Migrant Hostel Belonging Essay Examples
Am I on the right track with my analysis of Peter Skrzynecki's Migrant Hostel?
SPECS SLIMS – Migrant Hostel
Subject:Migrant Hostel is a poem composed by Peter Skrzynecki. It is a moving account of the experiences of migrants living in an overly-crowded lodge. The first stanza captures the temporary nature of the immigrants stay at the hostel; “comings and goings”, “arrivals of newcomers” and “sudden departures”. The second stanza goes on to express the cultural divisions existing within the hostel; “nationalities sought”. The next stanza reminds the responder of the seasonal, short time spent in the hostel and the boredom, tedium and uncertainty which results. The final stanza concludes the poem by creating a strong sense of oppression, explaining that the hostel controlled the migrants’ every action. Overall, Skrzynecki communicates that his stay within Migrant Hostel is a negative experience: chaotic, depersonalised and imprisoning.
Purpose: Skrzynecki’s intention is to uncover the discrimination existing subconsciously within human thought. This relates to the concept of belonging. Belonging is a basic human need. Through cultural groups, age and socio-economic status individuals can gain acceptance by others and in turn, have an entity to belong to. The quote “nationalities sought each other out instinctively” shows that an individual’s primary means differentiation is based on cultural heritage.
Emotions: There are a myriad of negative emotions Skrzynecki experiences during his stay at Migrant Hostel. Feelings of fear, confusion, alienation and isolation all add to a foreboding and animalistic atmosphere. Racial tension is also prevalent as nationalities divide and issues of superiority and stereotyping complicate the social landscape.
·Sound: The use of alliteration is prominent. For example, “no one kept count of all the comings and goings” repeats a harsh, consonantal ‘c’ sound. The strong syllable ‘c’ dehumanises the migrants as there is sense of personal detachment. This is further achieved through a staccato (short, sharp) rhythm to the phrasing. Ultimately, the migrants will forever be the outsider, the eternal alien within a racist white society. The quote “that left us wondering who would be coming next” makes use of the soft ‘w’ sound. This fabricates hopelessness and weakness as the migrants are naive of what is going on around them. Foreigners are manipulated, oppressed and alienated which destroys their chance of truly belonging.
·Language: Binary opposition is employed by Skrzynecki. For instance, “to pass in and out of lives that had only begun or were dying” concludes the poem. This contrast of those young and old shows another means of differentiation of migrants staying at the hostel – age. It is also provides two opposing ideologies regarding age: the young have potential and possibility as their lives have “only [just] begun” while the elderly are in effect, “dying” and are no longer valuable within society. This reaffirms stereotypes and discrimination based on age. One’s identity plays a crucial role in with regards to belonging and age can ultimately determine whether or not a person belongs.
·Imagery: The simile “like a homing pigeon circling to get its bearings” compares the migrants to a bird. Pigeons travel their entire lives which symbolises the eternal migration of foreigners within Australia. Thus they can never fully belong as a member of the country. Barriers such as discrimination, social unrest and stereotypes exclude migrants from dominant culture. The word ‘circle’ also adds to this eternal battle for migrants. A circle has no beginning or end which emphasises that the struggle to belong is endless and an inherent human need worth fighting for.
·Movement: Skrzynecki has a stream of consciousness approach to his poem as each stanza is one train/chain of thought. The use of punctuation creates free-flowing ideas. For example, the dash is used to create enjambment where the idea is continue beyond a couplet. The commas, semi-colons and colons provide pauses, which highlight particular ideas. In the third stanza, for example, Skrzynecki writes “always sensing a change in the weather: unaware of the season whose track we would follow”. The colon continues the idea of seasons throughout the stanza. This holds the poem together, creating uniformity.
·Structure: The poem is four stanzas. The first stanza is seven lines, the second eight, the third six and the last eleven. The centre of the poem is the final stanza. Its longer length emphasises its importance. In this stanza Skrzynecki argues that the hostel is “a barrier” to belonging to Australian society. It is the hostel which unfairly categorises the migrants. The tone of the verse is reflective, with Skrzynecki providing memories of “the main gate” and “our doorstep”. Active voice is given to the hostel which undercuts the agency of the migrants. This further alienates them and makes their attempts at belonging futile.
Summary: Australia is a cultural phenomenon – one of the most multicultural nations in the world. Migrant Hostel is poem where its composer Peter Skrzynecki reflects upon the experiences of living in a lodge as a migrant for two years. The concept of belonging is process driven and heavily based on dominant culture. Migrants are excluded and alienated from society due to their cultural identity and social issues such as white superiority, prejudices (e.g. age) and cultural stereotypes. Human beings need to belong to attain unity and associate with others. Migrants achieve this is through cultural groups.
Social and personal factors in one’s life influence and change our own sense of belonging. Peter Skrzynecki in his suite of poems “Immigrant Chronicle” and J.R.R Tolkien in his 1937 fictional novel “The Hobbit” both explore how social and personal factors influence an understanding of acceptance and belonging in their respective texts. Both Peter (being the persona) and Bilbo question in what social and personal situation can we belong. Skrzynecki uses the displacement of European migrants, in particular Polish migrants, to demonstrate how a personal connection to one’s homeland and society at a time of insecurity and discomfort can form a sense of belonging with others. As with many migrants the Skrzynecki family was forced to flee their beloved Poland for personal safety at a time of war. “Migrant hostel”, through the use of simile, demonstrates how those of similar culture band together in times of need to form a sense of belonging to each other as a community. “Nationalities sought / Each other out instinctively- / Like a homing pigeon” indicates a sense of cultural identity from a previous time allowed for the migrants to connect and form a sense of belonging and community in such an unfamiliar place.
A different sense of belonging between the immigrants is highlighted in the juxtaposition “To pass in and out of lives / That had only begun / Or were dying” which finishes the poem in a suitably depressing tone because for the migrants, there is no sense of connectedness to the Australian society and the sense of impermanence only exacerbates this feeling. Skrzynecki captures his lack of connection to the people by demonstrating the transitory nature of the hostel through a bird motif and how the hostel had a sense of impermanence. The attitude of the non-migrants is also demonstrated by the boom-gate simile “As it rose and fell like a finger / Pointed in reprimand and shame”. While the gate is personified it can be used as an extended metaphor for the rest of Australian society and its attitudes towards the new migrants, physically separating them from the rest of society by placing them in a rural, prison like, hostel. The terms “reprimand and shame” present a negative image to the responder, implying that the non-migrant society believes that the migrants deserve this treatment. This sense of unacceptance leads to his questioning of who he is in a time of social change and influences his personal sense of belonging.
Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” reaffirms that social and personal factors can have an influence on one’s sense of belonging. The protagonist, Bilbo, experiences maturation during a yearlong wild adventure that reaffirms his sense of belonging at his home and with his personal comforts. The fictional adventure takes Bilbo on an adventure with a group of dwarves that believe that he is “more trouble than use” (Chapter 6, page 107). This attitude doesn’t deter Bilbo however but instead forces him to continue in the group until he is accepted within the micro society, by which time he is far from home. The third person narrative that leads the responder on Bilbo’s personal journey allows for an omniscient perspective that allows the responder to gain an intimate knowledge of the characters and the social and personal factors that help form their sense of belonging.
The linear timeline that spans exactly one year allows for the plotline to develop alongside Bilbo’s maturation with his ultimate sense of personal acceptance occurring at the end of a year by his return to the Shire, his “home” with the use of the term home to indicate social and personal connection. His companions by this time have also reclaimed their homeland, fulfilling their desire to return to the place of ancestral social belonging. At the end of Bilbo’s tumultuous journey most characters have taken time to reflect on where they belong in society and have accepted their place in the fictional world.
Skrzynecki’s enigmatic poem “Ancestors” reflects on a connection to ancestors, how it forms a sense of acceptance and how it influences a sense of personal belonging. This reflection occurs at a critical early moment within his suite of poems when Skrzynecki has left school and is beginning to look back on his past. Skrzynecki uses a fantastical setting in order to demonstrate his lack of connection to the “faceless men” of his past. The wish to connect with the men of his past in order to continue his future is reminiscent of Thorin’s band of dwarves in Tolkien’s novel. These faceless men and the use of the imagery of “shadows” confirm the responder’s sense that Skrzynecki has little personal connection to his ancestors. His ancestors are shown to dwell in a place “Where sand and grasses never stir /
The wind tastes of blood”, A metaphor used in order to reinforce the physical disconnect between this world and the persona and to further demonstrate Skrzynecki’s familial but not personal connection to these men. Skrzynecki casts doubt upon whether the time spent wanting a connection will ever satisfy the need to meet them in the rhetorical question “how long / Is their wait to be?”. The dream-like poem suggests that the cultural and familial connection one’s predecessors isn’t enough to feel secure in one’s heritage and that not having that security can lead to a lack of satisfaction, clearly demonstrated in the simile “Your tongue dry / As caked mud”. A connection to one’s ancestors can dramatically influence a person’s sense of belonging and acceptance of themselves and their cultural heritage.
As evident in both Skrzynecki’s poems “Ancestors” and “Migrant Hostel” and in Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” social and personal factors can influence a person’s sense of belonging.