Australian Identity: I Was Only Nineteen Analysis

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8 January 2022

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The text I have chosen to analyse on this written evaluate is identified as ‘I Was Only Nineteen’, but additionally goes by the names ‘Only Nineteen’ and ‘A Walk within the Light Green’. It was composed by John Schumann, the lead singer/songwriter of the people group Redgum. This examination will give consideration to matters such as the poetic techniques used, how Australian identity is portrayed, the effect the textual content has on the reader and my opinions.

I Was Only Nineteen tells the story of an Australian digger’s experiences making ready for, combating in, and reflecting upon the Vietnam War as an old man, psychologically and bodily damaged from the chemical defoliant Agent Orange.

Although it may appear to be a very long time ago – the war resulted in mid 1975 – the scars it left behind will never fade. John Schumann uses quite a few poetic gadgets all through his hit track. The most incessantly used strategies embody rhyme (as is identical for many lyrical songs), repetition, rhetorical questions and multitudes of colloquialisms.

Many of the talked about methods – in addition to others in the music – supplied the reader/listener with a possibility to assume about the theme of Australian identification. The colloquialisms utilized to this ballad permit the reader to affiliate and relate to their own life in Australia. “Drinking tinnies” ¬– an Australian vernacular time period which means ‘drinking cans of beer’ – connects with the stereotypically informal attitudes of pub attendees Down Under. Schumann’s broad Australian accent for the entire thing of this piece also expresses a feeling of Australia.

Schumann makes a habit of mentioning real Australian and Vietnamese locations. “Puckapunyal”, “Canungra”, “Shoalwater”, “Townsville”, “Nui Dat” and “Vung Tau” are some of the a number of places famous in this music. By citing factual towns/cities, Schumann creates yet another bond with the viewers, as most members would have heard of a minimum of certainly one of these earlier than. The rhetorical questions used in this have Australian elements to them. Schumann quotes “the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet”, Channel Seven being a very well-known Australian television channel.

By citing well known Australian icons and types, the writer involves himself with the viewers. Although subtle, Australians can even relate to the line “Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon”. This specific sentence describes the historical occasion in which humankind first set foot on the moon: “kicked the moon”. This is an allusion that many Aussies – especially those that watched the 1969 moonwalk on their TVs – would understand and will pertain to.

Through using poetic gadgets, the author has efficiently inspired the audience to explore their ideas on Australian identification and to replicate on our nation’s historical past. Second paragraph: The language and tone of ‘I Was Only Nineteen’ is solemn and reflective of the past. John Schumann has used numerous types of vocabulary to indicate this. Schumann’s wording of this text is properly deliberate and totally thought out. Sentences in this piece frequently start with ‘And’, implying that the writer isn’t but accomplished telling his story.

In a way it symbolises that the pain of the struggle never ended, it is still continuing on. The chorus line “God help me, I was solely nineteen” is a elementary a part of this music. It expresses the innocence and childhood that was lost by thousands of involuntary Australian troopers during the struggle. This exact line is repeated 4 times throughout the music. On one occasion it is barely changed to “God assist me, he was going home in June”. This change, although solely minor, provides more emotional significance to the assertion whilst nonetheless continuing on the thought of lost innocence.

Repetition of the identical word (also known as anaphora) generates a way of emotion and draws the reader/listener in – waiting for the next addition to the story. The phrase “an Asian orange sundown via the scrub” has double which means, the obvious one being the color of the sky at that time limit. But when more research is performed, it turns into evident that it is also hinting at ‘Agent Orange’, one of many herbicides/defoliants used by the US military through the warfare. It killed the foliage of the Vietnamese forests so as to forestall the Viet Cong from taking cowl within the timber.

Approximately 1 million people – together with Australians – are disabled or have well being points due to Agent Orange. The theme of mateship and strong loyalty can also be evident. Schumann says that he can nonetheless “see” and “hear Frankie”, implying that though Frankie misplaced his life, he won’t ever be forgotten. “But you wouldn’t let your mates down ‘til they had you dusted off” additionally speaks of the fondness the writer had for his fellow soldiers, dusted off being the navy term for medical evacuation of wounded by way of helicopter.

