Australian Identity: 'I Was Only Nineteen' Analysis

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The text I have chosen to analyse in this written review is called ‘I Was Only Nineteen’, but also goes by the names ‘Only Nineteen’ and ‘A Walk in the Light Green’. It was composed by John Schumann, the lead singer/songwriter of the folk group Redgum. This examination will focus on topics such as the poetic techniques used, how Australian identity is portrayed, the effect the text has on the reader and my opinions. I Was Only Nineteen tells the story of an Australian digger’s experiences preparing for, fighting in, and reflecting upon the Vietnam War as an old man, psychologically and physically damaged from the chemical defoliant Agent Orange. Although it may seem like a long time ago – the war ended in mid 1975 – the scars …show more content…

Repetition of the same word (also known as anaphora) generates a sense of emotion and draws the reader/listener in – waiting for the next addition to the story. The phrase “an Asian orange sunset through the scrub” has double meaning, the obvious one being the colour of the sky at that point in time. But when more research is conducted, it becomes evident that it could also be hinting at ‘Agent Orange’, one of the herbicides/defoliants used by the US military during the war. It killed the foliage of the Vietnamese forests so as to prevent the Viet Cong from taking cover in the trees. Approximately 1 million people – including Australians – are disabled or have health issues due to Agent Orange. The theme of mateship and strong loyalty is also evident. Schumann says that he can still “see” and “hear Frankie”, implying that although Frankie lost his life, he will never be forgotten. “But you wouldn't let your mates down ‘til they had you dusted off” also speaks of the fondness the author had for his fellow soldiers, dusted off being the military term for medical evacuation of wounded via helicopter. Again, Australian identity comes into play: the characteristic of utter loyalty that Australians are renowned for. On the whole, the vocabulary used in this song carries with it a wide range of emotional value and deeper meanings (these aspects become especially evident


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