Migrant hostels, like the one described in this poem, were old army camps with dormitory style accommodation. Men and women were not housed together. The migrants Skrzynecki depicts in the poem are those who came to Australia after World War 2 at the invitation of the government.
There is a tone of bitterness in the poem, as these migrants were separated and isolated from the rest of the population even though they were actually invited to come to Australia. It is this separation that brings about feelings of isolation and lack of belonging in their new country. The bitterness is further highlighted by the fact that these migrants were helping Australia to recover after the war, and they were treated so appallingly. The shared memories and common culture connect them.
How 10 Mary Street relates to belonging?
The scenes of domestic joy and comfort in this poem represent the sense of belonging the family feels while living at 10 Mary Street. The family experience belonging in the home because it is where they can express their true selves and their culture. The house provides the security for the family to enjoy their time together. There are scenes of the poet’s parents nurturing the garden while their son greedily enjoys the fruits of their labour when he eats too many strawberries and peas.
The family lived in the house for 19 years, and during that time shared many happy times with family and friends. It was in the house that they could celebrate their homeland and truly express their culture, which that may have needed to suppress when they were in the outside world either and school or work.
It is with some bitterness that the poet alludes to the forthcoming destruction of the house to make way for industry. There is a sense here that no amount of time will allow this family to feel a lasting sense of security and belonging
How St Patricks College relates to belonging?
This poem explores the effects of schooling on an individual’s sense of self. The poet’s mother chose St Patrick’s College for her son’s education as she is impressed by the uniform of her employer’s son, although she seems to have known little about what the school would mean for her son. However, the poet’s mother would like both her son and herself to belong to a particular social group which she considers significant.
From the poet’s first day at school, he feels oppressed by the watching eyes of ‘Our lady’ and contempt for the motto ‘let your light shine’. Despite catching the bus to school for eight years, the poet still feels like he didn’t belong- it is with some irony that the poet describes being ‘privileged’ to wear the uniform. When he leaves school the poet is surrounded by darkness and feels that the schooling his mother