From the area of study on journeys, several texts evidently provide and present ideas, concepts and themes on journeys. A journey can be considered a physical movement from one place to another, but there are much deeper meanings conveyed in a journey. This can be seen in two of the Peter Skrzynecki’s poems in the core text ‘Immigrant Chronicles’. The poems ‘Crossing the Red Sea’ and ‘Feliks Skzrynecki’ significantly convey the meaning of journeys. The poems with an internet article titled ‘Journeys: A Cycle of Sacred Time’ and a journey related photograph influentially demonstrate how there is more to a journey than just physical movement. All these texts convey to the responder the many themes and concepts associated with journeys which at first sight seem physical, but actually also emotionally and spiritually affect the protagonist of the journey.
In Peter Skrzynecki’s ‘Crossing the Red Sea’ the poem tells us about the post-war immigrants leaving on board a ship sailing towards Australia. The poem catches the immigrant experience at a point between two worlds. The depiction of the great physical journey that these immigrants are taking also lets the responder see the inner journey involved for the immigrants.
The techniques used in ‘Crossing the Red Sea’ help to convey its meaning of journeys to the responder. The biblical allusion in the title is appropriate to the Israelis being led out of repression in Egypt by Moses through the Red Sea, to the Promised Land. For the immigrants they are leaving war torn Europe to Australia, their land of promise. For the Israelis it was a journey of liberation from slavery and oppression. Similarly, the immigrants are escaping post-war tyranny in hope for a better future. Another bit of biblical allusion mentions some of the immigrants sensing they are born again, like Lazarus in the bible. Imagery also creates much of the meaning in this poem. The immigrants are described with ‘milk white flesh’ showing that they are sickly and seemingly unhealthy. Another piece of imagery is created through the colour red. Red is used in the poem to symbolise two extremes. ‘Of red poppies, once behind the forest when the full moon rose’ – these lines are used to describe the beauty of the flowers and creates an attractive scenery.
But the next bit of dialogue contrasts the beauty of red by using the colour to describe blood. The line ‘Blood leaves a similar dark stain’ shows how red can be of beauty and good, but can also symbolise terrible tragedies, evil and death in the form of blood. The contrast shown in the colour in the poem is perhaps not only a piece of imagery, but a clear motif as it relates to the contrast of emotions of the immigrants. They are glad about new hope and beginning, but are sad and scared about leaving their home on this journey. Emotive language is used in the poem to trigger the responder’s emotions. Examples of emotive language include ‘shackles’, ‘sunken eyes’, ‘secrets’ and ‘exiles’. All these words are used to describe the pain or suffering experienced by the immigrants prior to their journey.
The language used also creates the feeling that the immigrants are leaving their homeland in disgrace because of the immense hardships that they have experienced. Alliteration is used in the line ‘shirtless, in shorts’, emphasising the soft, quiet situation that the immigrants on board are in. The symbolism of the equator in the closing of the poem represents the boundary between their old home and their new beginning. The division of northern and southern hemisphere represents great change for the immigrants, both mentally and culturally, as their optimistic future and their new home are beckoning them.
As the poem suggests there is more to a journey than the physical movement involved. The emotions of the immigrants are deeply explored and their inner journey is obvious to the responder. The journey here is not entirely optimistic and has deep emotional effects on the immigrants. Uncertainty is present and there are memories of the past as well as hope for the future. We learn how the previous experiences of the immigrants have affected their mental state. The main theme the poem is trying to convey about journeys is that a physical journey will tie in with the mental and spiritual side of the protagonist. This idea is similar to what we have discussed in class during this area of study. The protagonist of a journey will not only be affected physically but they may emotionally change, grow or learn new things.
The poem ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’ also conveys journeys as more than just physical movement from one place to another. In this poem Peter Skrzynecki discusses the life of his father Feliks Skrzynecki and the struggles involved in his journey migrating to Australia. The respect that Peter has for his father is evident in the poem but his perspective of the physical journey which they both took is different to his father.
