The consideration of Peter Skrzynecki’s ‘Immigrant Chronicles’, William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ and Matt Ottley’s ‘Requiem for a Beast’ has allowed me to explore the diversity of representations of belonging. My basic understanding developed from viewing belonging as an intrinsic feeling of safety and acceptance within the relationships of an exclusive community. However as we began to analyse Skrzynecki’s anthology and also reflect upon society’s connotations of belonging and simultaneously not belonging, my personal understanding began to evolve. The contemplation of Skrzynecki and my related texts has led me to believe belonging is an intrinsic human need valued for the stability, sense of community, and acceptance found in relationships to people, a place or even oneself. Although, this need to belong exists ever in tension with the need to be an individual. However, the ephemeral implications of belonging resonate within and are co-dependent upon to not belong, where the afore-mentioned relationships cause segregation and alienation.
Peter Skrzynecki’s ’10 Mary Street’ particularly overturned my perceptions of belonging in that it looks at belonging not only as a human condition but also in terms of people and place. “Shut the house like a well oiled lock, hid the key under a rusty bucket” Using simile ‘like a well-oiled lock’ together with ambiguity and extended symbolism, Skrzynecki creates an image of security and routine; an anchor of belonging in terms of place. “Grew potatoes and rows of sweet corn: tended roses and camellias like adopted children” The nurtured garden explored by ‘The King of the Simile’ as Skrzynecki is known, represents an investment in Australia but also acts as a connection to the ‘old ways’ with a similar dependence upon the land. Separated from kin and homeland, Feliks and Kornelia desperately “kept pre-war Europe alive” and maintained connections to the land in an attempt to reestablish the sense of belonging to humanity and also to oneself. However, their son Peter claims ownership of his parents toil “I’d ravage the backyard garden like a hungry bird”, demonstrated again through simile and the metaphor of a bird. The veracious demands of a child (feed and love me) allow Peter to claim connection ad acceptance both within and without the oasis of ’10 Mary Street’. While both parents and child strive to belong, Peter achieves belonging through his strong sense of self anchored by his parents and the security and acceptance of ’10 Mary Street’.
Another of Skrzynecki’s ‘Immigrant Chronicles’ , the poem ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’ similarly explores the idea of belonging in terms of people and place while also examining individuality as a barrier to belong. Anchored in the first line “my gentle father”, the poem carries a deeply wistful tone and evokes a highly emotional response through the strong personalized imagery. Throughout the poem, an extended metaphor of garden relays a deep Earth-based connection. “Loved his garden like an only child, spent years walking its perimeter.” This simile draws parallels to the context of the family in that both Peter and garden are adopted and yet Feliks cares for them still. The connotation of ‘walking the perimeter’ is the protection, acceptance and security, which Skrzynecki recognizes an pays tribute to in ‘Feliks’. Skrzynecki also develops an oxymoron in that Feliks is content whilst also alienated. Personalised imagery is used to present Feliks as a man content in his surroundings. “My father sits out in the evening… happy as I have never been.” Yet Feliks ‘sits out’ completely alone portraying a man desperately trying connect with his surroundings but unable even to relate to his own family. This is contrasted with historical allusions to ‘Hadrian’s Wall’ thereby demonstrating the generational gap created by assimilation in the Skrzynecki family. “After that, like a dumb prophet, watched me pegging my tents further and further south of...
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