Americanized: Poem Analysis

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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 cultur... ... middle of paper ... ...ed by the ancient symbol of fear, conveys the child's panic. The mother's approach is a source of terror for the child, written as if it is a horror movie, suspense created with the footsteps, the physical embodiment of fear, the doorknob turns. His terror as 'he tries to run' but 'her large hands hold him fast' is indicative of his powerless plight. The phrase, 'She loves him...' reiterates that this act signifies entrapment as there is no reciprocation of the ‘love’. It is ironic that her love is deemed 'the frightening fact'. Clearly this form of love will destroy his innocence, his freedom to think for himself, his ability to achieve emotional fulfilment. We sense the overpowering, suffocating nature of this form of love, but also the nature of American cultural imperialism, which is similarly stifling to the development of national identity and fulfilment.

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