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The Theme of Belonging in Peter Skrzynecki’s Migrant Hostel

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Belonging is considered a fundamental aspect of being human; belonging is an ambiguous concept which can offer individuals a sense of identity, security and connectedness. The idea of belonging is a significant and fundamental value in our lives. Belonging most commonly emerges from experience and notions of identity, relationships, acceptance, understanding and culture. (intro ps n poems n related txt – the terminal Steven Spielberg)

“Migrant Hostel” indicates the immigrants’ sense of barriers of the negative perceptions within the hostel. Migrant Hostel begins with the sense of secrecy with the numbers of migrants arriving and leaving, the words ‘comings, goings, arrivals’ and ‘sudden departures’ emphasise this. The rhetorical question ‘Who would be coming next’ highlights the insecurity, surprise and amazement of the migrants who were forced to come to the hostels and alienated from the rest of the population. Skrzynecki uses this technique of a list to convey a sense of dislocation by the migrants. He uses words such as “comings and goings” to describe the uncertainty of their lives. These words are contrasting and suggest that there is no sense of permanence and that the hostel is a temporary environment. In the related text, a scene of Viktor Novorski running up the stairs to see the news, this long shot scene shows how big and how crowded the international transit lounge is and by night it shows how everyone has left and how empty the lounge is, which makes him feel alienated and secluded from the world.

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There is a sense of separation shown in the last stanza of Migrant Hostel. The ‘barrier at the main gate’ closes them off from the outside world and is symbolic of their feeling of alienation. The ‘highway’ is symbolic of their route to a new life from which they were prevented. The barrier rises and falls, a constant reminder that they are not wanted and highlights their separation from the real world and their feelings of shame. There is a sense of hope and freedom being offered as “only begun” refers to how life in this new country was only just starting, but their lives were “dying” because as migrants they were expected to drop their “cultural baggage” and take up the “Australian way of life”, thus killing their old traditions, values, beliefs and culture. Likewise, in the movie Mr Novorski enters a red carpet club member area of the lounge trying to watch the news of what had happened in his country, but the security guard comes and kicks him out without hesitation, this scene of Viktor worrying makes him feel even more secluded as the man is making a barrier between where he is and where Viktor is. As the doors close in front of him, the low sound of the music also stops.

The fifth stanza of Feliks Skrzynecki begins the maturing of the poet as he remembers the language of his parents and uses it at the suitable time to defend his father in the face of bureaucratic complacency and ignorance emphasised in his degrading rhetorical question “Did your father ever attempt to learn English?” the son’s disapproval of this unfairness is evident in the imagery of ‘dancing bear-grunts’ implying that the clerk was an animal showing no humanity. This stanza highlights the son’s continuing loyalty to his father and hints to the son’s own journey where the impact of his parent’s heritage begins to affect him. In the related text, The Terminal, a scene of Frank Dixon, the director of customs and border protection, says “I understand you speak a little English” and Viktor reply’s with a “yes” but a confused expression still placed on his face. The only noise or sound being made is of them talking and the sound of Frank taking his food out and placing it on his table, showing as he does not have any respect towards Viktor. In this scene it shows how Skrzynecki’s quote and this scene are similar, since both the people of the countries can speak English; they’re both discriminate towards people who do not speak English.

There is a need of belonging toward your culture which provides you with a sense of acceptance and value. The final stanza changes the poem’s focus to the son and his life revealing his loss of his inherited language altogether ‘I forgot my first Polish word’. This loss is in a sense the loss of his parent’s heritage, thus is the impact of the journey. The father is driven to keep it alive in his son but the final metaphor ‘Hadrian’s Wall’ reveals the certainty that the son will move further away from his father’s heritage in this new land of which his father is silently aware but unable to change his son’s course. This poem depicts the consequences of a physical journey and how experiences are different for each individual on the same journey. Similarly in the related text, a scene of Viktor Novorski talking with Frank Dixon, it shows Mr Viktor repeating the name of his country his country having a excited and happy facial expression, he repeats it so Mr Dixon can say it right. That interpretation there shows that, as you hear the sound of your country to get a strong sense of belonging towards it.

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