There are several poetic techniques used in the poem to convey meaning on journeys. Alliteration – ‘skilled in slaughtering’ describes his father who used to be a hard labourer and how his life was full of action. Many similes are also used to give us a clear description of Feliks Skrzynecki. He ‘loved his garden like an only child’ – this shows that he was a caring and devoted family man, to both his son and home. The lines ‘fingers with cracks like the sods he broke’ illustrates the extent of his old laborious life in Poland. Near the end of the poem the simile describing his father ‘like a dumb prophet’ expresses how his father knew that his son was moving further away from his heritage and there was nothing he could do about it.
Descriptive language with words such as ‘gentle’ and ‘softness’ reveal the tenderness of Feliks Skrzynecki, while on the other hand, emotive words such as violently, slaughtering and darkened expresses his rough life in the past and toughness of this man, not just physically, but also mentally. The images of his rough and damaged hands and how they ‘dug cancer out of his foot’ reveals the hardships he had had to endure and also show us the trauma and severity of his past. The symbolism of the son pegging his tents further and further south of Hadrian’s Wall shows that Peter Skrzynecki is moving away from his father’s eastern European culture into Australian culture.
As the different perspectives of father and son are given in this poem we can see the inner journeys which they have both gone through. Feliks Skzrynecki has, in migrating to Australia, missed his old lifestyle, heritage and culture, while his son has grown up in a totally different world to the one his father has known, and the absence of the same heritage and culture has made father and son somewhat detached from each other. A clear theme in this poem is that the result of a journey can benefit the protagonist but can also generate sadness and misery as the protagonist misses his or her home. This is evident for Feliks Skrzynecki and ‘Crossing the Red Sea’ also has a similar concept with the immigrants in two states of mind. Clearly the poem reinforces the idea that a physical journey can very much be an inner one.
The internet article ‘Journeys: A Cycle of sacred time’ is very much a source which supports the ideas and concepts explored in the Skrzynecki poems. The article talks about how taking a trip, such as a holiday, is different to a journey. The article expresses that there is a great difference between just travelling and actually experiencing the journey. The article uses imagery to capture the responder’s attention. The article tells the responder to imagine you are at a holiday location and you are actually present with what you are experiencing rather than just keeping busy taking photos of sights. ‘Journey goes beyond the restraints of physical time and space. Journey feeds the soul.’ This statement from the article describes the mental and inner process of learning and growth involved in journeys, and that physically your destination is insignificant. The article mentions that physical travel is not a prerequisite for journeying, again stating that it is the inner process that matters not the physical destination.
Another theme expressed about journeys in the article is that a true journey cannot happen in isolation. Connecting with others is the way for experiencing your journey. This idea is somewhat in contrast to the concept of personal journeys we have studied. The importance of self-growth and learning about yourself is required in personal journeys, but this article is saying that to grow and learn, you need to communicate and correspond with other people. The article uses techniques such as imagery to stimulate the responder’s thoughts, large and bold writing for significant or important text and uses several quotes to support the themes it is trying to convey.
The final source relating to journeys and conveying significant themes is a photograph showing a number of travelers in the middle of their journey on top of a large mountain. The number of large mountains in the background and the scenery suggests that the location is somewhere foreign and faraway from the protagonists’ home. The protagonists in shadowy figures suggest some sense of mystery on this journey. This sense of mystery expresses inner journeying as well as the physical travel shown in the photo. The different contrast in colors of the foreground, middle of the image, and background show there are several parts or sections to a journey. The image of these protagonists journeying across a great landscape is comparable with the poem ‘Crossing the Red Sea’ in the allusion the poem creates of journeys. The long shot taken of the protagonist also show that their journey is long and difficult and the sense of difficult journeys is similar to all three other sources. The theme of the physical journey providing an inner or imaginative experience is also evident in the photo, through the landscape and scenery, which seems surreal and dreamlike.
Overall the sources discussed all hold important and valuable ideas and concepts on journeys, and they show us that journey is not just physical travel but also an emotional and inner experience.