“There is a reason the word belonging has a synonym for want at its center; it is the human condition.” ― Jodi Picoult
Belonging is the perceptions held by individuals, which enables them to be inherently connected and to develop an affinity with themselves as well as an intimate bond with place. I believe I have learnt that belonging is the most basic human desire, a part of the human condition. In order to achieve true belonging, however, many feel the need to belong to a particular place. In Peter Skrzynecki’s poem Migrant Hostel, and in a feature article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled All at sea in a leaky boat, the concept of belonging to self as a human desire is explored through displacement.
Displacement is a fundamental aspect of not belonging but it is a human desire to try to belong and have a connection with place. The title of Migrant Hostel shows the context of Skrzynecki’s own experience in Parkes Migrant Hostel in NSW from 1949-51. Time and place are established in the poem expressing the values and attitudes in this contextual time period. “Comings and goings/…newcomers/…busloads/…sudden departures/…who would be coming next.” This list of phrases is associated with the transitionary environments, which thousands of migrants experienced after WWII. This technique creates the sense of dislocation felt by the migrants through the use of words describing the uncertainty they felt in their lives. “Comings and goings” juxtaposing each other and creating a paradox that suggests there is no permanence or belonging to this place.
All at sea in a leaky boat reinforces the displacement experienced by the lack of emotional connection to place. Published in 2008, the text allows for a continuity of a similar theme of displacement over time, therefore expressing the similar attitudes and supporting the thesis for the human condition to desire a sense of belonging to place. The text reads “…will remain imprinted forever… the scent of...
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