Belonging over Time Essay
Through exploration and interpretation of texts, and consideration and reflection upon the meaning that they have conveyed, I have discovered a vast array of representations of both ‘belonging’ and ‘not belonging’ present in four texts; St Patrick’s College and Ancestors composed by Peter Skrzynecki, the song I Am Australian by the Seekers and my own composition.All four texts, demonstrate that a sense of Belonging is continuously modified over time, through means of various techniques and forms, suggesting that it comes from a connection to place, culture and people and that a person has the ultimate choice whether they belong or not Through personal exploration of social, political, historical and contextual experiences, my composition reflects both Skrzynecki and The Seekers’ ideas of both belonging and not belonging. These include belonging to place, culture, community and nationality.
Skrzynecki’s poem St Patrick’s College deals with his own inability to feel affiliation with the wider school community while also trying to abide by his mother’s best intentions. The ironic imagery of “Our Lady watched/ With outstretched arms,/Her face covered by clouds” while describing the statue of the virgin Mary, is an example of the consistent, negative, emotive language used throughout the poem which highlights Skrzynecki’s disaffection towards the school.It is through his own choices and perceptions that Skrzynecki chooses not to fit in to his school community. While talking about the school motto emblazed to his chest, Skrzynecki shows his disconnection by sticking pine needles into the motto and saying “I thought it was a brand of soap”. The absence of pride and respect in the school motto tells us that he is choosing not to be a part of the solidarity of which is his own school community.Skrzynecki’s long and monotonous journey is illustrated through the repetitive phrase “for eight years”, which gives us a length of time for which he could have built his rapport with the school community, yet, through the simile “Like a foreign tourist/uncertain of my destination”, demonstrates to us Skrzynecki’s lack of camaraderie with his peers and teachers and also emphasises his migrant heritage and inability or unwillingness to become accepted into the Australian community. My own creative writing has utilized some of he aspects of belonging and not belonging from these texts. The main protagonist Ben is placed in a hostile environment while visiting his brother who lives in a crowded, suburban city.
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Through negative connotations such as “suits and collared shirts leering menacingly at him” I have used personification of the shirts to emphasize the animosity of the environment he is placed in. Ben’s inability to move around fluently shows his ostracism within the city. The visual imagery I have utilized shows the city as an antagonistic environment. Bleak parched pavements” “desolate hallway” creates tension for the reader who empathises with Ben and the situation he is in. The mood and language quickly change as Ben enters his brother’s apartment. Ben’s connection to his environment becomes that of more accepting and positive.
Aware that times have changed for him and his brother he now knows that through the length of time that his sense of connection to his family has been altered but still remains that of a positive nature as shown through the personification of the pictures on James’ wall “The pictures smiled at him with almost forgotten memories”.Just like in St Patrick’s College and my composition, Skrzynecki’s poem Ancestors uses imagery, metaphoric language and personification to inform us on his state of connection towards his own migrant heritage. “A moonlit plain of grasses and sand”, “the sound of a river” and “The wind tastes of blood” shows that Skrzynecki has utilised in depth visual and sensory imagery to engage the reader in to feeling the world he is dreaming of.
He also uses lines such as “The bearded, faceless men, standing shoulder to shoulder? To give a physical representation of his spiritual ancestors and heritage of which he has no affinity with. The negative connotations of words such as ‘Shadows’, ‘darkness’ and ‘faceless men’ gives an idea of the lack of fidelity towards his ancestral past, similar to those used in St Patricks College. To further emphasise his disconnection, Skrzynecki has written the poem from a perspective of which he is talking in third person, rather than having himself as the protagonist of the poem, as he does with all of his other works.The context of both of these poems is that of a time where Australia was experiencing an influx of migrants attempting to escape their homeland from the ravages of war. At the time, some Australians began to feel threatened from these migrants.
In this point in Australia’s history it would have been rather difficult for a migrant, such as Skrzynecki, to abandon their traditional culture and beliefs to then attempt to assimilate into the Australian culture.Another key aspect present in both of these poems is belonging to a national identity, specifically an Australian identity. I Am Australian by the Seekers is a patriotic song comprised of a multitude of ideas of what it means to be an Australian. The song itself is an extended metaphor on how Australia can be seen as a whole as much as it is diverse. Much like both of Skrzynecki’s poems, I Am Australian utilises a vast array of visual and sensory imagery to communicate positively with the audience.
The line “I’m the hot wind from the desert, I’m the black soil of the plains” highlights an Australian’s connection to the landscape by use of personification, metaphoric and collective language. Throughout the duration of the song, two singers sing interchangeably about different aspects of Australian history, such as the Indigenous dream time, first fleet and the gold rush, all of which are deemed to be Australian. The repeated line of “I Became Australian” gives an example that a sense of belonging is constantly modified over time through context and social idealisms.The chorus of the song involves all the members of the band singing the same lines “We are one, but we are many and from all the lands on earth we come, we share a dream and sing with one voice, I am, you are, We are Australian”.
This represents the unity of the Australian community through a physical and metaphorical sense of the kinship between the diverse relationships within Australia Through a thorough exploration of these texts I have made the conclusion that belonging is subject to contextual influences, that it changes over time and that we, as an individual, choose our own fate to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves