How Have Your Chosen Texts Shaped Your Understanding Of Belonging? Essay

2389 words - 10 pages

When an individual possesses a sense of belonging, it provides that individual with a sense family, security, comfort, and community. Our understanding of belonging can be shaped by the many different aspects of the concept, ranging from belonging to relationships and to place, to belonging to oneself. One of the most common aspects of belonging is a sense of belonging to culture, as shown in Archie Weller’s ‘Pension Day’, and Peter Skrzynecki’s ‘10 Mary Street’. In both these texts, the protagonists find comfort and security in culture, and cling to the heritage that has provided them with a sense of comfort and security. Contrastingly, in Carol Ann Duffy’s poem ‘Stealing’, she explores the effects of the devastating psychological consequences an individual faces when they do not belong to society.
Belonging is a pervasive concept in Weller’s ‘Pension Day’, explored through the connection of the protagonist to his culture. Weller investigates how belonging can give one a strong identity and sense of self-worth, and how not belonging can have devastating effects on the psyche. The protagonist’s lack of a proper name is indicative of his lack of identity, his being called the disrespectful nickname ‘Wongi’ polluting his already tenuous connection to culture. When the protagonist is ‘torn’ away from his tribe by the white men who arrest him, and everything he knows, they rob him of his place in his society. When the protagonist works in the town, the townspeople dub him ‘Jackie Snow’, a derogatory nickname that intentionally contrasts the colour of his skin. In this way, Weller shapes the reader’s understanding of belonging as it suggests that having a name that is your own affirms your identity, an integral aspect of belonging. Weller suggests that one’s body language is also indicative of whether he belongs to society. The protagonist is immediately looked down upon by white society due to his dark skin, but his ‘hunched back’ suggests that he has been defeated by society as well, his posture a sign of his acceptance of disassociation with white civilisation. Weller also explores the actions of a group when they are outnumbered by a majority, suggesting that they would be reduced to cowering before the masses, ‘scuttling hideously from rusted hiding places’ to avoid being noticed. The word ‘scuttle’ makes a derogatory reference to a spider, demeaning the protagonist’s tribe, the ‘Red-Back People’. Everything in the story stresses the protagonist’s alienation from society; even the coat he wears in the beginning does not belong to him, and is a hand-me-down. Through this, Weller suggests that when one does not belong, it results in the loss of pride and dignity. Belonging is also explored in the marital relations of the protagonist. His white boss found his a ‘good half-caste girl’, her half-white and half-Indigenous heritage serving as a bridge between his total Indigenousness and society’s decision not to reject it. Her relation to the white...

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