Band 6 Peter Skzynecki – Perfect Chinese Children

“An individual’s connection with a community can deepen or restrict their sense of belonging”

Discuss this view with reference to your prescribed text and ONE other related text of your own choosing

Belonging initially appears to be a simplistic allegiance to social, cultural, personal and historical ties. However, a closer analysis of texts reveal how it is in fact an interconnected web of dependencies and interdependencies in which one element of isolation or alienation can both deepen and restrict one’s holistic perception of self. Peter Skzynecki’s ‘Immigrant Chronicles’ is one such poetic anthology which explores the close relationship between ones connection to a community and their sense of self worth. Feliks Skrzynecki explores the displacement of the poet’s relationship with his father and hence, his disconnection from the Polish culture and community and examines its detrimental impact upon the poet’s ability to discover his sense of self. In contrast, St Patricks College illustrates how the poet’s disconnection to the school community subsequently helped him to deepen his sense of belonging as it allowed him to gain a deeper understanding of his mother’s affection as well as the ability to exercise his independence and self affirmation. Similarly to both texts, Vanessa Woods’ feature article ‘Perfect Chinese Children’ explores how the barrier of cultural expectation restricts the protagonists sense of belonging from the Chinese community whilst the ability to voice her desires and pursue her own lifestyle allowed her to deepen her sense of personal contentment. Thus, it is undeniable that a deep exploration of these texts showcases how an individual’s relationship and bonds within a community can both deepen and restrict their sense of belonging and sense of self.

Feliks Sk showcases how the diminishment of Peter’s relationship with his Polish heritage alienates him from his father and significantly restricts his perception of self. Initially, the nurturing imagery of a ‘gentle father’ whom had ‘soft, blue eyes’ and taught him ‘remnants of a language [he] inherited unknowingly’ conveys a nostalgic and idolizing tone that connotes a strong relationship between father and son based on respect and admiration. However, we see how Peter’s lack of connection to the Polish community leads to the rise of a cultural barrier ‘I forgot my first Polish word.’ Subsequently, the initial respect is juxtaposed to Peter’s tone of shame and disillusion when the department clerk asks ‘in dancing bear grunt, did your father ever attempt to learn English?’ This alerts Peter to the fragility of his relationship with his father which is now divided by their displaced polish and Australian upbringings. Conclusively, Peter expresses the impact of having such an instable relationship through the paradoxical ‘happy as I have never been’ as Feliks never sought to find social acceptance and was self contented by his connection to his polish agrarian lifestyle in which he ‘loved his garden like an only child’. Thus, it is undeniable that one’s connection to their cultural community is a vital element that can lead to a restrictive sense of alienation and dissatisfaction.

Conversely, St Patricks College examines how Peter’s ability to maintain allegiance to his personal bonds in a setting where he chooses not to belong allows him to develop a greater understanding of his sense of self. SK begins the poem by illustrating his choice not to belong through the catholic school motif of Virgin Mary who ‘watched with outstretched arms’ indicating the welcoming and inviting nature of the school community. However, Peter’s paradoxical desires are reflected in the following ‘her face overshadowed by clouds’ where the imagery showcases Peter’s lack of investment into the decision to attend the school and hence, his lack of desire to gain a sense of attachment to the school community. The continuous nature of Peter’s disassociation from the school is reaffirmed throughout the poem and through the sarcastic tone and temporal imagery ‘for eight years, I carried the blue, black and gold I’d been privileged to wear.’ However, this bitterness is juxtaposed to his tone of acceptance and understanding in the end as he ‘prayed that mother would someday be pleased with what she’d got…the darkness around me wasn’t for the best, before I let my light shine’ His ability to acknowledge that his mother genuinely wanted ‘what was best’ allows for him to enrich his connection with his mother whilst his use of the school motto to inference his future success showcases how the school contributed to an overall sense of personal satisfaction and achievement. Thus, it is clear how Peter’s lack of connection to the school community enriched his sense of self and influenced him to develop a deeper bond with his mother and hence, demonstrating how a lack of connection to communities can also deepen ones sense of belonging.

Additionally, Vanessa Woods’ feature article ‘Perfect Chinese Children’ accentuates the notion that social acceptance can both deepen and restrict one’s holistic self worth. Vanessa examines how the meritocratic nature of her culture creates a barrier that effectively alienates her from her surroundings and leaves her feeling insecure and unstable. She expresses, in a tone of anxiety, ‘If there was ever anyone I wanted to stab in the heart with a chopstick, it was my cousin David’ the graphic imagery and horrific allusion refers to her inability to fulfil the expectations of her culture and compete with her cousin who just ‘got 99.9 on HSC’. This consequently leaves her feeling alienated and questioning her self worth, like Peter in Feliks Skrzynecki as he also feels alienated from his Polish heritage due to his inability to intellectually invest in his father’s attempting at ‘teaching [him] remnants of a language he inherited unknowingly’. However, in contrast, Vanessa also showcases how the alienation from her Chinese culture deepens her connection to her Australian half. ‘It seems to her that I am going the way of Australian children…those who are loud, uncouth…talk back to their parents and hold the chopsticks near the pointed end like peasants’ the listing of negative characteristics and the use of generalisations depicts her mother’s disapproval of her ways, however, Vanessa’s use of humour and tone of nonchalance reveals how connecting to the Australian culture has a more positive impact upon her sense of self creating a link to Peter in St Pats as his detachment from the school community allowed him to expose himself to a wider range of experiences including ‘playing chasings up and down the ramp’ like public school students. Thus, Vanessa demonstrates how a lack of belonging to her Chinese culture impacted her in both a positive and negative manner accentuating the notion that connection to communities has the potential to be both detrimental and beneficial.

Therefore, through a closer analysis of SK’s poetic anthology and Vanessa Woods’ feature article, it becomes irrefutable how ones connection to a particular community has the ability to deepen or restrict one’s perception of self and their holistic sense of belonging.



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