Again, Australian id comes into play: the attribute of utter loyalty hat Australians are famend for. On the entire, the vocabulary used on this song carries with it a variety of emotional value and deeper meanings (these aspects turn into especially evident when the textual content is explored and broken down). The structure of this track is constantly that of a quatrain. The rhyming scheme follows no specific pattern, but commonly exists within the type of ABAB and AAAA. A notably identifiable attribute of this piece is the way the story is set out. The majority of the paragraphs characteristic a diverse location and emotion of the gang.

The opening stanza states that “Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal”. The setting of this verse is Puckapunyal and addresses the family members of the protagonist. The tempo is reasonably sluggish and the feeling in the ambiance is one of hypothesis for the unknown future to return, but in addition apprehension – “It was a long march from cadets” and a slight quantity of self-doubt. In the second verse, the cadence speeds up and a sense of excitement begins to build. The thought of being amidst the action of the Vietnam War turns into very actual and really near.

This verse is the debut of the refrain line “God help me, I was only nineteen” – an acceptable time, because of the nigh chance of demise. “Townsville lined the footpaths as we marched all the way down to the quay” mentions the Queensland metropolis and its inhabitants. There are many other examples of this throughout the track, together with Vung Tau and the maturity with which it is spoken of (in the third verse), the Vietnamese jungle and the living with the worry that “each step could imply your last one on two legs” (stanzas 5 and six) and again house in Australia, reflecting on the struggle and its occasions (eight and nine).

The author has purposely made the shortest lines (6-7 phrases and 8-9 syllables) the most highly effective. “It was a warfare within yourself” – one of many shortest strains – metaphorically describes how the overwhelming sensations of the war threatened at each second to take over your soul. There are 9 stanzas, every consisting of 4 lines. Although it could not seem like it, this format is definitely for a cause. The track Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin contains lengthy verses, typically as long as nine lines, which creates a flowing story and infrequently doesn’t give the viewers a chance to suppose about the influence of the lyrics.

However, I Was Only Nineteen, with its 4 line verses, permits the readers and listeners to mirror and contemplate the which means and poignancy of the stanza in the pause that follows. The flatness and monotony of Schumann within the track mirrors the futility and fatalistic attitudes of the Vietnam troopers. They had been well-known for his or her ‘live every day as if it had been your last’ approach on life. Many combatants, as young as fourteen (this was an illegal age they usually used false documents) had no plans for the future, aside from having enjoyable while they were still residing.

To many Australian residents back then – and still now, the Vietnam War was pointless. Some say it wasn’t price more than six million lives (civilian and military) simply to cease North Vietnam’s communisation from taking up, others say in any other case. Although we’ll by no means truly identified what it was like, Schumann’s writing permits us as readers/listeners to experience a smidgen of what it would have been like. Schumann has evidently hung out assembling the superlatively set-out structure, as this greatly impacted on his audience, together with myself.

After learning this text, I have developed a much higher and extra profound respect for the Vietnam veterans. It isn’t spoken of a lot – not in comparison with the World Wars. These women and men were following directions and it isn’t individuals who’re to be blamed for the tens of millions of casualties. Schumann has brilliantly yet terrifyingly depicted the horrors of warfare and the suffering endured by veterans for years – even a long time after the autumn of Saigon. His use of assorted poetic units, clever and well-planned vocabulary and meaningful construction pave the way for a certain masterpiece.

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"Australian Identity: I Was Only Nineteen Analysis" StudyScroll, 8 January 2022,

StudyScroll. (2022). Australian Identity: I Was Only Nineteen Analysis [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 5 December, 2023]

"Australian Identity: I Was Only Nineteen Analysis" StudyScroll, Jan 8, 2022. Accessed Dec 5, 2023.

"Australian Identity: I Was Only Nineteen Analysis" StudyScroll, Jan 8, 2022.

"Australian Identity: I Was Only Nineteen Analysis" StudyScroll, 8-Jan-2022. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 5-Dec-2023]

StudyScroll. (2022). Australian Identity: I Was Only Nineteen Analysis. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 5-Dec-2023]

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