Essay on Belonging: Pauline Hanson and Peter Skrzynecki

Submitted By brigittewilliams
Words: 1676
Pages: 7

Belonging is a concept that can never accurately be expressed by a single definition because it is such an elusive concept. The Macquarie dictionary defines belonging as “to have one’s rightful place; to bear relation as member, adherent, inhabitant etc” but that does not fully cover this abstract term. Belonging involves negotiation, conformity and a struggle to define one’s self and one’s place in the world. Through analysing the concept in various forms of texts, from Peter Skrzynecki’s “Immigrant Chronicles”, “Felix Skrzynecki” and “St Patricks College,” Pauline Hanson’s Maiden Speech to Parliament, and the play “Navigating” by Katherine Thomson, my understanding of belonging has been broadened. Whilst I see belonging as a postive personal activity over which we exert control, more often than not it is a political activity involving powerlessness. In considering this we learn that each society defines its membership by a set of criteria that is often hidden from view, and does not always remain unbiased in determining who has the right to belong.
Through these different texts I have gained insight and a deeper understanding into the true meaning of this overwhelmingly important topic confirming my belief that we all feel the need to belong and know our place in the world. In Peter Skrzynecki’s poem “Feliks Skrzynecki,” the poet explores his relationship with his father and the growing sense of detachment caused by cultural distance and a new cultural identity. The poem’s speaker illustrates the dilemma of a migrant’s child. He feels, that he does not fully belong, to either his birth country, Australia, or his father’s homeland, Poland. Throughout the poem we find many examples of hyphens, question marks and short sentences which all contribute to a sense of confusion about the speakers identity and where he belongs.
In the first stanza Peter Skrzynecki describes his father as “gentle” which evokes softness and warmth. He also speaks of his father’s detached relationship with the world. Although he may be lost in the new country he is content as he still has a strong identity and sense of belonging with his Polish heritage. However, the poem also exhibits the child’s feelings of detachment from his father’s homeland. A life that the poet knows nothing about is noted in the line: “ His Polish friends, always shook hands too violently.” There is an implication that the Poles can share something, feelings, from which the son is excluded, evident in the line “I never got used to…”
The final stanza changes the poem’s focus to the son and the loss of his inherited language altogether shown in the line “I forgot my first Polish word.” This sense of lost heritage, allows the responder to see the speaker’s dilemma; he feels ever more alienated from his father’s culture. While the father is driven to keep their heritage alive in his son, the final metaphor: “Watched me pegging my tents, further and further south of Hadrian’s Wall”, demonstrates the inevitability that the son will move further away from his father’s culture. This poem depicts the consequences of moving to a new land and the struggle to belong in a new culture, a process that involves some detachment and alienation.
Saint Patrick’s College by Peter Skrzynecki is written from a child's perspective and has an autobiographical quality. This draws the audience in and makes it easier to sympathise with the speaker. This poem highlights the fact that Peter Skrzynecki never really felt he belonged in the expensive catholic school even though his mother thought it was “What was for the best.” The speaker auses dark humour in the second stanza when he mentions, “Luceat Lux Vestra, I thought it was a brand of soap.” This highlights that he did not understand why he was there at all. The similie “like a foreign tourist,” further adds to his feelings of strangness and seclusion.
The lines, “For our departing intentions, Our Lady still watching, Above unchanged by eight