The poem “Home” by Warsan Shire speaks out for refugees by describing the unthinkable and difficult decisions refugees are forced to make on a daily basis. Shire employs personification and second person techniques in order to portray the idea that no one wants to be forced out of their own home, yet every day, we seem oblivious to the millions who are being displaced in Syria due to the dangerous warfare. These techniques convey this important idea by putting the reader in the refugee’s shoes, helping them to become more aware of the current Syrian refugee crisis.
Shire utilizes personification to emphasize the idea that no one truly wants to abandon their home unless their life is at risk. In the second line of the first stanza, Shire describes home as “the mouth of a shark”, giving the word ‘home’ living characteristics. This portrays the idea that home is forcing you to run, and escape the danger, (the shark’s mouth), that exists where you currently live due to atrocities such as bombing, missile attacks, shootings and sexual assault committed mainly by the main threat, ISIS. Shire also deploys personification in the line, “until home is a sweaty voice in your ear, saying, leave…” She depicts home as being a desperate and distressed voice, urging you to run away as soon as possible. The personification gives home negative connotations, creating an unnerving image of how their once peaceful home, has become a perilous war zone. As well as this, the contradiction of the word home, challenges the reader’s perception of home, as it is usually associated with feelings of safety and comfort. Shire’s use of personification broadens the reader’s understanding of the unimaginable decisions the refugees are forced to make, and the harsh realities of what their once safe ‘home’ has become.
Secondly, Shire employs a second person point of view and first person point of view which helps connect the reader with the refugees. For instance, in the lines, “unless home told you to quicken your legs, leave your clothes behind, crawl through the desert….”, the use of second person portrays a direct and personal image, allowing the reader to feel as though they are in the refugee’s situation, therefore connecting and empathizing with the refugees. It encourages the reader to imagine the trepidation of being displaced and develops the reader’s awareness of the pain the refugees experience on a daily basis. In contrast, Shire also shifts to first person at the end of her poem in the lines where ‘home is a sweaty voice in your ear’ saying, “I don’t know what I’ve become, but I know that anywhere is safer than here.” Giving ‘home’ a voice is powerful, as it shifts the focus onto what the refugees experience and puts the perspective on the place that is deemed dangerous. It helps the reader to view it as a living being, emphasizing one’s emotions towards it and revealing one’s gratitude due to the importance home plays in our lives by providing us with a sense of belonging and security. Shire’s use of first person enables the reader to understand and realize why it is so difficult to abandon one’s own home, a place where memories and attachments have been made.
Finally, the techniques Shire included in the poem, personification and second person, both help to convey the overall idea and Shire’s purpose of the poem. She aimed to change the public’s current, often ignorant perspective on the prevalent and undervalued refugee crisis around the world. Shire did not experience having to flee her home herself, however, she was inspired to give refugees a voice after visiting a group of refugees who had fled from Somalia (Her home country). She explained to her audience, “I wrote this poem for them, for my family, for anyone who has experienced grief and trauma in that way.” She has achieved her purpose of the poem already, as many readers have already been impacted by Shire’s poem, and have woken up to the reality of the refugee crisis. In America, many citizens marched the streets in protest of Donald Trump’s ban on accepting citizens from Muslim countries into America. They held up signs with lines of Home written on them. Shire successfully conveyed the purpose of the poem through her stark and honest words and by utilizing personification and second person technique to reiterate that the refugee’s homes are giving them no choice but to be displaced and to place the reader in the refugee’s situation. Her poem creates empathy and opens the eyes of the reader and exposes them to the inhumane atrocities the refugees faced, and urges them to wake up and make a difference, the central purpose of Shire’s poem.
In conclusion, Warsan Shire uses both personification and second person technique to effectively convey her message and purpose of the poem, that no one would take the risk of leaving their own home unless their survival is at stake, yet is happening to millions of refugees every day. Shire explains to her audience that the refugee crisis is an issue which is becoming an increasing problem and that we must do something about it, otherwise, it will continue to be a large strain on society for future generations. The poem teaches us that we must actively make a difference to those less fortunate by first obtaining empathy and awareness towards the refugee crisis in order to achieve peace in Syria. Antonio Guterres stated this; “What is at stake is nothing less than the survival and well-being of a generation of innocents.”