HSC Notes: 2 Unit General English: Bruce Dawe
Enter Without So Much as Knocking
Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
Blink, blink. HOSPITAL. SILENCE.
Ten days old, carried in the front door in his
mother's arms, first thing he heard was
Bobby Dazzler on Channel 7:
Hello, hello hello all you lucky people and he
really was lucky because it didn't mean a thing
to him then...
A year or two to settle in and
get acquainted with the set-up; like every other
well-equipped smoothly-run household, his included
one economy-size Mum, one Anthony Squires-
Coolstream-Summerweight Dad, along with two other kids
straight off the Junior Department rack.
When Mom won the
Luck's-A-Fortch Tricky-Tune Quiz she took him shopping
in the good-as-new station-wagon (£ 495 dep. at Reno's).
Beep, beep. WALK. DON'T WALK. TURN
LEFT. NO PARKING. WAIT HERE. NO
SMOKING. KEEP CLEAR/OUT/OFF GRASS. NO
BREATHING EXCEPT BY ORDER. BEWARE OF
THIS. WATCH OUT FOR THAT. My God (beep)
the congestion here just gets (beep)
worse every day, now what the (beep beep) does
that idiot think he's doing (beep beep and BEEP).
However, what he enjoyed most of all was when they
went to the late show at the local drive-in, on a clear night
and he could see (beyond the fifty-foot screen where
giant faces forever snarled screamed or make
incomprehensible and monstrous love) a pure
unadulterated fringe of sky, littered with stars
no-one had got around to fixing up yet: he'd watch them
circling about in luminous groups like kids at the circus
who never go quite close enough to the elephant to get kicked.
Anyway, pretty soon he was old enough to be
realistic like every other godless
money-hungry back-stabbing miserable
so-and-so, and then it was goodbye stars and the soft
cry in the corner when no-one was looking because
I'm telling you straight, Jim, it's Number One every time
for this chicken, hit wherever you see a head and
kick whoever's down, well thanks for a lovely
evening Clare, it's good to get away from it all
once in a while, I mean it's a real battle all the way
and a man can't help but feel a little soiled, himself,
at times, you know what I mean?
Now take it easy
on those curves, Alice, for God's sake,
I've had enough for one night, with that Clare Jessup,
hey, ease up, will you, watch it --
Probity & Sons, Morticians,
did a really first-class job on his face
(everyone was very pleased) even adding a
healthy tan he'd never had, living, gave him back for keeps
the old automatic smile with nothing behind it,
winding the whole show up with a
nice ride out to the underground metropolis
permanent residentials, no parking tickets, no taximeters
ticking, no Bobby Dazzlers here, no down payments,
nobody grieving over halitosis
flat feet shrinking gums falling hair.
Six feet down nobody interested.
Blink, blink. CEMETERY. Silence.
Epigraph: Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust
thou shalt return.
Blink, blink. HOSPITAL. SILENCE.
- Speaks of a baby waking into life. The sentences are
deliberately short and simple. The baby takes in
the hospital, sees signs and expectations.
- The first thing that he hears is not a loving mother, but the
voice of materialism.
- QUERY - Bobby Dazzler colloq. for "super" in the 40s and 50s?
- The colon at the end of the line marks a pause and a
change in tone.
- Bobby Dazzler's false heartiness reflects the false,
materialistic nature of the world into which the child
has been born. "Hello, hello, hello all you lucky
people". This is immediately followed by a cynical
comment from the narrator (and he really was lucky
because it didn't mean a thing to him then) - Bobby
Dazzler doesn't have an impact on the child's life - yet:
the child is lucky because he is innocent of the falseness
of society. Note the irony of this comment in contrast
to the rest of the stanza.
- The trail-off sentences have convey three meanings: they
show cynicism, are similar to rhetorical questions, and
lead into the next stage of his life.
- A year or two to settle in and
with the set-up
This is systematic, cold, and impersonal. Contrast
this to the usual warmth and sense of uniqueness
associated with the birth of a child - the child's
life, just like the rest of society, is mass-
- Well-equipped, smoothly-run, economy-size:
these compound words are commonly used in
advertising, as if the life is being sold to the
child. This is reinforced by the use of a list,
and the use of stereotypes, both of which are
- Economy-sized Mum
... is a sexist
description and is a typical stereotype of the 50s.
- Anthony Squires -
Coolstream - Summerweight
Anthony Squires is an Australian brand of suit.
- Straight off the Junior Department rack.
These children have no names, gender or
description (Except to point out that they are
wearing what everyone else their age wears).
Everything about the family is described in sexist,
standardised, depersonalised tones. The family has
not grown - it has been bought and constructed.
- Luck's-A-fortch Tricky-Tune-Quiz
Note the capitals: the emphasis is over-the-top.
Evidence of consumerism (and sexism) again -
after winning the quiz, Mum chose to celebrate
by taking him shopping.
- Good-as-new station-wagon - more consumerism.
it's not "second hand", it's "good as new". The
price of 495 pounds would have been very expensive
for a car. Also note that a station wagon is
room enough to carry the 2.3 children that was the
- Beep, beep.
Experiencing the world through the eyes of a child
in the car. The series of imperatives (WALK.
DON'T WALK. TURN / LEFT NO PARKING. WAIT HERE. NO /
SMOKING) which starts off realistically becomes
satirical: NO / BREATHING EXCEPT BY ORDER.
BEWARE OF / THIS. WATCH OUT FOR THAT.
- Noise and aggression in the next few lines. The
parenthetical beeps could represent,
apart from the obvious car horn, a censorship of
swear words. Imagery of the "rat race" - the
frustration culminates in a final BEEP.
