HSC English Standard/Advanced “Belonging”


1.What is meant by 'belonging'???

BELONGING: being a member or part of a certain group or form.

An understanding of belonging is essential as it is an inherent human condition. One either belongs or does not belong to an existing entity.

There are many different groups people belong to. Some include family, peer/social groups, teams, clubs, cultural groups, school, work, nationality/country and lifestyles.

To belong beyond/without a doubt, one needs to fit the expectations/norms of that particular group for instance, to belong to a school community one must be prepared to attend school classes and cooperate with the staff and fellow students, otherwise there is the risk of expulsion.

An individual’s identity is closely interrelated with belonging. Groups are formed due to the similarities/shared interests of its members. Characteristics such as age, gender, location/environment, family, socio-economic status, dominant culture, friends, race/cultural heritage, political views, education, heredity and lifestyle are powerful forces pulling people towards particular groups. We all enjoy the security of the familiar and it is easy to feel frightened when moving into the unknown, the road we haven’t travelled.

Belonging is often used as a safety blanket. People use it to differentiate between groups. A prime example of this is bigotry. The Cronulla riots were the result of irrational racist remarks exchanged between the Lebanese and the Caucasians. Violence, harassment and vilification were present and social groups were established and strengthened purely based on race/cultural group – leading to divisions within the community, ongoing discrimination and social unrest.

Past experiences can teach us life lessons in relation to belonging. “When we begin to understand the forces that drive us to belong, we develop empathy for others and personal insight.” Once this happens social barriers break down. One realises that to ensure they belong and are accepted within society they must stop trying to..(from http://www.writework.com/essay/belonging-1)


2. Another analysis of the concept of belonging:   

A feeling of belonging can be created by physical ownership, a cultural connection, a social group or belonging to a certain place. The desire to obtain these relationships are thought as universal. Not having these relationships can create a feeling of not belonging. These aspects of belonging are explored in a variety of texts, such as the free verse novel, “The Simple Gift”, written by Steven Herrick. The song “Small Town” written by John Mellencamp and the short story “Only Ten” written by Allan Baillie all explore belonging in a similar way.

The main characters in “The Simple Gift” and “Only Ten” both feel that they do not belong at the beginning of the story. Billy feels alienated from his father, school, his town and the community. Hussein is first not accepted at his new school when he moves from his old war torn country. The idea of belonging is shown differently through the song “Small Town”. The man is shown to belong in the town and the community surrounding it.

The character Billy from “The Simple gift” is first shown to have a disconnection from his father which can be shown from the quote “Drink this instead to celebrate your son leaving home.” He is also shown to dislike school, from the quote “It’s the only time my schoolbag has come in handy.”

Billy feels that he connects with Westfield creek, and can be shown from the quote “I love this place”. Steve Herrick uses highly descriptive language to amplify a feeling of belonging though the characters.

Billy physically moves from his old lifestyle due to his sense of not belonging at home and school. Billy is accepted by Ernie the train driver, even though he is homeless. He is similarly accepted by the librarian in Bendarat, helping him in his transition to belonging. Billy finds old Bill, who is also homeless, living in an old train carriage. they are both outcast from society, and create their own sense of belonging. Billy and Old Bill both reject the pressure of mainstream society, but for different reasons. Billy chooses not to belong to his father, and Old Bill attempts to forget the death of his daughter and Wife.

Billy and Caitlin’s relationship develops throughout the verse novel. Caitlin does not judge Billy while he is eating food scraps at McDonald’s. The quote “I hate mopping” shows that they both dislike what they are doing.

Steven Herrick uses symbols throughout the novel, such as the key. this represents the gift Old Bill gives to Billy. Old Bill is able to move on with his life after giving the house to Billy.

The short story “Only Ten” tells the story of a young boy who has moved from a war torn countr. He struggles to belong at his new school and with the other children. The main character, Hussein, is shown to not belong anywhere. The quote “They can see in here” shows the fear of soldiers from his old country. Husseins paranoia is also evident when he is playing football. Hussein sees the ball falling from the sky and relates it to a bomb. The quote “You are here now” shows Bruce accepting Hussein and helping him to feel as he belongs.

Bruce attacks Hussein with a ruler, to see how he would react. This gives Hussein a greater feeling of alienation towards Bruce, and the rest of the children. Hussein is shown to have a desire to belong. This is evident as Hussein follows the other children around. Hussein is gradually more accepted throughout the story, allowing him to belong.

The song “Small Town” tells the story of a man that has belonged his whole life. This connection is created through the community, family and his home.

The quotes “Well I was born in a small town” and “Probly die in a small town” show how he feels about his lifestyle. The phrase “small town” is repeated throughout the song. This strengthens the man’s feeling of belonging in the town.

The quote “All my friends are so small town” shows that he has social connections where he lives. This also shows that his friends belong as well. He is shown to have family living in the town from the quote “My parents live in the same small town”.

He also shows that he does not wish to change his lifestyle from the quote “But my bed is in a small town”. It can also be shown from the quote “Gonna die in this small town.”

The three texts mentioned all show belonging in similar ways, all exploring aspects that create the idea. In my opinion, “The Simple Gift” best explores the concept through the simplistic characterization.




3. Belonging – some suggested related texts with a very brief review on each



4. Essay question for Paper I Part III

How has your study of Belonging broadened your perception of “belonging” in reference

to yourself, individuals, community and the world?

In your answer you must refer to TWO poems by Peter Skrzynecki and AT LEAST TWO

additional texts.

5. Click below for a sample answer:

6. Related Text Scaffold

7. Belonging revision exercise 1

8. Belonging revision exercise  2