Forces both external and internal shape our identity. The people that form our families, the friends that surround us, the positions we occupy in society, are all links that together form our belonging in the world. // In Area of Study: Belonging,this is reflected by two texts, Romulus my Father by Raimond Giata, where two migrants – Romulus, whose belonging is his strength of character and personal values, and Raimond, a son both nourished and diminished by his time at Frogmore is narrated. This is also evident in the GW Feature Article Perfect Chinese Children; where an Eurasian girl reflects upon the deeply felt impact of divorce and displacement from a home of affluence to one of poverty. In examining the dynamics of affirmation in these texts, the analysis will demonstrate how external forces such as community, culture and family can deeply influence how one belongs.
Romulus from Giata’s biography Romulus my father explores the notion that belonging can only be achieved through intellectual and emotional investment into one’s own life and its surroundings. Romulus’ sense of belonging comes from far more than his simple labour on the land – it comes from the very essence of his character, the strong sense of who he is, defined by his actions. Raimond describes his father with the tri-colon of, “honesty, loyalty, courage and a capacity for hard work”. He further employs the anecdote of his father’s ability to transform metal into beautiful works of art, “He was so at ease with his materials…that they seemed to be in friendship,” to describe the relationship between labour, craftsmanship, and his father’s unwavering sense of his own identity. This is further remonstrated by Raimond in describing his father’s confrontation with others “the sheer integrity of his demeanour, and the unquestionable authority of a man whose reputation they knew…would not allow them [to mock him]”. Ironically it is this strong sense of self conviction and place in the world that fundamentally shakes Romulus when he suffers a stroke. Paralyzed on the left side, he “quitted his ironwork” and became “vulnerable to depression”. What has empowered Romulus to be a character of such strength now diminishes him utterly. His own evaluation to himself, that “I’m good for nothing Just for the rubbish heap”, communicates that [Answer the question] – that the external forces (reputation) that make us belong can also diminish us.
Raimond also demonstrates that external factors have a fundamental influence on how we belong. The place of belonging for Raimond, that of Frogmore, is a piece of nature that both nourishes him like a baby bird, and entraps him – so that only by leaving Frogmore can he fulfil his dreams of becoming a philosopher and writer. Initially, we can observe Raimond’s life in Frogmore as bountiful and nourishing. Physically, he is provided for by his father and Hora who “made my meals, washed my clothes… provided everything I needed.” Mentally, he was taught by his father to “know what an honest man is… know what friendship is.” As such, Frogmore becomes a place of nourishment that gives Raimond his character and health. However, it is also a terribly conservative place. When Raimond discovers his own individuality, it is utterly destroyed by Romulus, the ‘Rock and Roll’ anecdote which “awakened emotions that [he] had never felt before” demonstrates how Raimond’s creativity cannot flourish in Frogmore. That Raimond “enrolled in Melbourne High School…sat the entrance exam” without his father’s knowledge is an example of how only by leaving the nest can he truly achieve independence. Again, the fact that “father did not allow me to go” and that when Raimond participated in left right politics, Hora accused him of being a ‘communist” and “did not speak to him for a month.” Shows us that only by removing from our comfort zones can true belonging and identity be achieved.
Lastly, in Perfect Chinese Children, Vanessa Woods discusses how her removal from her nucleus Australian home to an Asian adoption following the divorce of her parents utterly shatters her sense of security and identity. Similar to how Romulus felt displaced by the “scraggy shapes and sparse foliage” of the Australian Outback, and Christina by a landscape that ‘highlighted her isolation…” Vanessa Woods’ physical surroundings also reflect her sense of alienation due to the displacement from her nucleus family. “The kitchen is fine if you’re a troll and enjoy dim, cramped spaces… with the ambience of a refugee camp…” the visual imagery of the “cramped spaces” and the ‘refugee’ metaphor reinforce her resentful surrounding. This is further reinforced by the use of pathos to accuse her divorcee mother, “for failing to make me feel like I am warm and safe and don’t need to steal… to make up for what I don’t have.” Demonstrating the essential nature of security and the influence of our surroundings upon our identity.
However, Vanessa also alludes that the inability of her mother to provide a life that was on par with that of their Asian relatives did not impact the very fundamental basics of their filial bonds. She cites a powerful anecdote of pathos, using the sacrifice motif to demonstrate their bond that exists beyond physical providence. “My mother buys chicken wings… it is all her salary can afford… on my plate there is two… on hers, there is only one.” The narrative clearly demonstrates that what attracts Woods to her mother is the same strength of character, much like Raimond to Romulus, despite their disagreements of life styles. Her final words “And in her sacrifice, I see love.” uses the strong tone of admiration to clearly communicate that the bonds we share with others, despite the alienation and expectations, are still ones that nourish who we are as individuals.