Belonging Essay – Peter Skrzynecki Essay

Personal context plays an important role in defining Peter Skrzynecki’s individual and private sense of belonging as conveyed in both his poems, ‘Migrant Hostel’ and ’10 Mary Street’. By exploring and analysing both poems, the responder understands that an individual’s sense of belonging or not belonging does vary. Moreover, Skrzynecki’s social and cultural experiences add to our understanding of his notion of identity and acceptance with in Australia. Therefore, Skrzynecki’s poetic techniques and language forms expose his true connections to social statues among a group or to a community. The film ‘the pursuit of Happiness’ interestingly alludes to the notion of not belonging through construction of character and film techniques.

Skrzynecki’s poems ‘10 Mary Street’ and ‘Migrant Hostel’ particularly demonstrate the positive and negative effects place can have on one’s ability to belong. ’10 Mary Street’ deals with a younger Skrzynecki’s experiences living within his working class family home in a positive environment whilst ‘Migrant Hostel’ deals with the very early memories of living in the migrant camps within Australia and, though it isn’t a positive atmosphere, is viewed by Skrzynecki as the first real place that he can consider ‘home’ and can therefore belong to. The Pursuit of Happiness deals with the issue of the need to belong to a place through the unfolding story of Chris Gardner and his son as they face barriers such as homelessness. Firstly, Peter Skrzynecki’s poem ’10 Mary Street’ explores the way belonging is linked to environment and the personal imprints one puts on that environment. The family have fashioned their own sense of belonging in a poor, rundown neighbourhood. They establish routines and rituals that they are never departed from.

One such example of this routine is seen in the line ‘For nineteen years we departed…like a well-oiled lock’. The use of simile in the phrase ‘like a well-oiled lock’ indicates the positive imagery of the Skrzynecki household going through the sense of routine. A key line that is similar to this theme of a routine is seen later in the poem, ‘Back at 5.pm from the polite hum-drum of washing clothes and laying sewerage pipes’. As can be seen from the quote, the use of the cliché or assonance of ‘hum-drum’ shows how washing clothes and laying sewerage pipes is a routine that each member of the family must go through on a regular basis.

The use of ‘Back at 5 p.m.’ indicates the life of a Skrzynecki towards the responder. The vivid imagery of the garden transports us to his childhood, where he ravaged the garden that his parents lovingly tendered, ‘My parents watered / plants- grew potatoes / and rows of sweet corn: / tended roses and camellias / like adopted children’. Peter Skrzynecki’s interpretation of the need to belong to a place is shown through his poem ’10 Mary Street’ and deals with the importance of routine in a place such as home in order to belong.

‘Migrant Hostel’ is another one of Peter Skrzynecki’s poem’s that deals with the need to belong to a place. This poem deals with the negative side of belonging to a place in the sense that adjusting to a new cultural environment can be difficult. In the case of ‘Migrant Hostel’, Skrzynecki has to deal with the disconnect that he feels breaking away from his Polish culture and assimilating into his new Australian culture. This is seen in the line; ‘Sudden departures from adjoining blocks that left us wondering who would be coming next.’ The use of the Alliteration in the quote ‘who would be coming next’ shows the sense of suspense that the younger Peter would have experienced being in the Parkes migrant hostel and also shows the kind of atmosphere that being in these types of camps created. The quote also mirrors the movement and the flow of the arrivals and departures in and outside of the camp and gives the responder the impression that the hostel is a place where nothing is really personal and is a place where privacy simply does not exist.

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As a result of the movement of the migrants, the people feel a sense of displacement. The bird imagery “We lived like birds of passage” is suggestive of the transient nature of these peoples existence. It is from this that the interpretation of the importance of place in relation to belonging is seen; the negative effects of such places like the migrant hostel can turn the migrants coming into having animalistic qualities and increases the stress and desperation one might feel which, in turn, leads to alienation. ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ by Gabriele Muccino, represents the need to belong to a place is through Chris Gardener’s narration and is also termed as narrator’s commentary.

Throughout the film, Chris is making references to different events happening to him and his emotions as he goes through those events but also constantly makes references towards his son Christopher due to the consistent duty of care that Chris has towards his son. This is notably seen in the line, ‘The next day, after work, we just went to the beach. Far away from anything and everything. Just Christopher and me. Far away from buses and noise and a constant disappointment in my ten gallon head and myself.’ As seen from the quote, Chris has always had to work for somebody else and throughout the movie, is never really given a proper time in which he can be with his son enjoying their time together. This scene is also a great contrast to an earlier scene in the film where Chris and his son are forced to sleep in a bathroom, yet there is no narration from Chris.

The audience only sees Chris sitting down at eye level and watches Chris silently cry whilst there is a diegetic sound of a door banging to accompany the non-diegetic music. The most striking contrast between the bathroom and beach scene is, of course, the amount of space that is portrayed within each shot; the Beach shot at the end of the movie is wide and sweeping and shows a lot of natural elements with a warm atmosphere, whilst the bathroom scene is almost claustrophobic in nature. It is here that the need to belong to a place is represented; Chris Gardener faced such injustices that he was unable to sleep in a proper home and was forced to sleep in a public bathroom and when he does eventually land the job, he is now capable to truely take care of his son and make his life better and move on to a greater place.

In conclusion, both Peter Skrzynecki and Gabriele Muccino represented belonging to a place in different yet still highly effective ways. Skrzynecki represents belonging to a place through the negative and positive experiences that are gained from Peter interacting with the experiences at both a young age and as an adult, viewing place as a more endearing concept as he gets older. Gabriele Muccino’s The Pursuit of Happiness represents belonging to a place through the narrator’s commentary. Chris Gardener has an introspective narration throughout the film, as he comes to the realization that he can find belonging to a place as he gets the job as a stockbroker. These texts have shown that belonging to a place can be varied in the differing experiences of different people, though the end result may not always end up for a person being able to belong.

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