Feliks Skrzynecki Essay on Belonging

8 August 2016

Belonging is an instinctive factor in human nature which is embedded in everyone. The sense of belonging or not belonging can have a significant impact on a person’s life, their personality and their position in society. A person may find a strong sense of belonging through representations of symbolic places, relationships or events. Through these different aspects which create a sense of belonging, a strong individual identity can also be formed.

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Peter Skrzynecki explores these concepts in his poem “Feliks Skrzynecki” and presents the idea that there does not always have to be a conflict between an individual’s desire to belong and their duty to themselves. In this poem, Skrzynecki demonstrates how Feliks’ bond with his home country of Poland and his desire to continue to belong there, play a defining role in shaping his own individual identity in his new country, Australia.

He retained his individual identity throughout the many experiences in his life and it is this strong sense of personal awareness that fuelled the desire to further strengthen his sense of belonging with Poland, as opposed to Australia. Through this motion, Skrzynecki demonstrates how Feliks does not feel obliged to change his identity in order to feel a part of or fit into his new society.

He does not have a distinct desire to belong to his new life, rather he chooses to surround himself with what reminds him of Poland – his home country in this new environment, hence eliminating the conflict of the individual’s duty to themselves and their desire to belong. Along with this, Skrzynecki is also able to portray how his father’s behaviour has affected him by making it difficult for Skrzynecki to develop his own sense of belonging in Australia. This representation of a significant place is shown through Feliks’ garden which he treats as a special child and depicts his love towards his farm back home.

Relationships can be seen as one of the strongest aspects of belonging. Skrzynecki has displayed this through himself by describing his fathers need for him. Along with these, a major part of Feliks’ life in Australia can be demonstrated through his relationship towards his Polish friends with whom he also shares many experiences and events. Combined, these concepts can clearly depict the lack of conflict present in Feliks’ life between his desire to belong and duty to himself.

It can be seen that an individual’s desire to belong and their duty to themselves can co-exist, rather than becoming a conflict of interest. This can be seen through aspects of belonging such as places. The notion that specific places heighten our sense of belonging is evident through the use of the iconic garden in the poem. This garden is portrayed in the poem as being very special and demands love and care from the owner. Through the use of “loved his garden like an only child… he swept its paths, ten times around the world” the reader is able to deduce that Feliks has a strong connection to this place.

Also, Skrzynecki ironically demonstrates how the garden is the father’s “only child” when in fact he was Feliks’ only child. There are emotions of irritation as the garden has been personified as his child while Feliks’ real son has been deprived of paternal influence. The idea that a strong personal identity can be retained whilst still belonging to the wider society, can be seen through a person’s relationships, which are vital in creating a strong sense of belonging.

Whether it be from the past, present or future, relationships hold many links that are not easily broken or created. In the given text, Skrzynecki identifies two of the main relationships that Feliks had in his life, one of them being his son. In the quote, “I remember words he taught me, remnants of a language I inherited unknowingly” Skrzynecki demonstrates his relationship with his father, where Feliks is desperate to pass down remnants of his culture and language to Peter and hopes that his son will retain this identity.

However, as Skrzynecki has never experienced this other life in Poland and has not been a part of their culture, it makes it difficult for him to accept this. This is clearly shown in the words “inherited unknowingly”, which describe that he has further drifted away from his father and the Polish culture. Another example of this sense of not belonging can be seen when Skrzynecki mentions a clear metaphorical term “watched me pegging my tents further and further south of Hadrian’s Wall”.

The use of this metaphor strongly defines Skrzynecki’s point of view in which he explains how he is leaving his Polish culture behind and becoming more “Australian” in a descriptive sense. By using repetition in “further and further” Skrzynecki captures the intensity of having drifted apart from his father. This notion of passing down his culture depicts how Feliks has been alienated from this new environment which ironically benefits him, as his desire to not belong in Australia actually strengthens his connection with Poland.

Hence, Feliks’ individual identity is strengthened as well as his relationship with his home country, thus demonstrating that an individual’s desire to belong and their duty to themselves can co-exist. A sense of belonging can be formed through experiences and events, with similar experiences heightening an individual’s sense of belonging or different experiences alienating them. A person’s shared experiences and events can commonly be linked with their relationships with others.

This idea is represented through Feliks’ Polish friends who presumably have been through the same experiences as Feliks. Written from Skrzynecki’s point of view “his Polish friends, always shook hands too violently, talking, they reminisced”, which shows that Feliks’ friends are from the same background and that they all understand each other’s perspectives and are aware of their past. The notion of reminiscing depicts how these friends had the same relationship with Feliks in Poland as well as in Australia, due to their same culture and life experiences.

Through these concepts, it can be deducted that Feliks does not have a desire to belong to his new environment as he already has a sense of belonging towards Poland and strongly maintains his individual identity without the need for change. Through analysing the importance of places, relationships and experiences, it can be seen that an individual’s duty to themselves and their desire to belong can co-exist. In Peter Skrzynecki’s poem “Feliks Skrzynecki”, the protagonist chooses not to belong to his new environment.

Instead he strengthens his bond with his home country which in turn heightens his sense of personal identity. Thus the protagonist’s duty to himself stems from his desire to hold onto his cultural values, which are embedded in things such as places that are important to him, like the garden, his relationship with his son and his experiences with his Polish friends. These things also demonstrate the protagonists’ desire to belong to something greater than himself, thus justifying the co-existence between an individual’s duty to themselves and their desire to belong.

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