- In general, the car journey could represent this
- However - qualifying word signifiying a
change of tone. The poem slows around this
change of direction, but quickly picks up speed
- He enjoyed - this comment on the child's
opinion is the first sign of any emotion in the
- on a clear night and he could see [...]
a pure unadulterated fringe of sky -
The boy is still fairly impervious to the down
side of things - he has not succumbed to the
material world, yet. He is interested in natural
beauty, magicked by the stars. The comment in
parentheses here (beyond the fifty-foot
screen ... monstrous love)is a reminder of the
world which the boy will eventually have to face.
The fact they they are absorbed in watching people
making "Grotesque, monstrous love" shows the
sordid nature of society. Note the use of the
verbs "snarled" and "screamed".
- The word "Unadulterated" is also used in advertising,
and its use here to describe something naturally
beautiful is a contrast, and illustrates an
underlying theme of the poem - that of the contrast
between "The horror of man and the beauty of
- Consider the alternative meanings of "stars" - movie
- The word "littered" has bad connotations, and is ironic
because the stars are about the only pure thing
the poet has yet mentioned. This is perhaps what
"society" would say about them - an idea reinforced
with the comment stars no-one had got around
to fixing up yet.
- kids at the circus - the stars are too far
away to be touched by society, but this stanza ends
sadly because the child is close
enough, and eventually will get "kicked".
- Once more, there is a change of tone and pace with
the word "anyway". This introduces a colloquial
tone to convey the passing of time. This is
very cynical, because the poet moves from early
childhood into middle age, in a few lines.
- This indicates that childhood is unimportant and might
as well have not existed - perhaps the rest of the
child's development was so similar to everyone
else's as to not have been worth mentioning?
- The harsh turns of phrase ("back-stabbing",
"money-hungry") show that the child has without
doubt finally faced the real word, which is
dominated by these types of people.
- goodbye stars... goodbye the the world of
natural beauty and innocence - perhaps goodbye also
to any dreams of making a difference the child
- ... and the soft cry in the corner - no more
showing emotion. A sexist comment: In this society,
men don't cry.
- Note the intrusion of the child's adult voice here.
The first time this has happened, and revealed is
a harsh, selfish, "realistic" adult.
- Number One every time - a colloquial
expression - care for yourself before you care for
- This chicken, signifying himself, is an
Australian colloquialism. The rest of the line,
kick whoever's down, reflects again the
selfishness of the adult, who in turn reflects
the nature of society - as long as I'm alright, it
doesn't matter whom I hurt.
- Thanks for a lovely evening Clare - the
sudden change of tone here hints at the
insincerity of this comment, which is reinforced
in the next stanza.
- A man can't help but feel a little soiled, himself,
at times, you know what I mean?
The real world is awful, and the man has been
soiled - ironically, soiled too much to really
understand what he is missing.
- Note that there is no mention of love or romance or
marriage or attraction before this stanza, which
starts with him in a car with a woman who is
probably his wife. This reinforces the theme of
over-riding materialism - husbands and wives are
acquired just like a house or a car.
- The tone has changed back from conversational to
hardened and cynical. Indicative of his relationship
with his wife.
- He backstabs Clare, indicating his hypocrisy. He is
being driven home by his wife, and he is possibly
- The punctuation mark - a dash - at the end of the
paragraph leaves the car accident entirely to the
imagination. He was not in control, and the
unfinished sentence has been cut short deliberately
to show the difference between life and death: a
short blink and you miss it.
Probity & Sons, Morticians,
Blink, blink. CEMETERY. Silence.
- Probity is uprightness and honesty. Hence this
paragraph is very ironic, because Probity & Sons
promote the facades of society even in death
(a healthy tan, for example).
- Another change of tone - back to narrator and observer.
- The callousness of everyone around him - a person has
just died, and people are paying attention to the
make-up on his face. Confirmed by the apathetic
and unemotional reaction of observers: (Everyone
was very pleased) - he's dead, but he
- the old automatic smile with nothing behind it-
shows the extent of the facade he had developed in
order to fit in with society, which kills genuine
emotional responses and individualism, and
encourages conformity. The whole idea of the funeral
directors making him look good ties in with the
theme of the hypocrisy of society - the ultimate
comment on society is that with "that automatic
smile with nothing behind it", the man might as
well have been dead even before the accident: "He
was dead before he was killed".
- winding the whole show up - this man's life
was like a TV show, which is now finishing, hence
the jokey, happy talk show host-style narrative,
with undertones of bitterness and irony.
This also winds up the poem.
- Underground metropolis - ie, the necropolis.
Even in death, the man cannot escape the metropolis.
- Like a talk show host or an advertisement, the narrative
breezes over items, as if to generate interest:
permanent residentials, no underground parking, etc.
Even death is cheapened and sold.
- Grieving over halitosis - Grieving is a very
deep and powerful emotion, associated of course
with death. It is not usually associated with
worry about halitosis [bad breath] and indicates
the placement of society's values. Note that there
is grieving over halitosis in the living world, but
no grieving for the dead. In fact, people are
pleased - because he has been made up so well.
- Six feet down nobody interested - he doesn't
affect people's lives anymore, so nobody cares.
- As the child blinked into life, the man blinks into
death and whatever is after it - in this case,
silence. The final sound could be reminiscent of a
cemetery gate shutting.
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- People are too ashamed to have a soft cry in the
corner because they have surrended to a
society which is emotionally bankrupt and centred
- The general attitude: Consume, be silent, die.
- Theme of the cyclical nature of life - note the
similarity of the beginning and the end of the poem.
- Other themes: Conformity, consumerism, materialism,
and its effect on individuals; mortality of man,
man made verus natural beauty, innocence and its
loss, the shallowness and hypocrisy of modern
ideals and values; facades of society, loss of
- Imagery: Human life as a gameshow; family as an
advertised product; Stars like kids at the circus;
the cemetery as an underground city.