Comparing St Patricks College and Refugee Blues – Belonging
Belonging is the perceptions held by one’s self which enables them to be connected with others. It is the way of acceptance, having security, fulfilment and a connection in association to people, places, groups, communities and the world itself. The sense of belonging is affected by many factors such as understanding, choices, culture, relationships, and experiences. Due to these factors, it can be harder for some people to overcome the barriers of belonging, but may also be easier for others.
In the poem, “St Patricks College” by Peter Skrzynecki, and “Refugee Blues” by Wystan Hugh Auden, it demonstrates how belonging can be difficult for some people. Whereas in the poem, “Feliks Skrzynecki” also by Peter Skrzynecki, it contrastingly shows how others find it easy to belong, even if they find it hard in other factors. Belonging can be influenced by external forces. This can be seen in the poem St Patricks College where Peter was sent to the school because his mother was impressed by the uniform.
For someone to belong to something, they must make their own decisions in life, understand their surroundings and build relationships with those around them. Skrzynecki lacked these qualities in “St Patricks College” and therefore, this resulted in him not belonging. The repetition of the phrase “for eight years” reinforces how long the alienation and detachment lasted for, implying that the feeling of not belonging did not change for eight years. Along with the use of first person throughout the poem gives a lifeless, disconnected tone which emphasises his loneliness.
No relationships with students, teachers or anyone else were formed over his time there. Skrzynecki found it hard to belong to St Patricks College because the decision to go to the school was not his own, but rather his mother’s and therefore, belonging can be influenced by external forces. In the poem Refugee Blues by Wystan Hugh Auden, it conveys the idea that it is society’s choice whether we belong or not, thus some people may find it hard to deal with the concept of belonging. The poem speaks of a refugee couple who tries to fit in, but are always rejected in many ways.
In the end, they find out that the society is hunting them down. The use of repetition in the quote “Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us” suggests that there is no room for them anywhere and makes them sound miserable and in need of help. In the next stanza, the use of symbolism on the tree implies how trees can go through nature’s lifecycle and are dead at certain times of the year but can reborn and grow again. However, this is contrasted to the man-made documents that, once lost, can never be recovered. This is indicated in the quote “Old passports can’t do that, my dear”.
No matter how hard they try to fit in, society will not accept them just because they have expired passports and hence, they are not allowed to belong. This then leads back to the idea that it is society’s choice whether people are to belong or not. On the other hand, others may find it easy to belong. Sometimes, simply just because they had culturally grown up in a group that makes them belong. Belonging can be led back to relationships. This can be seen in the poem “Feliks Skrzynecki”. The poem explores the relationship between the poet and his father and their contrasting experiences of belonging.
Felik’s home is the garden, where he walks its path “ten times around the world”. The use of this hyperbole demonstrates his sense of belonging in this setting, as he chooses to stay within its boundaries. The garden is a symbol of belonging and his craving to belong is highlighted through his hard work and devotion to the garden. This can be seen in the quotes “hands darkened from cement, fingers cracks like the sods he broke”. In the following stanza, Felik’s sense of belonging is further highlighted through the use of positive connotations. Feliks and his friends share memories, reminiscing about farms in their native Poland.
Although he craves acceptance and belonging in the new land, he also feels like he still belongs to his culture and heritage. This shows that, Peter’s father’s relationship with his friends and garden, gives him a sense of belonging, and therefore, relationships can be lead to the concept of belonging. The poem Feliks Skrzynecki and Refugee Blues are both similar in the fact that they are both about migrating into another country and how they cope being in the new environment. However, a difference between the two texts is the idea that it is society’s choice whether people are able to belong or not.
In refugee blues, the refugees are being pushed around by different members of the society. They are not treated properly and because of that, feels alienated from the country. In this case, it seems as if the society is controlling them and appointing them to the fact that they are not allowed to belong. Feliks, on the other hand, is allowed into the country, and has a choice to belong. Another difference between the two texts is the use of direct speech. The quote “But I’m alive” in Feliks Skrzynecki contrasts to the quote “They must die” in Refugee Blues.
The use of the direct speech in Skrzynecki’s poem displays a tone of admiration for his dad as he struggles and lives through his hard life, yet still has the courage and ability to comment as if nothing matters if he still exists in this world. On the other hand, the use of direct speech in Auden’s poem implies that the refugees must live their current life running away from the soldiers searching for them. This emphasises the fact that they are not as fortunate as not only does society not allow them to belong, but they also want them gone from the world.
All in all, these three texts portray the different ideas and perceptions of belonging. The ability to belong can be affected by understanding, choices, culture, relationships and experiences. The poem “St Patricks College” highlights the impact of understanding and choices in one’s ability to belong. In contrast to the poem “Feliks Skrzynecki” where the impact of relationships and experience is highlighted. Through my exploration of the concept of belonging, I have come to the conclusion that understanding, choices, culture, relationships and experiences are what make it easier or harder for someone to belong.