A perception of belonging is a process that develops over time, and can be established when we feel a sense of affiliation towards an environment; whether it is social, or physical. This notion is extensively explored in Peter Skrzynecki’s poem ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’ from the anthology ‘Immigrant Chronicle’ and in Tim Winton’s – ‘Neighbours.’ Both texts explore the ways individuals achieve a sense of belonging, through finding comfort in a social and/or physical environment. Skrzynecki’s poem Feliks Skrzynecki explores the concept of belonging in which, the central character Feliks is portrayed as a man who didn’t belong to the pro-dominant ‘civilised’ Australia, (Gallic war reference) achieves a sense of belonging when he establishes a connection to his garden.
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As an immigrant, Feliks suffered barriers to fitting in to the new society, as highlighted by the bigotry attitude given off by the colourless; non individual – a ‘crew-cut, grey haired department clerk.’ The effective use of ‘crew-cut’ is a connotation that describes the speaker’s perspective of their new, adopted society in which the department clerk was seen as a militaristic conformist, who was robbed of his individuality; someone who sees the world simply – in black and white. Feliks had a powerful, almost familial affinity towards his homeland, and as a result refused to accept Australian culture.
He didn’t “ever attempt to learn English.” Feliks chose to be an individual and conform to his own society which is enforced by the speaker’s use of the allusion to a popular saying, ‘[his father] kept pace only with the Joneses of his own mind’s making’. This indicates both; his father’s rejection of status-orientated existence and his self-determination and individual standards. He refused to conform to the society of the Australians, as a result of his affiliation to his homeland.
However, to counter the struggle of not belonging, Feliks had established his own social agenda, and obtained solace in the garden that he created. It helped him grasp onto his Polish heritage as he bordered it with foreign plants of ‘golden cypress’, (an imported plant) and sat within its ‘perimeter’. This
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is symbolic to Felik’s attitude of not wanting to go out and join society, but would rather stay in a zone, (stay within the perimeter) surrounded by foreign plants and continue to grasp onto his heritage. The father’s love towards the garden is then conflicted with the love expressed towards his son. Through the use of a simile, the speaker explains that his father ‘loved his garden like an only child’. The tone of the poem is changed from a positive persona, with the use of a possessive pronoun ‘my gentle father’ to that of a negative persona with feelings of resentment and neglect being expressed by the speaker.
The simile expresses feelings of both; resentment and neglect which expresses the speaker’s emotions towards his father, giving the reader an insight into their relationship. It brings about a feeling of resentment towards the garden. He felt that his father’s pre-occupations of tending to the garden, watering and nurturing it, was at the expense of his father spending time with him. This is further enforced by the use of a hyperbole ‘swept its paths ten times around the world.’ The exaggeration expressed by the speaker highlights his perspective, in which he felt that his father spent all his time with the garden, and not enough time with him. The speaker felt neglected. In the poem, the speaker and his father’s ability to belong are contrasted in which, Feliks (the father) found simplicity in life, and achieved a sense of belonging, whereas the speaker is stuck in a liminal zone, un-sure of which environment he belongs to.
This contrast is enforced by the tonal shift of the speaker’s envious description of his father ‘happy as I have never been’. Moreover, the concept of belonging to a place in society is similarly expressed In Tim Winton’s short story ‘Neighbours’. The central characters, like Felik’s Skrzynecki are foreigners to a new environment. ‘Neighbours’ depicts a young newly married couple moving into a new suburb filled with Neighbours that were different culturally and socially. This was a change from life living in the ‘outer suburbs where good neighbours were seldom seen and never heard.’ They were forced to either begin to understand new culture or be faced with not belonging.
The short story is written in third person without any names giving a less personal, narrated style of text. At first the newlyweds ‘feel like sojourners in a foreign land’, due to the high concentration of European migrants surrounding a house of difference, ‘cautious about the dog, a docile, moulting collie.’ The neighbours appearing frightened about their new neighbours dog displays a cultural clash, accented by alliteration and rhyme to greatly describe the seemingly nasty imagery of the new comer’s best friend. Contrasted to the young man’s ‘disgust as the little boy next door urinated on the street.’
The Young man stays at home and writes his thesis on the twentieth century novel, although treated with disapproval from his neighbours as they witness his wife leaving the house to make ends meet. The thesis though has a somewhat culturally significance in perceptions of Australians in the twentieth towards migrants. Neighbours have focused on European, non Anglo-Saxon immigrants in particular for social commentary on the matter. People tend to associate anyone who looks as well as behaves differently with illegal or immoral activity. These views however are always due to ignorance, leading to prejudice and discrimination.See More on Environment