5/11/2012

“ Examine the ‘notion of change’ as revealed through the texts you have studied this year. In your answer you should refer to your prescribed text, one from the prescribed stimulus booklet Changing, and a related text of your own choosing.”

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Everything is constantly changing; indeed, the world is so ephemeral that one


may argue it is impossible to step into the same river twice. Given the inevitability of


change, the inability to cope with and accept it will lead to a failure to deal with life.


Each of the poems in Peter Skrzynecki’s ‘Immigrant Chronicle’ revolves around the


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key aspect of change. This collection of poems deals with the personal experiences of


migrants, how their perspectives are altered, and how this modification of perception


is brought about. The process and significance of change is a central issue in every


poem. There can be a catalyst for change, as in ‘Kornelia Woloszczuk’ when Kornelia


loses her only child, or it can be a gradual process, as exemplified through the


increasing depression of patients in ‘Chronic Ward’. In each of these instances, the


reader is given a point of view on change, and is shown how perspective can affect


the process of change. One’s perspective offers different viewpoints and therefore


allows different insights to be gleaned from examining a change; simply looking at


something from a different perspective can alter your original view. It is that first


move � shifting your perspective � which is the most difficult. The natural instinct of


any human being is to resist change, and this notion shines through in ‘Feliks


Skrzynecki’, as Feliks refuses to accept the differences between himself and his son.


In ‘Chronic Ward’, Peter Skrzynecki delves into the minds of chronically ill


mental patients in order to relay what may have been the chain of events which


caused them to spiral downwards towards depression and suicide. The conversational


tone in the first stanza suggests the illness is not new. It has been going on for some


time and the patients have adapted to it. Each of these patients is fixated with death;


“[we] Relive the bathtub drama, / The slip-knot confusion / And oven-door mistakes”.


Their perspective has a single focus. These patients yearn for a change, and that


change is death. At the same time, they are resisting change, in the form of the


therapy sessions that are supposed to cure their illness. The treatment is designed to


shift their perspective; with a slight change, their entire outlook on life could be


altered. In fact, the patients are in a life or death situation; if they do not modify their


perception of life, they will not even have a life, outside of the asylum.


Another central theme, closely and conversely related to death, is the concept


of immortality. Throughout ‘Chronic Ward’, Skrzynecki presents many images


relating to permanence and eternity. “How the grass never wears out / With all the


short cuts / The moon takes across our eyes.” The use of enjambment serves to


emphasise each image. These descriptions of transience present a stark contrast to the


image of change; they are static and fixed, whereas the lives of the patients are in a


constant state of flux, however much they wish it were not so. It is obvious that the


mentally ill patients have trouble accepting the notion of change.


These issues of suffering and eternity are carried through in ‘Kornelia


Woloszczuk’. She remarks “How water destroys images / That reflect eternity”. Once


again these pictures of permanence are conveyed. The juxtaposition of the images of


eternity against the erratic state of Kornelia’s life highlights the significance of change


in this poem. Kornelia is detached from the real world; since she lost her only child,


her perception of life has been almost permanently altered. She concludes by saying


that “Having only one child / Is like having / One eye in your head.” Kornelia can


only see life from one angle, for it is as if she has only one eye; her perspective has


been limited to a single view.


In addition to this, the idea of a generation gap is also presented and carried


through ‘Kornelia Woloszczuk’. Throughout the poem, Skrzynecki differentiates


between Kornelia’s grim view of life and her child’s innocent and undeveloped


perception of the surrounding world. Kornelia is associated with images of eternity


and the supernatural; she is compared to the very elements of the world around her, as


she has “Eyes to outstare / The face of the waters”. Her son is more concerned with


the visual, natural world; “I listen for birdcalls, / Look at breaking water / With every


fish in air.” The tragic tone of the poem suggests that Kornelia is unhappy and


dissatisfied with her life, which is then contrasted with the son’s confusion regarding


his inability to solve that suffering. Clearly, Kornelia finds it difficult to cope with the


notion of change, and has trouble moving on.


