The inherent human desire to belong drives individuals to endeavour to obtain acceptance and understanding within a diverse society. Cultural identity and archetypes are sacrificed to a large extent to allow individuals to limit social alienation and dejection, hence resulting in an enriched sense of belonging. This is evident in the microcosmic migrant struggles to belong to a community in the anthology, Immigrant Chronicles, Peter Skrzynecki’s poetry “10 Mary Street”, “Migrant Hostel” and “Postcards”, drawing parallels to the regional isolation and in the novel Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.
The distinctive struggle to conform to an acquired lifestyle shapes an appreciative and unique sense of belonging to a place. Skrynecki’s 10 Mary Street the metaphoric “still too narrow bridge” emphasises the routine struggle of migrants between cultural heritage and acquired identity; emphasising the elusiveness he experiences in gaining a sense of affiliation in Australia, struggling to identify if his heritage or ideals underpin his sense of identity. This internal struggle is highlighted in the extended simile “Ravage the garden/ Like a hungry bird”, connoting egotism, satisfying only self-centred desires, which juxtaposes Skryznecki’s parents who “tended roses … like adopted children”; depicting different cultural views upon the treatment and respect for place, hence shaping varying views upon belonging. Inherent aspects of “pre-war Europe [were kept] alive” through “visitors that ate Kielbasa”, remain untranslated to symbolise the cultural the unique aspects of his culture. Through departing “to school and work” the Skryznecki family became “citizens of the soil” shown through the inclusive pronoun which indicates intimacy, metaphorically instilling them into Australian society. The combined regularity of routine and preservation of cultural ideals forms an intrinsic connection and understanding of a place.
Additionally, ethnic minorities are shown to undergo feelings of uncertainty and despondency while seeking affinity to society. Migrant Hostel begins with a temporal reference “Parkes, 1949-51”, creating an aged impression upon the reader and hence a more believable story based on true events. The aporetic tone of “Who would be coming next” emphasises the general feeling of uncertainty caused by the lexical chain of “Busloads”, “newcomers” and “sudden departures”; emphasises the irony of the situation. The simile “Like a homing pigeon circling to get its bearings”, emphasises the unfamiliarity of Australia due to the “barrier” of the hostel that alienates the migrants from the rest of Australia. The harsh conditions migrants face in endeavouring to gain acceptance within society is further highlighted in the alliterated “hunger and hate”. In Migrant Hostel cultural values are shielded from external influence; remaining relatively unchanged but at the expense of the opportunity to experience and connect to society. In instances where individuals experience limited exposure to greater society, cultural principles are preserved but an understanding of the environment is restricted; resulting in social exclusion and an inability to belong.
Similarly, individuals faced who originate from different regions must adapt to microcosms to avoid social dejection; causing ones cultural heritage to be compromised. The protagonist of Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, Chiyo, is subjected to an unfamiliar Geisha lifestyle, causing her to become cynical and isolated as foreshadowed in “this would be my first step in becoming a yellow-eyed woman… living in a gloomy room”; illustrating her fears of the continual damage that the geographic separation from her family will have upon her self-worth and identity. This is reinforced metaphorically in “there is a poem called lost carved into stone…You cannot read loss, only feel it”, depicting loss as a powerful human emotion that ‘carves’ a deep impression,