Although the notion of ‘belonging’ entails a need for acceptance by others, the first barrier one must face is coming to terms with one’s own identity. This essay, I will explore two interrelated issues. First, it is the inability to reconcile one’s identity that prevents one from belonging. Second, it is only through engaging with one’s surrounding that a better sense of self may be achieved. These themes are expressed in Peter Skrzynecki’s suite of poems, the Immigrant Chronicles (1975), where the author’s sense of alienation from both his Polish and Australian heritages stems from his own ambivalence towards his identity. In particular, the poems In the Folk Museum, and 10 Mary Street articulates his internal struggles during his teenage years. In David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life (1978), Ovid, a Roman poet during the height of Augustan Rome is indefinitely exiled to the “barbaric” lands of Tomis. Coming from a highly cultured and ‘civilised’ background, Ovid experiences alienation largely due to his prejudices of the “savage” tribe’s people.
Throughout In the Folk Museum, Skrzynecki conveys an atmosphere of detachment from the relics inside the museum. Skrzynecki lists the relics in the museum; by using accumulation, “Hay knife, draining plough, shoulder yoke, box iron” Skrzynecki indicates the extent of his disengagement. Listing the objects evokes a monotonous tone and gives the sense that Skrzynecki sees them as lifeless objects “which isn’t [his]”. Moreover, the listing also depersonalises the objects reflecting a depersonalisation of his Australian heritage.
In Skrzynecki’s 10 Mary Street, the “still too narrow bridge” is symbolic of his fractured identity which presents the greatest barrier to his sense of belonging. Every morning, Skrzynecki “hides the key (to the house)/ under a rusty bucket” before school. This action of hiding the key is metaphorical for him locking away his Polish identity before going to school. The use of anaphora “for...
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