According to individual choice belonging can be accepted or refused. Despite inclusion in a place or community, significant connections may not be developed. An individual identity must be formed in order to establish attachment and fulfilment. Peter Skrzynecki’s “Feliks Skrzynecki” and “Migrant hostel” support and oppose belonging as individual choice. Similarly in “Pleasantville “ by Gary Ross a unique personal contribution to society is what truly establishes belonging. Initially in “Feliks Skrzynecki” a connection with the persona and his father is established on the basis of their relationship.
The subjude tone “my gentle father” emphasises the admiration the son holds towards his father. However, despite this the son cannot relate to his father, as he fails to belong to that which he does not understand. The use of humour through the sons perspective “I often wondered how he existed… why his arms didn’t fall off” highlights his misconception of his father through a juvenile gaze. This results in his distance from his father’s Polish culture and his rejection of his own cultural inheritance.
The reference in the third person “His Polish friends” seperates the son and the father as he is not connected to the father’s friends, symbolic of the inability to relate to a Polish identity. Similarly in “Pleasantville” Mary-sue is trapped within a foreign world which she fails to relate to whilst holding the values of a future generation. Therefore she cannot belong to that which she cannot understand. In the television scene, Mary-sue and David are in contact with the “pleasant” world of the 1960’s in an absence of colour.
The colour symbolism of black, white and grey tones expresses the lack of realism within Pleasantville and the plain values held in it. The exaggerated facial expressions of joy and contentment communicated the unnatural experiences Mary-sue and David encounter at the moment of arrival. The contrast between the 1960’s Pleasantville image and the 1990’s schoolyard, cause a failure to assimilate into a world alienated from fear, sadness and pain, containing solely what is “pleasant”. Through the failure to experience enrichment an individual identity must be expressed to form significant connections.
The son in “Feliks Skrzynecki” continues to be separated from his father’s Polish culture through his Australian education. The statement “I forgot my first Polish word” emphasises the increasing distance from that which he fails to familiarise with. The metaphor of his father as a dumb prophet highlights the inability for his father’s past and culture to remain significantly as the innate development of his own culture overrules this. As in “Pleasantville” through the mother’s education on individualism she moves towards a more feminist viewpoint, opposed to her original role as the stereotypical 1960’s housewife.
The composition placing the husband at an increased height, looking down on his wife suggests his belief in inherent power over women. The colour contrast to the black and white husband and the coloured wife is symbolic as it implies her alienation from him and her satisfaction in developing as an individual. In juxtaposition to this, belonging is innate and must be achieved at any expense in “Migrant hostel”. This is communicated through the emphatic language “Nationalities sought/Each other out instinctively” as the migrants are placed in a foreign context.
The symbolism of “whose track we would follow” implies the determination to assimilate into Australian culture in order to establish fulfilment. The metaphor of “A barrier at the main gate” is symbolic of the prevention of developing connections to the Australian society through citizens judgemental values. As in “Pleasantville” whilst David resists Mary-Sue’s intentions of introducing individuality into Pleasantville, and critically makes the choice to assimilate into society in order to develop purpose.
This is demonstrated through the make-up scene as David (now Bud) conforms to the societal values of Pleasantville in covering his mothers “coloured” individuality with black and white makeup. The salient point of the mother’s coloured face is representative of her enrichment through her development of individuality whilst her fear of judgement within a conservative society initially prevents her from embracing this fully. As societal pressures to belong in a community increase, a fear of judgement may cause an individual or cultural group to surrender their own values.
In “Migrant hostel” the personification of the gate “as it rose and fell like a finger” signifies the gate as Australian society, judging the ostracised migrants. As the migrants fear judgement they require the gate’s “sanction” and acceptance. The metaphoric meaning beneath “or we’re dying” emphasises the certainty they hold in the essential development of belonging. Similar to Pleasantville’s makeup scene, the vector of David’s arm towards the mother’s eyes is symbolic of her masked perception in viewing belonging into a group rather than embracing her individuality.
The makeup acts as a seal, preventing her true values from being witnessed by those in fear of difference within the conservative society. In all four texts, a fear of judgement of individuality is present in the surrendered approach to belong. In developing confidence in identity one may resist belonging that fails to provide fulfilment. Peter Skrzynecki’s “Feliks Skrzynecki” and “Migrant hostel” and Gary Ross’ “Pleasantville”, convey this complex idea of belonging.
January 9, 2018
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