An individuals perception of belonging is created with the passing of time and ones mixing within the world. This view is Represented in St Patricks College written by Peter Skrzynecki and Neighbours written by Tim Winton. Belonging is how one feels connected to people, places, communities within the world . St Patricks College looks at the unhappiness of a boy in high school, feeling out of place. Neighbours shows a young man’s emerging understanding of the culture diversity and generosity of the neighbours he once looked at with suspicion. The couple feels alienated and foreign in their own home and country.
Ones culture influences the connection you have and feel to a place, such as the suburb and school in St Patricks College. St Patricks College is set in a Catholic school. “Our Lady” – reference to our lady lets the reader know it is a highly religious catholic school. “Over shadowed by the clouds” this suggests the statue face is not clear. Indirectly life for the boy is uncertain at school. The use of the word shadow symbolises a casting doubt in the boys school life. The narrator explains the boy doesn’t fit in, depicted in the simile “Feels like a foreign tourist” the boy feels excluded because of his Polish background both at school and around the town he lives in. The passing of 8 full years at this place and he still does not feel a serious connection to the suburb or the school.
In Neighbours the couple feels disconnected to the town in which they move to. At first alienated,suspicious and foreign in their own home. They don’t feel that they belong in the neighbourhood even though it is a part of their country. The couple’s sense of belonging begins to grow as time passes through acceptance. The couple begin to fit in with the outsiders traditions and decide they love it. As time continues to pass the two cultures may have different opinions on the lifestyle of one another although they decide to accept this and gain a sense of generosity through the pregnancy of the Wife.
The people a person grows up with (usually family) vastly influence how you connect to people within the world. In St Patricks College the son is expected to be a part of the Australian school and fit in with other children, just as he belongs with his family in his Polish home. There is a barrier to communication with the people at St Patricks College compared to he’s Polish influenced home as the boy is not familur with this culture and finds it difficult to connect and gain a sense of belonging within this social group. Since there is no connection to Poland in the school teaching, this then leaves the boy feeling isolated from everyone else as he doesn’t connect. This is represented in the quote “Mother enrolled me at St Pat’s with never a thought”. The boy and Mother have individual ideas about what it means to belong. Since the mother did not understand his lack of belonging, the boy felt forced to complete the “8 years” for the mothers sake “Prayed that someday mother would be pleased”. This shows the change over time when the boy now relates to prayers.
In neighbours, the couple are new to this town and feel that the migrants around them all connect yet even though this is their country they feel disconnected within their community due to the cultural diversity. The use of alliteration in spitting, shouted and screamed add to sense of “difference” and strangeness further alienates the young couple. The young couple establish smiling relationships ad exchange food and gifts and feel proud of their relationship they have built with the migrant neighbours. This depicts the way that with the passing of time, the couple learn and grow to belong to this community. As time passes the young mans final realisation shifts by finishing the short story with the perception of the goodness the migrant neighbours were trying to put upon the new couple within this new community.
A persons community influences the connection they have with the world and in the passing of time. In St Patricks College, the boy does not find a connection to the school or the children in that community. The boys feelings over time do not change. An example is shown at the end of the poem “The darkness around me wasn’t for the best before i let my light shine”. The darkness refers to him not feeling a part of the school community and that this school was not the best choice for him. The use of irony in “Let my light shine” (the school motto) is shown to depict the fact that Peter can only achieve it when he has left the school community- when the boy leaves the school, he then can enjoy life. “I stuck pine needles into the motto” this act of rebellion and lack of regard gives us a sense of empathy as he does not belong nor accept this community.
The young couple have cultural differences within the community. They find it difficult to connect to the migrant neighbours. This is shown throughout the short story as an unbroken and uncomfortable relationship exists for a while between the 2 parties. We realise the immigrants think the couple are odd, changing the perception of the reader slightly. Winton shows that there is a ‘difference’ on both sides which causes the alienation and isolation. In the quote “He watched in disgust as the little boy urinated in the street”. This refers to the diversity in the cultures which is carried throughout the neighbourhood. From this the couple do not gain an understanding nor a sense of belonging until they discover that they are warm and friendly yet live a lifestyle differently. Over time the couple begin to no longer feel foreign in their own home and gain a connection to their community.
In conclusion, the close study St Patricks College and Neighbours show different perceptions of belonging and not belonging. Although through the passing of time and interaction within the world, both texts gain the concept of whether they belong to a certain place, persons or community.
Courtney from Study Moose
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