HSC English Prescribed Text Analysis Peter Skrzyneckiâ€™s Immigrant Chronicle Area of Study: Belonging An Analysis for HSC English (Standard) and HSC English (Advanced)
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Poetry Analysis Feliks Skrzynecki This poem is a tribute to Peter Skrzynecki’s father, Feliks. Through the use of powerful and vivid imagery, the poet successfully conveys Feliks as a man who is comfortable, content and secure in his own identity – he is a man who has found or perhaps created his sense of belonging. This is established as a contrast to the persona in the poem who is experiencing identity conflict. The persona struggles to reconcile becoming an individual by differentiating himself from his parents – “pegging…tents” and the collective identity that comes from belonging to the cultural world of his parents; characterised by “inherited” “remnants of a language” and “Polish friends” who “always shook hands too violently”. In this poem, the concepts of belonging are: o o o o
Belonging to place Belonging to family Belonging to community and culture Belonging to a collective/shared history
Close Analysis of the Poem First Stanza: The poem opens with the use of 1st person singular – “my gentle father”, suggests ownership and recognition of a familial bond; the persona belongs to his father. The use of the word “gentle” establishes Feliks as a calm and mild man, a moderate person who is content to keep “pace only with the Joneses of his own mind’s making”. Here, the poet has made a reference to the idiom ‘to keep up with the Joneses’, a now clichéd phrase meaning to continually strive to have the things your neighbours have. However, the poet uses the expression to show that Feliks does not need to belong to “the Joneses”; a group characterised by continual social climbing and one-upmanship. Rather, Feliks sets standards “of
his own mind’s making”. He is comfortable in belonging to his own world – his garden, family and cultural heritage. This is further emphasised through the use of the simile “loved his garden like an only child”. This shows the importance of the garden to Feliks. He experiences an almost familial connection to it as he tends to it with the same love, care and attention one affords an only child. Moreover, the garden can also be interpreted as Feliks’ constructed world; a place he escapes to in order to feel a sense of belonging. This is established through the poet’s use of hyperbole “spent years walking it’s perimeter from sunrise to sleep”, continually sweeping “its paths ten times around the world”.
Second Stanza: The second stanza conveys the respect and admiration the persona has for his father. Whilst he admires his father’s “gentle” and dedicated nature in the first stanza, the persona goes on to develop Feliks’ character as hard-working and resilient in the second stanza. The persona stands in awe of his father’s as he “often wondered how he existed on five or six hours sleep each night”. It is significant that the persona stands in a position of admiration. He is casting himself as the ‘onlooker’ or ‘outsider’ figure that can observe, respect and admire his father, but cannot feel that he truly belongs to the same world as his father.
Third Stanza: The persona’s sense of being the outsider is further emphasised in stanza three. Here the persona introduces Feliks’ “Polish friends” who “always shook hands too violently” and addressed his father formally as “Feliks Skrzynecki”; an address the persona admits he “never got used to”. This shows the distance between the persona and his cultural heritage. He does not understand and cannot feel comfortable with the customs of the older generation, showing that he does not belong to the world of his father. Moreover, the persona’s alienation from his Polish heritage only serves to distance him further from his own father. The void between father and son is compounded by their lack of shared history and common experiences. The Polish men are able to reminisce “about farms where paddocks flowered with