Migrant Hostel & Drifters

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Not belonging often goes hand in hand with feelings of despair, unease and uncertainty. “Migrant Hostel” demonstrates this feeling of angst and instability when the migrants are placed in an uninviting environment where fear of immigrants is predominant. The migrants’ insecurity and confusion is displayed through the rhetorical ‘who would be coming next’ in the first stanza. Furthermore, the fact that the stanza begins with “no one kept count” sets an ominous tone reflective of the hostile atmosphere of the foreign country, further underscoring their disorientation from being detached from a sense of a home and security. Moreover, the “comings and goings”, “arrivals of newcomers in busloads” and “sudden departures from adjoining blocks” uphold the motif of transience which permeates the poem, drawing attention to the state of instability, uncertainty and flux the migrants experience from being excluded. Irony of the word “hostels”: “hostels” = “hospitals”, but evidently not. Furthermore, migrants moved to Australia in search for a better future, however, they merely find themselves in limbo – “lives that had only begun Or were dying”. The overall somber tone of the poem establishes a sense of alienation and seclusion. The apathetic “no one kept count” accentuates the uncertainty of the situation, compounded by the anonymity and lack of specificity of “busloads”, “that left us wondering” and “unaware of the season”. The symbol of the “barrier at the main gate” which “sealed off the highway” reinforces the migrant’s entrapment and confinement and marginalization through bureaucratic oppression. Moreover it calls attention the idea that the migrants are outsiders, barred off from mainstream society. The personification of the barrier “as it rose and fell like a finger Pointed in reprimand or shame” strengthens this notion. Through the use of negative imagery, Skrzynecki spotlights the idea that individuals may be barred off from mainstream society and thus belonging...
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