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Belonging Essay

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Belonging is a complex challenge that encompasses all aspects of our life including identity, relationships and connections to the greater world. An individual’s choice to either embrace or resist the challenge is heavily influenced by past experiences and the ramifications of these experiences on an individual’s sense of self-worth. Both genuine relationships and connection to a particular physical environment can also affect the response of an individual and encourage them to embrace the challenge of belonging through the sands of time. These aspects of belonging and not belonging are investigated in the novel, “The China Coin” (TCC ) written by Allan Baillie, the film “Rabbit Proof Fence” (RBF)by Phillip Noyce and the poem “Integrated” by Sylvia Kantarizis.
Physical security and connection to place through a certain period of time can encourage an individual to embrace or resist the obstacles of belonging. In TCC, Baillie demonstrates Leah’s hatred toward China through the internal monologue, “I hate it. I hate China” and “It’s your rotten China”. The repetition of “hate” and the negative connotation of “rotten” highlight Leah’s aversion towards China .Leah then starts to find a connection with China as she travels around. Baillie uses cumulative listing in “Wuhan, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Chongqing, they were all part of her China”. This suggests that as Leah explores China, she starts to accept China, and the italicised “her” emphasizes that China belongs to her. Her change in attitude implies that as Leah explores China, she embraces the hope of belonging.
On the other hand, a lack of connection to the surrounding physical environment can cause an individual to resist the challenge of belonging over a period of time. Unlike Leah who embraces the challenge, in “Integrated” , grandmother refuses to adapt to Australia. The poet utilises third person in “she affirms that she has not migrated” to indicates that grandmother dislikes the act of migration and also suggests her sense of isolation. The indication of the length of grandmother’s time in Australia is depicted by the arrival of grandchild. Despite this grandmother continues to maintain her bond to Greece: “land gave way” . Personification is used to highlight that Australia has given in, thus time has not affected grandmother’s sense of belonging to her motherland. Similarly to the poem, Molly and her sisters, in RPF resist fitting into the white society. The eerie music building in intensity as the girls huddle together when they first arrive the settlement, illustrating the girl’s fear of the new environment. A low angle shot of an Aboriginal worker using an imperative tone in, “ We’ll have no Wangka here you talk English!” reveals that the girls are disconnected to the place as they could not speak their own language. In this case, time strengthens their connection to their homeland and urges them to escape. On the way travel back to their land, there is a close up of Molly smiling and uttering one word “home”. The strong sense of connection with the home spurs her on to finish her journey. She then lifts her sister into her arms, and the medium shot shows that Molly is walking as a confident woman. This depicts to the audience that landscape allows the girls to gain a sense of security and comfort. Time is a fundamental key that enables an individual to transform their perception of belonging in different ways , as well as consolidate their sense of purpose and self worth as they grow and mature.
Genuine relationships between people develop over time which can act as an anchor for an individual when facing adverse situations in their lives. Through these personal relationships, an individual can find strength in others so they can embrace the challenge of belonging. Throughout TCC, Baillie successfully demonstrates the truth of this statement through the development between Leah and her mother, Joan. At the beginning, Bailllie uses the metaphor “evil aunt” to convey Leah’s perspective of mother, Joan. The negative choice of expression suggests that the relationship between Leah and Joan is estranged. As time passes, Baillie then uses flashback and internal monologue in “ how things changed every time they moved…In Guangzhou Joan was a stranger…And in Chengdu, somehow, they had become sisters again.” The progression of the mother daughter bond increases with each new place, and the change from ‘stranger’ to ‘sister’ indicating time has been a powerful factor in re-establishing their once estranged relationship.
Similarly in RPF, the relationship between the girls and their parents has been strengthened throughout the film. A long shot is used to depict Molly’s mother and grandmother standing holding the fence. The fence is a symbolic connection between Molly and her mother, as it leads the way home for the girls. The scene of mother and grandmother is then juxtaposed with a long overhead shot of the girls hold the fence as well. This infers to the audience that the women are waiting at the fence, and shows a sense of the passage of time, their commitment to the girls, while the girls desire to connect to their parents through the fence. Time acts as a force to bring the girls and mother bond together. Towards the end of the film, there is a long shot of embracing women in back lighting. The peaceful image of completion, restful colours of blue and black close the journey in deliberate contrast to the red and brown colours of the landscape the audiences has watched the girls trek through. This images of reunion suggests to the audience that through the sand of time, the relationship between Molly and mother is strengthened.
In contrast, the time can disintegrate relationships. In the poem, Kantarizis utilises accumulative listing in “ the trappings of her Cretan home : shopkeeper, her nephew, the priest who comes for coffee…” . The listing suggests to the audience that grandmother maintains living in a Greek environment. The composer also employs iconic Australian images that her grandchild sees such as “ leafy mango trees and hears kookaburras” to imply the audience that they fits in to Australia perfectly. By contrasting the lifestyles of grandmother and grandchild, this allows the audience to contrast the culture of Greece and Australia, and convey that there is a cultural and generational gap between grandmothers and grandchild, thus implying that as time passed, a relationship could also be estranged.
The challenge of belonging is universal and can either be resisted or embraced as the time passed. The texts TCC, RPF and “Integrated” reveal the complexity of this challenge and the main factor, time which can have a vast influence over an individual’s response. By investigating the connection shared with physical environments and formation of genuine relationships through greatly different contexts, Kantarizis, Noyce and Baillie encourage the audiences to question their own desire to belong and the resulting choice to either embrace or resist the universal challenge of belonging.

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