Acceptance, Segregation and the Need for SocialAllegiance.
Belonging essay by Asha Forsyth 2009
Fulfilment is the essence of being. To obtain this sense of self, we must actively participate in the society which we exist in. Without social acceptance, our sense of belonging is limited and cannot lead to true self actualisation. This concept isexplored through the prescribed poems
St. Patricks College
10 Mary Street
byPeter Skrzynecki, the painting
Self Portrait (But I Always Wanted to Be One of TheGood Guys)
by Gordon Bennet and the short story
The Fat Man in History
by Peter Carey. All these texts explore the hardships of being ostracized by society, and howthis impacts on an individual’s sense of identity and belonging.To allow our individual sense of acceptance to blossom, one usually finds solace in a place of sanctuary and safety. In Skrzynecki’s
10 Mary Street
, this particular placecomes alive. As an audience we plunge into the migrants home; experiencing eachcultural nuance as if we were actually there. Skrzynecki achieves this element byemploying a conversational tone throughout his poetry, this opens it up to theaudience and we feel a sense of connection to the people and places he goes on todescribe. Strong use of sensory imagery also helps illustrate the Polish cultural bubble.
“Kielbasa, salt herrings / And rye bread, drank / Raw vodka or cherry brandy / And smoked like / A dozen Puffing Billies”
By evoking our oral sense to the customs and traditions of the Polish community, thetrue nature of their
sense of belonging within their neighbourhood is accurately portrayed.However this sheltered lifestyle is rarely enough to achieve a true sense of belongingand without recognition from the wider community, most existences become hollow.Skrzynecki’s poem
St. Patricks College
illuminates this concept, focussing on theharshness of society and status.
“Impressed by the uniforms / Of her employer’s sons / Mother enrolled me at St Pat’s / With never a thought / To fees and expenses – wanting only / ‘What was best’”
Belonging is a fundamental aspect of humanity, It is a subjective concept that can be positive or negative, based on experiences. Positive belonging offers individuals a sense of identity, security and bond to either a person, place or object. Whereas, negative belonging limits ones sense of identity, security and ultimately incites one to feel marginalized, unsociable and alone. This notion is extensively explored within Peter Skrzynecki’s poem, St.
Patrick’s College, from the anthology Immigrant Chronicle, and Richard Kelly’s 2001 film Donnie Darko as both texts illustrate the protagonist’s limited and negative experience of belonging through their interaction with others resulting in acts of insubordination. Contrary to negative belonging, Peter Skrzynecki’s poem, 10 Mary Street- also from the anthology Immigrant Chronicle-explores the notion that it a positive sense of belonging can be achieved through interaction with others.
Peter Skrzynecki’s St Patrick’s College, a semi-autobiographical poem explores the idea of negative interactions within a class dynamic resulting in a poor sense of belonging. St patricks college conveys a reflective and lethargic tone in which the persona describes his negative experiences of social segregation throughout his schooling years as being tedious and not “for the best”.
The lack of belonging is emphasized metaphorically in the persona’s description of his schooling experience as being one of “darkness”, the technique of irony is evident as the school’s motto, ‘Luceat Lux Vestra” latin for ‘Let your light shine’ acts as a contrasting device as the schools mission is to allow students to evolve and shine, however the persona communicates a school life of darkness where he faced troubling emotions of insecurity and isolation. This further reinforces the concept that the personas lack of interaction with those around him, specifically with his school environment resulted in a negative sense of belonging.
The second stanza of St. Patricks college demonstrates the limited experiences of belonging within the school community. The personas mother ‘said a prayer’ for her sons ‘future intentions’, which emphasizes the lack of control in which the persona had over his fate but also raises a religious element in which it is seen that the personas mother demonstrates her reverence toward the school and it’s religious base. The mutual relation of religion is what allows the personas mother to experience a sense of belonging as she is able to interact positively with the other members of the St.. Patricks college community despite the various differences.
