‘Examine how aspects of authority and power can influence one’s ability to belong or not belong to particular environments’.
A sense of belonging is conducive for the wellbeing of an individual in both a physical and psychological sense, and can be influenced by overwhelming power or action taken by figures of authority. Peter Skrzynecki’s 1975 poems “Migrant Hostel” and “St Patrick’s College”, Cunxin’s 2003 autobiography “Mao’s Last Dancer” and Peter Weir’s 1989 film “Dead Poet’s Society” encapsulate this notion by exploring a range of personalities. Each text recognises conformity as a pre-coded instinct in the primitive brain, whilst highlighting that morally-principled individuals may also challenge the authority of what they see as oppressive, tyrannous or unjust. Hence, belonging is presented to the responder as a variable human condition, shaped by a person’s ability to adapt to and manage extrinsic factors of power and authority.
Fundamentally, the treatment of newcomers shown by the power of government in “Migrant Hostel” undoubtedly conveys the negative repercussions of belonging. The poet’s use of simile, “Nationalities sought each other out instinctively/like a homing pigeon…” depicts the government’s hostel as somewhat disorganised and conveys the image that all migrants are seemingly indistinguishable, lacking any self-identity or the ability to affiliate to the new environment. Further terms associated with travel such as “comings and goings”, “arrivals”, “departures” generate an atmosphere of constant disorientation and inconvenience, as a result of World War II and actions taken by world authority. Skrzynecki’s use of personification, “A barrier at the main gate….as it rose and fell like a finger/pointed in reprimand or shame”, compares the ‘exit’- which symbolises hope and freedom- to a superior and rather intimidating figure, overlooking the hostel and isolating its occupants from the rest of society. Images of exclusion and negative...
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