Area of Study- Belonging

Belonging is an essential part of the human experience. Belonging to a community can be empowering or disempowering. Peter Skrzynecki uses the medium of poetry in “Migrant Chronicle” to explore the painful process of belonging to a new alien community, and the negative and positive consequences. “Migrant Hostel” represents the first stage of the resettlement process and the disempowering feelings associated with trying to belong. “10 Mary Street” and “Feliks Skrzynecki” celebrate empowerment of establishing a family home. Shaun Tan’s Graphical novel “The Arrival” looks at one man’s journey for acceptance in an alien community. While “All at sea in a leaky boat”, a feature article from the Sydney Morning Herald, deals with the disempowering racism that leaves all migrants feeling alienated and inadequate.
“Migrant Hostel” is a significant stage of the migrant journey, where the Skrzynecki family spend two years in a hostel closely resembling a military camp. The use of the word “Hostel” in the title creates an image of acceptance and security. A “Hostel” is usually a place where one is looked after, however this is juxtaposed with negative images of dislocation and alienation in the poem. The migrants are caught in a no-man’s land, cut-off from their old culture and separated from the new community. The “barrier at the main gate” is symbolic of their separation in a physical sense. The gate is likened to a “finger/pointed in shame or reprimand” which is symbolic of the community’s racism towards the migrants. This also adds to the social and mental separation felt by migrants. Skrzynecki has used “Migrant Hostel” to show how not belonging to a community can be disempowering and generate feelings of dislocation and worthlessness.
Skrzynecki uses imagery to portray how isolation can be disempowering. Images like “busloads” and “arrivals and sudden departures” create a sense of confusion and anonymity. The bird imagery created in the simile “like a homing...