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Belonging

In: English and Literature

Submitted By mariastav
Words 1347
Pages 6
“I’m trying to make a case for people who don’t have the sense of belonging that they should have, that there is something really worthwhile in having a sense of belonging.”
Imagine yourself in a foreign land. You have no idea where you are or who to turn to. Your new surroundings make you feel out of place. Imagine feeling like that for thirty days…or sixty days…or more. How are you coping? Are you sleeping well? What is your mood? My bet is that you are falling apart; That you are spiralling out of control. You want to be logical about all of this, but reason has taken a back seat to longing.
“I’m trying to make a case for people who don’t have the sense of belonging that they should have, that there is something really worthwhile in having a sense of belonging.” An individual’s interaction with others and the world around them can limit or enrich their experience of belonging. Belonging can emerge from the connections made with people, groups or community. It is something we all feel whether we mean to or not. This belonging gives us an attachment to other people or things and we can gain other certain feelings such as security, happiness, pride, sense of value and acceptance by others as social human beings. It gives us an awareness of identity and builds our self-confidence and self-esteem as we feel part of something bigger. There are also implications for not belonging, our inability to connect can lead to isolation, alienation, vulnerability and dislocated from society. These universal experiences are explored through the poetry of Peter Skrzynecki’s “Immigrant Chronicle”, in particular, Migrant Hostel where barriers limited the migrant’s experience of belonging and Feliks Skrzynecki which portrays the father and son’s contrasting experiences to belonging in a new land. Sean Penn’s 2007 film Into the Wild also examines a person’s quest for a sense of belonging in an untamed, unforgiving world. Peter Skrzynecki’s Feliks Skrzynecki explores the relationship the poet has with his father. The poem opens with “my gentle father”, the possessive pronoun “my” expresses the relationship, the belonging the father and son feel together. The positive connotation of the adjective “gentle” creates the loving calm tone of the relationship. Though Peter Skrzynecki loves his father immensely, Feliks however, seems to have a greater sense of belonging and contentment through a connection to Poland, “Happy as I have never seen”. Peter Skrzynecki is unable to share his father's world because they belong to a different place or culture. Their worlds grow further apart and neither is capable of preventing it. The poet indicates a barrier from the culture between them that cannot be scaled or broken down. It is the idea of separation that demonstrates by using symbolism of "tents" and "Hadrian's Wall". From that we realise the strength of the connection to polish culture, heritage and place is really powerful.

The poem also describes the necessity for cultural tolerance as it can lead to isolation and how one’s past can help them survive in an unfamiliar land. Feliks Skrzynecki chooses to isolate himself from the Australian society. Instead he chooses to put all his effort into his garden as he ‘loved his garden like an only child’. Feliks feels secure and finds peace of mind in his garden. It is a symbol of belonging where Feliks feels safe within the boundaries. His Polish friends/talking they reminisced shows the persona has strong cultural identity with his polish friends and that he has a spiritual connection to the country that shaped him. On the other hand, Peter Skrzynecki realises that to become his own person and fulfil his identity he must move away from his family and surrender the polish culture. The loss of cultural identity is communicated through the image such as ‘I forgot my first polish word’ and the repetition ‘further and further’. This principal aspect of belonging being an essential need to human life is seen in Peters’ relationship with his father, and also the complex tensions of belonging and alienation experienced when moving to a new place.

The notion of the fundamental need to belong is explored in Peter Skrzynecki’s ‘Migrant Hostel’. The poem conveys the story of thousands of migrants who were displaced and dispossessed by war in Europe and arrived to Australia. The migrants were housed in a ‘hostel’ that created both a metaphoric and literal barrier to belonging. ‘Like a homing pigeon’ is a simile used by Skrzynecki to create the sense of disorientation migrants first experience upon arrival at the hostel. The juxtaposition of ‘Comings and goings’ and ‘arrivals’ and ‘departures’ implies a sense of chaos, impermanence and instability at the hostel. These constant changes prevent Skrzynecki from finding a place of belonging, leaving him feeling lost and confused about his sense of self. However, the persona and the other migrants have certain points in common which unite them, consequently creating a place where they belong. As they get their ‘bearings’ they find others of the same nationality so that they do not feel so isolated and dislocated. As soon as they formed an association physical barriers were placed and they were ‘partitioned off at night/ by memories of hunger and hate’. This metaphor represents the way thousands of migrants shared living quarters, no matter what prejudices existed between the different nationalities. The hostel provides a prison-like life and societal group to which they 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. It is evident the desire to belong to a group is a universal human need.

‘Happiness is only real if shared’. This insightful quote from Sean Penn’s film Into the Wild shows that any sense of belonging must arise through connections we make with others and the wider world. It also demonstrates that belonging is fundamental to a meaningful life. Based on a true story, the road picture film follows the adventures of Christopher, a bright college boy who chooses not to belong to a society that lives a lie based on reasons and expectations. In an extreme close up, he writes ‘lonely’ slowly and deliberately, and underlines it to highlight the intensity of his feeling of isolation. The music is sad and haunting, emphasising his regret over his alienation. He decides to leave and surrender his ‘fake society’ behind to search for “new experiences" and hitches to live in the wild. There he feels a great sense of belonging in which he realises the significance of connections with people. All scenes of him in the wild are shot in rich natural light, as opposed to the exaggerated florescent lighting used in the civilised scenes. This contrast in lighting suggests that both Arden and the wild are places of healing where characters learn about the nature of belonging and the importance of connections. This use of voice over combined with positive cumulative images ending in a still shot of Christopher, suggests that our sense of belonging is important to finding happiness and therefore found his identity and freedom.

Both poems, Migrant Hostel and Feliks Skrzynecki and the Sean Penn’s film Into The Wild demonstrate that without a sense of belonging, which in essence arises from knowing one’s identity, the individual is incomplete, Hence, life is incomplete. People need to belong, to be connected to family and the wider world to function properly as revealed in all text. Indeed, a sense of belonging bridges the gulf between isolation and intimacy and it is this experience that allows the individual human to form and flourish. However, when there are barriers placed in society, the consequences are to hinder our ability to learn, develop and interact with the world. There will be a strong desire to seek a new sense of belonging elsewhere as connectedness is critical in providing a means to progress to a lifestyle that fosters security, hope, self-efficacy, and an overall sense of purpose.

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