The technique of Juxtaposition challenges the mothers belonging as her truculent son acts out in a violent manner as noted as he “stuck pine needles into the motto’’ of his school uniform. The act of using pine needles to puncture the surface of the motto displays the rebellion and lack of pride the persona had for his school. This further reflects how negative interaction with ones surroundings ultimates in the personas feelings of aggression and self doubt that therefore denies him a sense of belonging.
The concept that negative interactions with surroundings will subsequently result in a lack or limited understanding and experience of belonging is further explored in Richard Kelly’s 2001 film Donnie Darko as the protagonist Donnie suffers with schizophrenia and is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit named Frank who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes that further disperse him from reality and display his inability to belong to society due to his sadistic actions he imposes on his surroundings and people.
It is evident that donnies personality has slowly dissolved as the scene where his mother enters his room after he disappeared and says ‘‘What happened to my son? I don’t recognize this person today? ”. This line emphasizes the barrier of understanding between Donnie and his mother due to his mental illness becoming a wall between both characters and the lack of interaction in which they share therefore disabling them from truly affiliating with each, causing donnie to feel more alienated and unable to endure a positive experience of belonging in his home and with his family.
This ultimately leads him to gravitate further toward Frank who is the personification Donnie’s fear of death. Donnie’s sense of self is challenged when he and his girlfriend are in the cinema, the silhouettes of Donnie and his girlfriend are briefly seen in contrast with the dark surroundings. Orchestral sound plays a significant role in this scene as frank appears next to his girlfriend who is asleep in the theatre. The cinematic technique of Swish pan is significant as Frank and Donnie are never scene together in one shot, they are always opposite, acing each other like a reflection.
This scene emphasizes the barriers between fantasy and reality as his girlfriend represents the concept of reality and being that she is asleep, it displays the loss of logic or normality in donnies experiences and the suffocating grip that fantasy and hallucination now has on his life. Donnie attempts to rebel against this force when he says “Why are you wearing that stupid bunny suit? ” in which frank abruptly responds “Why are you wearing that stupid man suit”?
This challenges his role as a human in the film and further destructs donnies sense of security and belonging to himself. This therefore contributes to him feeling further displaced from humanity and ultimately preventing Donnie from experiencing positive interactions with other humans and Frank. Moreover, it is known that positive experiences of belonging are endured and enrich ones sense of identity, security and bond to either a person, place or object. This is seen in Peter Skrzynecki’s poem, 10 Mary Street where the concept of family and place is significant when seeking a sense of belonging.
An example of a positive experience of interaction in this poem is through the garden, skrzynecki uses symbolism and imagery to describe the significance the garden had in each member of his families life; My parents watered/ Plants- grew potatoes/ And rows of sweet corn. ” This quote identifies that the parents felt a sense of belonging through growing and nurturing the garden in which represented a fragment of their Polish culture. In addition to that, the persona incorporates metaphorical symbols such as the “key” in the stanza; ‘Inheritors of a key, That’ll open no house, when this one is pulled down”.
This further elaborates on the concept that the persona is the key to his culture and background of poland birthed by his parents past, in which he struggles to adapt to harmoniously. The poet ‘inherits’ his past but yet it fails to open any doors to him which therefore push him to feel temporarily at a loss with himself but this is challenged as the idea of pursuing a new australian culture is introduced and allowing himself to let go of what was not his and grow what can now be his.
This allows the persona to establish a sense of belonging through the preservation of the garden in which he and his parents belong to but also his own sense of identity in Australia in which he seeks individually. Overall, an individual’s interaction with others, whether that interaction is positive or negative, can influence their attitudes and understanding of belonging.
The idea of negative experiences and interactions between individuals causes an inadequate experience of belonging is captured and conveyed within Peter Skrzynecki’s St. Patrick’s College and Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko, as the protagonists in both texts battle against their predictive and desolate sense of self due to their negative interactions. Contrary to this is the idea that positive experiences and interactions can enrich ones sense of belonging, as seen in Peter Skrzynecki’s 10 Mary Street. Regardless, belonging is a core component of humanity and offers individuals either a positive or negative experience.