Belonging Romulus My Father
How has the concept of belonging been represented in Romulus and at least one related text? Have you ever felt like you would never be accepted? Like you wouldn’t belong? A sense of belonging can come from connections made with people, places, groups, communities and the larger world. These connections are evident in the memoir Romulus My Father by Raimond Gaita and the novel Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. The perceptions of belonging in these texts are shaped by the detachment or connections made with people, culture and landscape in a historical context.
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Aspects of belonging may be considered in terms of experiences of identity, notions of identity, relationships, acceptance and understanding. Throughout Raimond Gaita’s memoir Romulus My Father it reveals how one person can feel completely isolated from a place whilst another can feel the complete opposite. This was shown through the contrast of the two characters of Romulus himself and his wife, Christine. The contrast between the two is apparent in the quote “My fathers devoted care of me contrasted obviously with her neglect and this fuelled the hostility towards her”.
This quote also shows the dislike that the people in the community had for Christine because of her lack of commitment to the family and responsibilities like her motherly duties. Gaita uses vivid imagery to describe Christine’s alienation within the landscape when he says “I first saw her when she was two hundred metres or so from the house, alone, small, frail, walking with an uncertain gait and distracted air. ” Using the adjectives, alone, small and frail also give us a haunting description of how Christine is on the inside and how she feels in this environment.
The struggle Christine felt trying to fit in is also the cause of her mental illness. This is shown in the quote “she could not settle in a dilapidated farmhouse in a landscape that highlighted her isolation. She longed for company. ” Romulus himself also felt culturally isolated when he first moved to Australia. This isolation is evident in the quote “As soon as my father arrived at the camp…he asked…whether there were any other Romanians. This quote represents to the audience the desperation Romulus had to find people of his own culture to feel affiliated with and experience that sense of belonging in a new and foreign place.
In the novel, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, belonging is portrayed in a different yet similar way to that of Romulus My Father. Set in Germany in 1942, Bruno is the son of a Nazi officer whose family had to move to the location of the Nazi concentration camps for his fathers work. Naive and oblivious, the 8 year old boy is unaware of what his father does as a job and instantly feels detached from their new home. His misery he feels in their new home is emphasised when he says “This isn’t home and it never will be”.
Boyne’s emotive language of the new house and the area it is in creates the image and feeling of isolation and symbolises the way the Jews in the concentration camp were living. The quote “The new house…stood all on its own in an empty, desolate place and there were no other houses anywhere to be seen, which meant…no other boys to play with, neither friends nor trouble” shows the contrast between Bruno’s old life which symbolises freedom and happiness and his new life which symbolises alienation and loneliness. Belonging is also portrayed in this text through the hierarchy of the two different groups of the Nazi soldiers and the Jews. All the people in the camp wore the same clothes, those pyjamas and their striped cloth hats too; and all the people who wondered through his house…wore uniforms of varying quality and decoration…and carried guns and always looked terribly stern. ” This quote demonstrates the way the two groups were differentiated and set apart due to statuses of power. This sense of hierarchy between the two groups is also evident when Bruno asks his father about the “people in the huts” and his father replies “Those people… well, they’re not people at all, Bruno. When Bruno meets Shmuel a Jewish boy who lives on the other side of the fence, they instantly have a connection. This connection is formed after they find out they were born on the same day in the same year. As Bruno starts to belong less and less to his own world, he longs to live more in Shmuel’s world on the other side of the fence. This is proven in how insistent Bruno is on going to the other side of the fence – “Or I could come to you” said Bruno…He had hoped that Shmuel would suggest this himself but there didn’t seem to be any sign of that. Boyne’s use of symbolism in the novel adds a great sense of ostracism. The fence around the concentration camp that Bruno and Shmuel sit on either side of to talk everyday is a symbol of the barrier that separates their differences in beliefs and of their worlds, which are extremely diverse. In conclusion belonging has been represented in a similar way in the memoir Romulus My Father by Raimond Gaita and in the novel Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne through the alienation in different environments and cultures by the Characters.