Belonging: the Breakfast Club

Belonging: the Breakfast Club

The securities offered by a sense of belonging are attractive, but can blind you to what lies outside the sphere of influences that they exert. It is only when we gain a much broader insight into the concept of belonging and when we move beyond the security of what we know and believe; that we can start to fully appreciate other social concepts. Perhaps an ideal of “belonging” is most clearly seen, when it is contrasted with a sense of exclusion; of alienation.

The poems “migrant hostel” and “Feliks Skrzynecki” by Peter Skrzynecki, the movie “The breakfast club” by john Huges and “the angry kettle” by Ding Xiaoqi demonstrate this challenge to a sense of belonging and how it can have personal impacts. “Migrant hostel” voice the hardship experienced by the personas family in an attempt to fit into the Australian culture. The “nationalities sought each other out instinctively- like a homing pigeon”. This simile suggests that the families want to belong, so “instinctively”; without control, the different nationalities come together, because they have something in common that they can connect with.

The idea that it’s hard to see past barriers you have become accustomed to, is also seen in “the breakfast club”. The five people in detention all look very different and we come to see they represent different social groups – all looking stereotypical for their role. “you see us as you want to see us… you see us as a brain, and athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal… that’s the way we saw each other”. Because they look stereotypical for a certain group, they feel as if they have to belong to it. This creates barriers between them automatically.

They do not want to accept and become part of the others’ life style. These stereotypes emphasise differences in reality. It generalises the outward consensus of the school, but by doing this it successfully illustrates a very real point. They have become blinded towards one another by the comfort of belonging. Fitting into a different culture is also seen as hard for the narrator in “The angry kettle”. A few paragraphs onto the story we learn that the narrator is Chinese. Michael was always “eager to pick up my English mistakes”.

She uses a simile to show how hard it was for her to make a conversation; “I tried speaking like a machine-gun to stop him from interrupting me”. Although she tries to fit into the immediate situation, she still belongs to a Chinese background, and Michael knows this. He makes it hard for her to fit into the lifestyle he’s composed. The word “Partitioned” in “migrant Hostel” suggests, like in “the breakfast club”, a barrier. This barrier is physical as the migrant hostel separates the family from the outside world. It suggests they know they cannot live without it, but wish for their own freedom.

It is also though, a metaphorical barrier, created by the family towards the outside world and the Australian culture. In the title, from “the breakfast club”, the word “club” suggests that there will become an affinity between these very different people, and this does happen. The group of people found out that they weren’t so different after all. None of them got on with their parents, and it was through this alienation towards their families that they could find a sense of belonging to each other. It was only when the group braced a much more open concept of belonging that they could start to become closer.

In “migrant hostel” it was incredibly hard for the family to move past what they knew, and start to create a connection with their new country. “A barrier at the main gate sealed off the highway”. The physical barrier indicates segregation from the wider culture and the Australian people as a national group. It creates a sense of alienation as they feel they are not wanted and accepted. A “highway” is a connection between different places, to be “sealed off” from this highway suggests to the reader that the family is not free to be moving anywhere.

The dominant Australian culture has excluded them and has blinded the family as to what life could really be like out of the hostel. This dominant Australian culture has also “seemingly” evoked against the narrator in “the angry kettle” when she has a fight with Michal about her food. Michal sums it up saying, “If you don’t like sandwiches, you shouldn’t have come to Australia. ” Feliks, in Peter Skrzynecki’s poem “Feliks Skrzynecki”, “loved his garden like an only child”. This simile shows his dedication to the land and his contentment in life.

The hyperbole “swept its paths/ ten times around the world”, suggests the poets childish admiration towards his father’s love of the land. It is through his garden, that Feliks can find a connection with his past life at “farms where paddocks flowered”. He is detached from the Australian people but not the soil. Allison, the “basket case” in “the breakfast club” is, at first, very detached from the other students. She keeps to herself and this is described to us by Bender the “criminal”, who says; “the girl is an island in herself. This is a strong literary allusion to John Doune’s quote- “no man is an island, entire of itself”. This allusion has very strong connotations. It suggests Allison is seen by the rest of the students as being both socially detached but also mentally detached from herself. She doesn’t have the ability to reach out to anyone and form a sense of belonging, so like an “island”, she stays by herself; is separated. It is only when Andrew starts to talk to her that she opens her thoughts and warms to him. This causes her to form a sense of the connection between them.

So it was only through these new insights that she found a way to belong – through insight established by someone other than herself. One person in “the breakfast club” who was greatly blinded by the sphere of influences he’d accepted, was Andrew. He tells us how he “taped Larry Lester’s buns together”. This may seem like a humorous occasion but the use of the slow haunting music and the slow panning shot around Andrews face turns the occasion into a very shameful act, one he reinforced, to gain his father’s acceptance.

He wanted to live up to his father’s expectations of a “true man” but because of this he goes against his inner self conscience and shames innocent people, making him a bully. He couldn’t look outside a dominant sphere of influences. He just wanted to feel accepted by his father but this pear pressure bought upon him awful consequences. Skrzynecki himself can also be blinded by a personal fear of belonging and its difficult consequences. Throughout his poems, for example “Feliks Skrzynecki”, we see how he wants to look up to his father.

His connection is so strong that he also has a sense of alienation towards the Australian culture, like that of his father, but also to the polish culture noted when he states he is “pegging my tent… further south of Hadrian’s Wall”. Because of this, he feels he can neither connect with his past heritage or the heritage he could be living. The poems “migrant hostel” and “Feliks Skrzynecki” by Skrzynecki, the short story “the angry kettle” and the movie “the breakfast club” all show how belonging is, too, human nature, and we define ourselves, trying to seek it out.

They also show, however, that to belong to something, whether it be a social group or even a cultural heritage, can blind us to what lies outside that sphere. This needs to be recognised. Complex issues are evolved in recognising a necessity to redefine ourselves – to redefine those distinctive characteristics which we might choose – or need – to adapt. Although it took them a whole day to figure out, the breakfast club saw this and concluded; “you see us as you want to see us… but we learnt that each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal”