Belonging

2 February 2017

Significant moments in time shape an understanding of belonging. Explore how this is evident in you prescribed text and at least ONE other related text of your own choosing. Belonging is defined as fitting in to a particular environment or having the right personal or social qualities to be a member of a particular group. Our belonging to or connections with people, places and groups allows one to develop a distinct identity characterised by affiliation, acceptance and association.

To gain a full understanding of belonging, it is essential to experience some significant moments in time as it shapes and develops our understanding of belonging. This is captured in the poems of Peter Skrzynecki’s, ‘Migrant Hostel’, ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’ and ’10 Mary Street’ using poetic techniques such as, similes, metaphors, alliteration and imagery. Skrzynecki captures the disconnection and isolation of the migrants experience and that of his family in particular.

Belonging Essay Example

However in Anh Do’s biography, ‘The Happiest Refugee’ he uses anecdotes, recounts, description and a positive tone to address that he feels accepted in his new home. Also in ‘Homeland’ by Anna Maria Dell’oso, this issue of cultural identity is explored by the composer through the use of metaphors and anecdotes. These texts all show a sense of belonging through place connection to and significant moments in time. They also convey that belonging isn’t easy as there are times where you may not be accepted, so attitudes to belonging can change over time depending on these significant experiences.

When people do not spend a lot of time in one place, they never really feel like they belong. In the first stanza of Skrzynecki’s, ‘Migrant Hostel’, the combination of “comings”, “goings”, “arrivals” and “sudden departures” implies a sense of chaos, insecurity and instability. Skrzynecki uses similes such as “like a homing pigeon” and “birds of passage” to explain the constant change because a homing pigeon is usually trained to find its own way home which give a desire for the migrants longing for a home, a place to belong. Birds of passage” navigate from one destination to another which emphasises the absence of a fixed home for the migrants.

The constant change of the hostel prevents Skrzynecki from finding a place of belonging, leaving him feeling lost and confused about his sense of self. The hostel provides a prison-like life and community group to which the migrants belong. The “barrier at the main gate” is a metaphoric and literal barrier, giving the impression of imprisonment, sealing off the migrants from the rest of the world. This isolation permits the migrants to a group, but not a country.

Skrzynecki uses alliteration such as, “hunger and hate” to demonstrate the migrants emotions of other groups after their own suffering. Skrzynecki, like other migrants who would have started out their journey with hope and optimism, feels as though he does not belong in the new land because of the impermanent, instable environment, however he and the other migrants have certain things in common which unite them, consequently creates a place where they belong. In contrast with Skrzynecki’s disconnection through place and identity, Anh Do’s, ‘The Happiest Refugee’ elucidates a more positive sense of belonging.

Through the use of anecdotes, he explains that it didn’t take long before his father found a job and moving out of “East Hills Migrant Hostel” within weeks, depicting that his family was trying to fit into their new country, their new culture, their new home. Do expresses his feelings to Australia in a positive aspect, showing a sense of gratitude to Australia for providing for him and his family. This is shown through the description of his family trying to adapt to the Australian lifestyle and trying to live life like any Australian family such as, participating in team sports, family outings and his parents going to work.

Skrzynecki however, positions his stay in Parkes Migrant Hostel in a negative perspective through a bitter tone. Word choices such as, “reprimand” and “sanction” convey that he didn’t have a say in anything, which didn’t make him or the other migrants feel welcome. This now becomes ironic since because the migrants came here expecting in Australia, but here is a “barrier at the main gate” illustrating the migrants sentiment of separation and alienation to both their old and new country. When being in a new place, people can choose to belong and it can be adapted over time.

In Skrzynecki’s, “Feliks Skrzynecki”, his father chooses not to fit in with his new culture. Through the use of a simile and hyperbole, “he loved his garden like an only child”, shows Feliks Skrzynecki’s love and devotion into his garden. This technique evokes a sense of his dedication to his garden and his fatherly feelings towards it, connecting to this place like a father connects to an only child. His sense of belonging also comes from his close Polish friends. They “reminisced about farms where paddocks flowered”.

This conveys a sense of nostalgia and shared pride in their culture and heritage which connects them together which conjures a sense of belonging. Many migrants and refugees avoid adapting to their new culture by not learning a new language. However, this can cause discrimination due to their English skills. Using direct speech, Skrzynecki illustrates his father’s stubbornness to belong and adapt to the place he now lives in. “Did your father ever attempt to lean English? ” reinforces Feliks Skrzynecki’s desire to not belonging and retain his heritage and culture. This also shows that he doesn’t want to let go of the country he grew up in.

Unlike ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’, in Anh Do’s biography, through the use of personal recount and dialogue, Do portrays that although you can try to fit in, you may not necessarily be accepted by everyone because of your different racial background. He recalls a boy during high school yell out to him, “I’m going to smash that gook! ” This racial comment would make Do feel like an outsider and would conjure a sense of not belonging to the new land he calls “home”. This comes to show that belonging isn’t easy, it takes time and there is no guarantee that you will be accepted in the end.

The idea of belonging to a land is also explored in Peter Skrzynecki’s “10 Mary Street”. In this poem, Skrzynecki portrays his family’s experience belonging in 10 Mary Street as it was a place of acceptance, a place where they could embrace their old culture and still co-exist in their new life. Imagery is used to depict a clear sense of belonging to his family and to their house. Images and cultural references such as, “photographs and letters” and European food, “Keilbasa, salt herrings and rye bread” illustrates that 10 Mary Street was a place where the poet’s family and friends unite together and could freely express their old heritage.

Like ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’, the poet again uses garden images in ’10 Mary Street’ to convey a connection to this place. The garden images, “grew potatoes and rows of sweet corn” and his parents daily routine going out to work in this poem displays how they fit into both their old and new culture. The shows that his family has slowly adapted to their new home and shows that you don’t have to let go of your old place and heritage you grew up in. In relation to ’10 Mary Street’, in Anna Maria Dell’oso’s, ‘Homeland’, illustrates that grasping onto you old culture isn’t always a ood thing since things change overtime.

When Dell’oso’s parents return to their homeland, it’s not what they expected. They think they still belong in their old country, but in reality it is quite different. Humour and vulgar language are used to make a joke about the way Italy has changed. “It’ll all McDonalds and pigeon-shit” shows that modern Italy has changed and they don’t belong there. This depicts that the composer’s parents no longer belong to the place they once called, their “homeland”. This was a significant moment which changed their sense of belonging.

The desire to belong is universal and exceeds age, location, heritage and time frames. Peter Skrzynecki’s poems, ‘Migrant Hostel’, ‘Feliks Srkzynecki’ and ’10 Mary Street’ along with Anh Do’s autobiography, ‘The Happiest Refugee’ and Anna Maria Dell’oso’s, ‘Homeland’ acknowledge that even if you have begun or have adapted to a new country and culture, you will always have your old culture and heritage inside of you as you have grown up in the old country and will have too many memories to forget and let go. These texts also prove that there are significant moments in our lives which reshapes our understanding of belonging.

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