Top of the morning to you. My name is Frank McCourt and I’ve actually been forced to stand up here and talk to you about ‘belonging’. Now, the dictionary describes belonging as being a member, being related or being owned. Sounds easy right? Ha! Wrong. Belonging is complex. It is a process that requires constant reinforcement. To belong entails a quirky fusion of kinship, locality, experience and even spirituality. There is no rule book on how to belong so it must be frequently improvised.
Peter Skrzynecki communicates the concept of belonging through his poems ’10 Mary Street’ and ‘In The Folk Museum’ by using such techniques as similes metaphors and person pronouns and I, Frank McCourt, communicate my ideas on belonging in my biographical novel, ‘Angela’s Ashes’, through the use of analogy and allusion. By using similes it allows Skrzynecki to articulate the connection that he had had to the house at ‘10 Mary Street’ to the audience. …shut the house like a well-oiled lock…’ portrays the security Skrzynecki had felt within the house. This simile helps the audience to visualise the close connection that Skrzynecki describes in that stanza. This implies that belonging is through having a long history with certain possessions and having an emotional connection to that same possession, in this case Skrzynecki’s first Australian home. The emotions of Skrzynecki towards the house are furthermore emphasised with the utilization of a metaphor.
The line ‘we became citizens of the soil/that was feeding us – inheritors of a key/that’ll open no house/when this one is pulled down’ reveals the regret and sorrow that he felt when the very first place that Skrzynecki could call home since coming to Australia was torn down. It is through these techniques, such as similes and metaphors, that Skrzynecki was able to demonstrate the idea that belonging can occur through a locality and back up the previous thesis that to belong, an emotional and historical connection must be present.
However, in his poem ‘In the Folk Museum’, by the use of a personal pronoun, Skrzynecki conveys a different side to this complexity, the one of not belonging. For example, ‘.. And I leave without wanting a final look.. ’ shows the audience that, because the historical relics of Australia were not part of his cultural or personal history, Skrzynecki had no connection with the museum or the artefacts within it, such as the machinery, clothes and transport.
Also, the use of the personal pronoun ‘I’ creates the sense of him being alone, emphasising the lack of belonging that Skrzynecki had to the museum and all that was in it. Through the techniques Skrzynecki used in ‘In the Folk Museum’ he seconds the idea that even to belong through experience means that it is essential in having the same history and being able to apply the same emotional attachment to that history and that without it there can not be that connection, hence, not belonging.
The idea that belonging stems from being part of a group or organisation is well communicated in my novel, ‘Angel’s Ashes’, when I describe the feeling of excitement before my first communion, by using biblical allusion. “.. The moment the Holy Communion is placed on our tongues we become members of that most glorious congregation… ” expresses the honour of which I felt at the thought of being inducted into that honourable religion of the Catholics.
The Holy Communion is a small, sugary wafer that symbolises the body and blood of the Lord which is literally placed on the children’s tongues to receive what they call is the Sanctifying Grace of which is simply the pride of belonging to such a ‘pure’ religion. For the Irish, it was of utmost importance to go to church, become and follow the Catholic way otherwise you were looked upon as being ‘protestants’ and being doomed for the rest of your life. so for me it was a pretty big deal and meant that I could finally ‘belong’.
The use of biblical allusion helps the audience create a meaning and understanding to the text. But, later on in the novel, most confusingly, I describe that sometimes to be part of a group or organisation could lead to a feeling of not belonging in some aspects. The quote “.. If you go to the Doctor’s house and the maid see’s you’re from the lower classes she tells you to go to the Dispensary where you belong… ” demonstrates through analogy that even though you belong to the ‘lower class’ category, you aren’t actually seen to belong in society.
The Dispensary is a place where the lower class people go when they can’t afford a doctor. It’s degrading to all that has to go there so when the maid tells you to go to the Dispensary as that is where you belong she is telling you that you don’t deserve a doctor because of your place in society. The analogy helps to personalise the experience so that the audience can connect to my words and feel the emotion behind them. Belonging is all about connection.
Throughout this whole speech it has been frequently repeated that, whether it is to a locality, group, culture, class or experience, without the connection there is no belonging. Skrzynecki theorises in his poem, ’10 Mary Street’, that to belong to a locality experiences and relative emotions are needed for that connection, which is then supported in my second choice of poetry, ‘In the Folk Museum’, which also expresses that without the past and cultural experiences belonging cannot occur.
I too create and support the theory that experiences are essential in the connection to belong through my application of analogy and biblical allusion in quotes from my novel. Belonging is not easy, as Skrzynecki conveys through his poetry of ‘In a Folk Museum’ but through experiences, localities, kinship, groups and a little reinforcement of emotions towards these concepts its not impossible.