Belonging Essay

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Belonging Essay
Melissa McKinnon

Who we are and how we belong is a choice

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, love and belonging is what drives human existence. We search for a sense of belonging every day of our lives, not realising that it is our perceptions and attitudes towards belonging that determine the fulfilment we experience. We can choose how we belong and the level of fulfilment we experience by changing our perceptions and attitude. This concept is expressed through the poetry of Peter Skrzynecki’s “Immigrant Chronicle”, Marc Foster’s film “Finding Neverland” and Nam Le’s short story “Love and Honour and Pride and Pity and Compassion and Sacrifice.” Skrzynecki communicates the way that his perceptions and attitudes towards belonging affected his ability to feel fulfilled and content from a cultural perspective through his poetic anthology “Immigrant Chronicle”. In “Feliks Skrzynecki” the poet describes the admiration he has for his father and the way that he can remain connected to Poland in his mind whilst living in new country. Skrzynecki uses the word “gentle” to define his father, demonstrating the level of respect he has for him. He references the saying ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ in the line “Kept pace only with the Joneses/ Of his own minds making” to communicate that his father is able to feel content and fulfilled by choosing to stay connected with Poland, but only in his mind can he do so because they now live so far away. Skrzynecki doesn’t understand how his father can choose to belong, demonstrating his confusion by saying that his father is “happy as I have never been.” We begin to understand that Skrzynecki’s attitude towards belonging to his Polish heritage reflects his feelings of disconnection in the poem “Ancestors”. The line “where sand and grasses never stir” is a metaphor used to represent the stagnation of Skrzynecki’s connection with his Polish heritage. He is plagued with guilt and frustration as a result of his disconnection and this is demonstrated through the accusatory nature of the figures in his dream. The use of alliteration communicates Skrzynecki’s threat: “Standing shoulder to shoulder”. Skrzynecki does not realise that it is his own perceptions and attitudes that prevent him from belonging to his Polish ancestors, and this is reflected in his use of rhetorical questions throughout the poem: “how long is their wait to be?” Skrzynecki’s attitudes towards belonging begin to change in the poem “10 Mary Street” and a greater sense of fulfilment is communicated. Skrzynecki references his own poem “Feliks Skrzynecki” in the line “tended roses and camellias/ like adopted children.” This demonstrates that Skrzynecki’s perception of his father’s sense of belonging to his garden had changed. In “Feliks Skrzynecki” Skrzynecki felt excluded because his father “loved his garden like an only child”. In “10 Mary Street” he realises that the sense of belonging he shares with his father is greater than the connection his father has with the garden and that to him it is just like an “adopted” child. This change in attitude leads to the last poem of the anthology “Post Card” in which Skrzynecki comes to the realisation that he has the ability to choose where and how he belongs. He writes of a post card that has been sent to him by a friend visiting Warsaw, the town in Poland where he and his parents once lived. Skrzynecki gives a description of the post card that is plainly devoid of emotion until the last line: “The sky’s the brightest shade.” This line is positively connoted and reflects Skrzynecki’s realisation that he has the ability to connect with Warsaw. Skrzynecki directly addresses the town by stating “I never knew you.” This personifies the town and further demonstrates the poets growing connection. Skrzynecki uses the qualifier “for the moment” to undercut the line “I never knew you” which is repeated in the fourth stanza. This demonstrates that Skrzynecki...
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