Peter Skrzynecki – Belonging

People experience a sense of belonging in varied and complex ways. How is this explored in the text you have studied? People have different experiences of belonging, some of these are positive and others are negative. This concept will be explored through the prescribed text, the poems Immigrant Chronicle by Peter Skrzynecki, the film Looking for Alibrandi directed by Kate Woods and the novel Ten things I hate about me written by Randa Abdel El Fattah. These texts highlight the different aspects of belonging in varied negative and positive ways.

In the poem St Patrick’s college by Peter Skrzynecki there are various themes explored however a predominate theme explored is the persona’s sense of disconnection which he feels through his secondary education. He constantly feels detached from his school community, not engaging in any activity or forming relationships. Through the example; ‘Like a foreign tourist uncertain of my destination everytime I got off’ through the simile ‘like a foreign tourist’ the persona compares his everyday routine life to a tourist someone unaware of new surroundings.This demonstrates the persona as feeling emotionally and socially detached from society, comparing his world which is his ‘home’ to a place which is foreign to him. This is further depicted through this example; ‘Saw equations never understood/ rubbed of board/voices at the bustop/taking the right hand turn/ out of Edgar Street for good/ prayed one day mother would be pleased’. The listing of images through the use of verbs, saw, rubbed off, voices, taking and prayed suggest the time rapidly passing and emphasises the persona’s lack of connection to place.He doesn’t participate in any of these activities accentuating ideas of detachment and restriction of his character even up for his last days any growth of connection.

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As he states ‘someday’ this demonstrates that the persona is aware he hasn’t fulfilled his mother’s expectation and hopes. No achievements with the college have limited his ability to show his potential to make the most from his opportunity. Therefore, the schooling life of the persona is complex, as he feels he doesn’t belong and during his time he has experienced detachment and continual alienation.Similarly, the idea of complex feelings of belonging and alienation are explored in the film Looking for Alibrandi directed by Kate Woods, this depicts the complexity which Josie faces as she balances living within two worlds, her Ethnic Italian background and contemporary Australian society. The composer has implemented a medium shot of Josie showing her change the music from traditional Italian to contemporary Australian music as a voiceover informs the audience that ‘I find this embarrassing you think they’d never left Sicily. This might be where I come from but do I really belong here?During this traditional gathering Josie changes traditional and appreciated Italian music to an alternative style which is frowned upon by her family. The voice over suggests that Josie is experiencing feelings of confusion about which culture she actually belongs too, this is demonstrated when her friends come pass and she leaves her gathering to move into a different environment. Her facial expression changes when she hears the beep by her friend, her dull bored face changes to a big smile as she rushes out.

She refers to the gathering as ‘NATIONAL WOG DAY’ she uses derogatory language to describe her own cultural heritage.Through these techniques the responder is positioned to understand the division of her worlds, and the complexity which she experiences as she confused. Therefore Josie detaches herself from her cultural heritage as she is unsure where she should belong, as she experiences a negative sense of belonging as a direct consequence of her confusion of worlds. The poem 10 Mary Street by Peter Skrzynecki explores the notion of belonging; he and his family feel a sense of belonging as their home offers security and protection from the outside world.This is a place where the persona feels he belongs as he has been living there for 19 years and he and his family have carried out their everyday obligations. However this place of security is being demolished for industrial reasons, leaving the persona to feel uncertain. He describes his house as ‘The house stands/ in its China – Blue coat –‘through the use of personification of house standing this emphasises the personas sense of security and appreciation for his house. The ‘blue coat’ suggests the warm and vibrant life which this house has, a sense of welcoming if offered by the use of colour.

