent as shown by the lines “Anyway, pretty soon he was old enough to be realistic like every other godless money-hungry back-stabbing miserable so-and-so”.
The rest of the stanza further shows that you have adjust and discard all emotions to fit into society because realistically, it’s the people who look after themselves, that are the most successful. It is obvious that emotions have no value to these people since a man has died and the only thing they seem to notice is his tan and smile. People instead are “grieving” about halitosis than the death of a human being. Morals no longer exist within this society since everyone has been blinded by their only objective to gain money and power.
In conclusion, both poems provide a perspective on life with one being more positive than the other. Materialism is an important concept in Enter Without So Much as Knocking since it heavily impacts and affects our lives daily. While it may not be obvious to everyone, it and consumerism dominates and runs our lives whether they like it or not since this is how society works now. Homo surburbiensis also integrates the concept of materialism but the perspective is different. The people have control over how society operates and the system is more democratic and free unlike the confined people in Enter Without So Much as Knocking.