Romulus, My Father: Belonging

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Understanding nourishes belonging . . . a lack of understanding prevents it.

The complex nature of the concept of belonging means that an overall sense of belonging is built on a foundation of a number of factors, understanding being one of these. Without understanding of people, places, communities or the larger world, one cannot hope to establish a deep connection with these things. This concept is evident in the biographical novel, Romulus, My Father (RMF), by Raimond Gaita (1998), as well as the film text, The Freedom Writers (TFW), directed by Richard LaGravenese. These texts both present the idea that the understanding associated with one’s heritage facilitates connection with others who share this heritage. Further more, these texts show that a lack of understanding of the attributes of a place can result in a disconnection from it.

The understanding connected with one’s heritage enables connections to form with those who share this heritage, and therefore understanding. A similarity in views, morals and beliefs that results from similar cultural heritage is a connection in itself, which, acts as the foundation of a friendship. In RMF, this is seen in Romulus’ actions as he arrives in Australia. Gaita writes, “As soon as my father arrived… he asked whether there were any other Romanians… He sought them out out and they quickly became friends.” The adverb, “quickly”, suggests that although they had just met, their shared cultural heritage allowed to immediately form a connection, purely on the strength of the understanding associated with this. Gaita describes Romulus’ relationship with one of these Romanians as a “lifelong friendship”. The adjectives, “lifelong” shows that their shared understanding associated with their heritage acted as a foundation for a friendship that could only be interrupted by death, connoting the immense power of this underlying, circumstantial connection. This relationship demonstrates a situation in which the...
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