The persona feels a sense of protection and security which is an important element of belonging. It is evident that the persona is feeling a varied sense of belonging; he feels this through his home as he is able to be himself as he is protected from the alienation of the outside world. A negative aspect of belonging is evident as this area has been gazetted for industry, and his sense of belonging will also disappear. ‘We became citizens of the soil/ inheritors of a key/ that’ll open no house’ the use of ersonification ‘citizens of soil’ which suggests positive image for Australia yet it is contrasted by a negative image. The metaphor of the ‘ inheritors of the key’ should symbolise security however this instead shows a loss of cultural identity, as there sense of belonging will disappear as their home once brought this. Through the use of negative connotations ‘ that ll open no house’ this positions the responder to feel anxious and sadden as the past has gone, and the future seems uncertain as a sense of belonging has been lost and these migrants are left to feel alienated.It is evident that the persona felt positively about belonging through his home has he felt secure and protected however due to this loss he is left feeling alone and is experiencing a negative sense of belonging.

A sense of the home being a place where one feels as though they belong is evident in the novel 10 things I hate about me written by Randa Abdel El Fattah which explores the experiences of the main character Jamilah as she seeks to hide her culture and identity in order to avoid being ridiculed by those around her.She aims to hide this from her peers to avoid being ridiculed by changing all about her, her hair colour and eye colour to move from a Muslim Middle Eastern girl to one with no culture. However through this example it is evident that she feels she belongs at home, ‘home is like my sanctuary for me. There I’m Jamilah.

Not Jamie. I play my darabuka (Lebanese music instrument), eat my Lebanese food and listen to Arabic pop music. Through the use of short sentences it is evident that the character feels relieved when she is home, she is free to be who she really is and to embrace her culture.She feels protection and security at home free from the fear of being exposed and ridiculed for who she is and the culture she is apart of. When she is at home, she feels a sense of belonging, as at school she experiences the negative aspects as she is unable to build relationships with others and entirely be herself. It is evident that people experience different senses of belonging and at home, Jamilah feels a positive sense of belonging as she feels protected from society’s stereotypes about her identity.

In the poem Migrant Hostel this shows the migrants during 1949 – 1951 and their treatment by the government as they were placed within Parkes. Migrants from all parts of the world living in this one place, uncertain of what is to come. The persona states; Nationalities sought each other out instinctively like a homing pigeon’ the simile like a homing pigeon emphasises the insecurity and vulnerability of the migrants as they seek out to people of their culture as they seek to find security and a sense of belonging.

The comparison made is a bird that instinct is to fly home.The migrants are trying to belong by soughting each other out trying to make sense of their situation being restricted in one area feeling a sense of confusion and feelings of insecurity and alienation. It is evident that peoples experiences within Parkes varied some had positive and other more negative experiences at the hostel. This idea of confusion is further explored through the following example, to pass in and out of lives/ that had only begun/ or were dying. This gives positive connotations is that Australia is offering a chance to assimilate and embrace a new culture giving the migrants an opportunity to move into Australian society.However the negative connotation explored is dying outlining that whilst embracing a new culture this meant that ones heritage must fade away as a new culture is embraced. This gives a negative tone to the end of the poem as moving into this society migrants left behind their culture to move into this country of opportunity. Therefore it is evident that peoples varied experiences share both positive and negative notions of belonging.

Within the novel, 10 things i hate about me, as in high school, the first weeks are about soughting out, students meeting people and figuring where they belong.Jamilah states; ‘Year 7, I’ve hidden the fact that I’m a Lebanese- Muslim to avoid people from assuming I drive planes into buildings as a hobby. Through the use of an analogy comparing driving planes into buildings as a hobby to the image of Lebanese- Muslims it shows the persona has sought her nationality before being stereotyped by those around her. The use of the dash signifies her hesitance and pause as she says Muslim, further showing her fear from the perceptions of people and their stereotypes.

By changing who she is she has tried to protect herself from the continuing belief that the whole Muslim community engage in acts of terrorism. This positions the responder to understand her confusion about who she is, and her fear of how other may perceive. It is evident that varied and complex notions are associated with belonging. In conclusion, it is evident that through these various texts and experiences by differing characters the composers of each text have continually shown that people experience various senses of belonging through both negative and positive experiences.

Author: Irma Harvey


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