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The Desire To Belong Challenges Individuality With Conformity

1526 words - 7 pages

The yearning to belong can imbalance a person’s sense of individuality and personality. In a contemporary Western society, individuality can come in the form of cultural heritage, however, the desire to belong into this mainstream Western society can challenge a person’s acceptance of their cultural background and influence them to reject it whilst attempting to conform to the culture of the society they now live in. This challenge is demonstrated in Peter Skrzynecki’s poem ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’ where Peter attempts to assimilate into Australian society, it is also illustrated in ‘Born Confused’ (novel) by Tanuja Desai Hidier, where Dimple Lala rejects her Indian culture to fit into modern ...view middle of the document...

Peter’s Polish heritage would have been a key contributor to his individuality as during the time-frame of this poem, Australia was a much less multicultural country than it is today. The nation’s policy was based on ‘assimilation’ and that’s exactly what Peter tried to do and this is demonstrated in his actions. He stumbled “over tenses in Caesar’s Gallic War” which was written in Latin, a language not spoken anymore, was critical of the Polish culture and his father’s “Polish friends” who “Always shook hands to violently/ I thought...”, and even “forgot my [his] first Polish word”.
As Peter grew older, he began to understand that it was his attempts to conform and belong in contemporary Australian society that, in actual fact, created a barrier for his sense of belonging. The enjambment, when Peter describes his father as “Happy as I [Peter] have never been”, emphasizes this idea and highlights his understanding of what it means to belong and being content with oneself, as his father is, is crucial in order to gain a sense of belonging.
Peter’s desire to belong was rather strong but it was his perceptions that created that barrier and deemed him unable to belong. Peter rejects his Polish heritage, a key component of his individuality, and forces himself to adapt into Australian society and conform to the Western way of life.

Similarly, at the same impressionable age as Peter of being a teenager, Dimple Lala rejects her Indian heritage (which forms part of her individuality) and attempts to embrace and conform into contemporary American adolescent society. Dimple has been raised in modern-day America and claims she has the “gift of invisibility”. She is dependent on her Anglo-Saxon best-friend, Gwyn, and follows Gwyn’s directions in order to “fit in” to the Western society she lives in. The challenge for Dimple is embracing her background as, similar to Peter, a lack of understanding prevents her acceptance and sense of balance of it. Dimple, in an attempt to conform and belong to the adolescent society she lives in, purchases clothes from “Style Child” which is “Gwyn’s favourite store” and watches as her “mother’s face fell” when her mother observes that the clothes were provocative and revealing. Dimple, aware of her parents’ disproval of her dress-sense, wears a “coverall coat” as she leaves the house and then removes it under Gwyn’s instruction when she’s out. This choice to assent with Gwyn’s directions demonstrates Dimple’s decision to reject, or “cover”, her culture and attempt to conform and ‘belong’ in what she perceives to be mainstream American society. The novel is written in first-person and Dimple’s challenge and struggle is demonstrated throughout with the use of symbolism. Dimple has the body of an “Indian woman”, as described by her mother, which is curvy and shapely; however, Dimple rejects her body and constantly draws attention to her discomfort about it. Metaphorically, Dimple’s body symbolises her culture and her...

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