The ‘gap’ between mother and child in ‘Kornelia Woloszczuk’ also relates to


the barrier between father and son that is presented in ‘Feliks Scrzynecki’. The effects


of time on perspective and the differences that occur because of it are emphasised


through the relationship between the persona and his father. Feliks’ son has difficulty


identifying with the family’s past, and he recognises his difference from Feliks. This


is illustrated through the different methods of speech each has. The persona thinks,


“Feliks Skrzynecki, / That formal address / I never got used to.” As the boy matures,


he grows away from Feliks, and, as time passes, the generation gap between them


grows also. This wall between father and son is stressed when, in the concluding


stanza, “like a dumb prophet, / [Feliks] Watched me pegging my tents / Further and


further south of Hadrian’s Wall.” Feliks’ son accepts change, and moves on, yet


Feliks himself remains fixed in the past.


Futhermore, it is apparent from the tone of the poem that the concept of


perspective, and how your perspective may change over time, is significant. Feliks


and “His Polish friends”, often “reminisced / About farms where paddocks flowered”.


Looking at a situation in hindsight often alters your perception of that situation. The


entire poem, ‘Feliks Skrzynecki’, is concerned with recollecting and remembering


Feliks’ past life. With age, comes enlightenment; the persona begins to understand the


differences between Feliks and himself, now that he has matured. “Growing older, I /


Remember words he taught me, / Remnants of a language / I inherited unknowingly.”


He regrets not having appreciated the Polish language when he was younger, and


now, looking back, and remembering, he realises that his perspective has been altered.


He reflects that Feliks is “Happy as I have never been.” Clearly, the poem is about


more than the migrant experience; it concerns the ways in which young adolescents


can be influenced and how, as they mature, their ideas and behaviour may differ from


that of their parents. Feliks rejects the notion of change, as he wants to live in the past.


The theme of reminiscence and past times is continued in the story entitled


‘Sky-high’, by Hannah Robert [Text ]. The story retells a past experience from


Hannah’s perspective, from when her grandfather came to stay, and contrasts it with


her altered perception in the current day and age. The reader is drawn into the scene


by such descriptive imagery as the “bush with little red berries, [and] a struggling


sapling, [which] surround the patchy lawn like spectators.” The use of alliteration


gives a clearer picture of the landscape she is describing, and combined with


personification, the description of Hannah’s backyard comes alive in our minds. At


first, the washing line is said to have “silver skeletal arms”, and then, through the


passage of time, it has changed. In the present, it is “an older, more age-warped


washing line” with “sagging wires”. Similarly, Hannah has also changed, over time.


As a young girl, she would “swing upside-down” on the washing line, yet now, “it is


unlikely the washing line could support [her]”. She remarks, “There are too many


things tying me to the ground.” Hannah feels the weight of the ages upon her


shoulders; she has changed, and the child-like innocence she once possessed is


stunted and stagnant. Time has caused her perspective to change, and Hannah accepts


this.


The notion of change is also highlighted in the movie, ‘Sister Act Back In


The Habit’ (Written by James Orr, 1). Deloris Van Cartier, a worldly singer, is


asked to disguise herself as a nun and teach a music class at the school of St Francis.


It is only due to Deloris’ unique perspective that she is able to challenge and


reorganise them into a modern singing group. Her distinctive perception of life


changed and modified the perspective of the students. Had the students continued in


their lives without change, or a means for modifying their views and values, the


school would have been closed down and their dreams of singing would never have


been realised. One’s own perspective can therefore be influenced and changed by an


external opinion, often beneficially.


From each of these sources, a common theme becomes apparent. The more


receptive you are to change, the greater your ability to cope with life. In each of his


poems, Skrzynecki subtly highlights the positive aspects of change, and that being


able to cope with change is beneficial, as it allows for a happier life to be led. While it


is true that great deeds are performed by great people, examining those deeds


typically demonstrates a preparedness to initiate change. Anwar Sadat, one of the


great change agents of the 0th


century said, “He who cannot change the very fabric of


his thoughts, will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any


progress.”





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