Social and personal factors in one’s life influence and change our own sense of belonging. Peter Skrzynecki in his suite of poems “Immigrant Chronicle” and J.R.R Tolkien in his 1937 fictional novel “The Hobbit” both explore how social and personal factors influence an understanding of acceptance and belonging in their respective texts. Both Peter (being the persona) and Bilbo question in what social and personal situation can we belong. Skrzynecki uses the displacement of European migrants, in particular Polish migrants, to demonstrate how a personal connection to one’s homeland and society at a time of insecurity and discomfort can form a sense of belonging with others. As with many migrants the Skrzynecki family was forced to flee their beloved Poland for personal safety at a time of war. “Migrant hostel”, through the use of simile, demonstrates how those of similar culture band together in times of need to form a sense of belonging to each other as a community. “Nationalities sought / Each other out instinctively- / Like a homing pigeon” indicates a sense of cultural identity from a previous time allowed for the migrants to connect and form a sense of belonging and community in such an unfamiliar place.
A different sense of belonging between the immigrants is highlighted in the juxtaposition “To pass in and out of lives / That had only begun / Or were dying” which finishes the poem in a suitably depressing tone because for the migrants, there is no sense of connectedness to the Australian society and the sense of impermanence only exacerbates this feeling. Skrzynecki captures his lack of connection to the people by demonstrating the transitory nature of the hostel through a bird motif and how the hostel had a sense of impermanence. The attitude of the non-migrants is also demonstrated by the boom-gate simile “As it rose and fell like a finger / Pointed in reprimand and shame”. While the gate is personified it can be used as an extended metaphor for the rest of Australian society and its attitudes towards the new migrants, physically separating them from the rest of society by placing them in a rural, prison like, hostel. The terms “reprimand and shame” present a negative image to the responder, implying that the non-migrant society believes that the migrants deserve this treatment. This sense of unacceptance leads to his questioning of who he is in a time of social change and influences his personal sense of belonging.
Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” reaffirms that social and personal factors can have an influence on one’s sense of belonging. The protagonist, Bilbo, experiences maturation during a yearlong wild adventure that reaffirms his sense of belonging at his home and with his personal comforts. The fictional adventure takes Bilbo on an adventure with a group of dwarves that believe that he is “more trouble than use” (Chapter 6, page 107). This attitude doesn’t deter Bilbo however but instead forces him to continue in the group until he is accepted within the micro society, by which time he is far from home. The third person narrative that leads the responder on Bilbo’s personal journey allows for an omniscient perspective that allows the responder to gain an intimate knowledge of the characters and the social and personal factors that help form their sense of belonging.
The linear timeline that spans exactly one year allows for the plotline to develop alongside Bilbo’s maturation with his ultimate sense of personal acceptance occurring at the end of a year by his return to the Shire, his “home” with the use of the term home to indicate social and personal connection. His companions by this time have also reclaimed their homeland, fulfilling their desire to return to the place of ancestral social belonging. At the end of Bilbo’s tumultuous journey most characters have taken time to reflect on where they belong in society and have accepted their place in the fictional world.
Skrzynecki’s enigmatic poem “Ancestors” reflects on a connection to ancestors, how it forms a sense of acceptance and how it influences a sense of personal belonging. This reflection occurs at a critical early moment within his suite of poems when Skrzynecki has left school and is beginning to look back on his past. Skrzynecki uses a fantastical setting in order to demonstrate his lack of connection to the “faceless men” of his past. The wish to connect with the men of his past in order to continue his future is reminiscent of Thorin’s band of dwarves in Tolkien’s novel. These faceless men and the use of the imagery of “shadows” confirm the responder’s sense that Skrzynecki has little personal connection to his ancestors. His ancestors are shown to dwell in a place “Where sand and grasses never stir /
The wind tastes of blood”, A metaphor used in order to reinforce the physical disconnect between this world and the persona and to further demonstrate Skrzynecki’s familial but not personal connection to these men. Skrzynecki casts doubt upon whether the time spent wanting a connection will ever satisfy the need to meet them in the rhetorical question “how long / Is their wait to be?”. The dream-like poem suggests that the cultural and familial connection one’s predecessors isn’t enough to feel secure in one’s heritage and that not having that security can lead to a lack of satisfaction, clearly demonstrated in the simile “Your tongue dry / As caked mud”. A connection to one’s ancestors can dramatically influence a person’s sense of belonging and acceptance of themselves and their cultural heritage.
As evident in both Skrzynecki’s poems “Ancestors” and “Migrant Hostel” and in Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” social and personal factors can influence a person’s sense of belonging.
“The poems of Peter Skrzynecki convey a sense of both alienation and the hope for a brighter future. Discuss with reference to at least 3 poems. ” Belonging is a broad but complex perception that highlights our sub conscious need to feel a connection with something. A sense of belonging or not belonging can produce a strong emotional response within us. The poems Feliks Skrzynecki, St Patricks College and Postcard by Peter Skyrzynecki adopt the common themes of alienation and hope for a brighter future.
The theme of alienation is more decisively depicted in the poems Feliks Skrzynecki and St Patricks college, in which the persona is in a continuos battle to find his true identity and in doing so ‘let his light shine’. On the other hand, the poem Postcard is somewhat a collision of the speaker’s two world’s, his own quest to belong and embrace the Australian culture whilst also trying to hang onto his Polish heritage. The composer emphasises these themes through the implementation of techniques including extended metaphors, allusions and personification.
Ultimately, the poems mentioned above intricately recognise the feeling of alienation and hope for a brighter future. The poem Feliks Skrzynecki conveys a sense of alienation which is epitomised through the bitter-sweet relationship between the father and son. The speaker’s cultural alienation from the father is decisively explored in the final stanza of the poem in which an extended metaphor is implemented to show the shift from adopting his father’s heritage to embracing the Australian culture.
The speaker first claims how embarrassed he was when ‘[he] forgot [his] first Polish word’ until further comparing his father to ‘a dumb prophet’ who could do nothing but ‘watch [him] peg [his] tents further and further south of Hadrian’s Wall’. The oxymoron and simile ‘like a dumb prophet’ shows the true sadness associated with the helpless father as he can see his son drifting away from him but cannot prevent it from occurring.
Comparing the father to Hadrian’s wall (a military structure built by a roman emperor to protect soldiers guarding camps in England from the Scots in the north) is symbolic as it justifies the father’s qualities of strength whilst also alluding to his inability to adapt to a new cultural environment. The speaker makes comparisons with himself and a soldier who has to march ‘further and further south’, this alludes to the speaker embracing the new Australian culture and inevitably losing connection from his father’s Polish heritage.
Essentially, this final stanza sums up the general message of the poem and leaves the responder with a deep sense of sadness when contrasted to the happiness in the beginning of the poem. In relation to the central idea of alienation, it is depicted once again in the sixth stanza of the poem when the speaker reflects on his cultural alienation compared to his father who is happily contained within his own cultural world. The father makes no effort to conform with and adopt the Australian culture which is proven in the line ‘kept pace only with the Joneses of his own mind’s making’.
This metaphorical term alludes to competitive materialism, highlighting that Feliks makes his own standards and does not conform with the views of mainstream society. Furthermore, the composer states that his father is ‘happy as i have never been’. The utilisation of the pronoun “I” shifts the focus of the poem towards the son who has not been able to find happiness himself as he has been living his life in the shadow of his father. Consequently, placing an emphasis on the alienation and grief experienced by the son.
The core theme of alienation can be further depicted and given deeper meaning through the poem of St Patrick’s College which also addresses the “barriers to belonging”. The alienation of the persona in this poem can be precisely shown through the quote ‘caught the 414 bus like a foreign tourist’. The simile allows the composer to demonstrate the speakers sense of social alienation and the fact that he is disengaged with the country in which he feels as if he is a ‘foreign tourist’.
In addition, the speaker claims that he was ‘uncertain of [his] destination everytime [he] got off’. This elevates the speakers inability to find a connection with the country and environment that he calls home, henceforth reinforcing the fact that he is subject to alienation on a social and cultural basis. On the other end of the spectrum, the poem Post card by Peter Skrzynecki shows the collision of the speakers two world’s, that is, Australian and Polish heritage. The poem is somewhat the beginning of a brighter future for he speaker as it ties together all his feelings experienced in earlier poems, which therefore enables him to ‘let his light shine’. Even though the speaker has been constantly neglecting his Polish heritage, this poem displays the composer alluding to the fact that he will connect with it in the future. This is highlighted in the quote ‘we will meet before you die’. The technique of high modality in the quote enables the responder to grasp a clear idea on the certainty of the speaker having a future connection with his Polish heritage.
This also highlights the speaker engaging in the beginning of something new as the previous poems have highlighted a cultural alienation which is somewhat embraced is the poem, signifying his hope for a brighter future and prosperity. Ultimately, the poems Feliks Skrzynecki and St Patrick College by Peter Skrzynecki deals comprehensively with the barriers which prevent belonging, alienation and the unwillingness to not conform within a sociocultural context.
The poet has successfully explored the social and cultural concepts of belonging in-conjunction with effective techniques in order for us to truly understand these concepts. However, the poem Post Card creates the sense of a brighter future with the persona finding the potential to ‘let [his] light shine’. Henceforth, the poems mentioned above by Peter Skrzynecki convey a sense of both alienation and the hope for a brighter future.
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