Character Analysis: Romulus My Father Essay
Romulus achieves a sense of belonging to his community through work. It is clear that Romulus feels the way to belong to a community is through hard work and through proving his ‘worth’ to that community. 1950s rural Australia tolerated immigrants, however rarely accepted them as individuals and respect usually had to be earned. This understanding of belonging develops Romulus a ‘reputation’ in his community; “his work became admired and his business prospered” (ch. 7, pg. 99).
Romulus’s assimilation in the Australian culture reveals how work became a crucial factor in overcoming inherent prejudices in the Australian community. These would have previously barriers to Romulus’s sense of belonging. Romulus’s character is defined greatly between the bond he has with his work and the love he has with his tools. “He was so at ease with his materials and always so respectful of their nature that they seemed in friendship with him” (Ch. 7, pg. 97) His work serves a very important function in providing his links to the community around him and in healing him after many tragic experiences.
Romulus’s sense of belonging to family is challenged constantly by Christine’s actions. Romulus has his sense of belonging to family challenged and damaged by Christine’s mental illness. After Raimond was born, she proves herself incapable of fulfilling the motherly role in a conventional way. Therefore Romulus’s notion of a traditional family is challenged, through his role as a motherly figure in a very traditional post war Australia. Christine’s affair with Mitru is a particularly difficult obstacle to the sense of belonging Romulus is trying desperately to maintain.
He blamed her and…. he pitied Mitru, believing he was caught in something he could not control, which would cause him considerable pain and perhaps consume him. ” (ch. 6, p. 82). The repetition of ‘blamed’ and the accumulation of negative diction in this extract reinforce how difficult this experience is for Romulus. He is not able to experience a sense of belonging to family without complications and constant threats to its stability. Romulus’s sense of belonging to culture is further challenged by is migration to Australia.
Romulus, through out his life maintains a close connection to his Romanian heritage through his actions, language, practices and beliefs. The Australian way of life challenges his belonging to his Romanian culture, despite this Romulus adheres to the things he was brought up with. Further more as much as Romulus adjusts to an Australian life, he still ‘longed for European society, saying that he felt like “a prisoner”; in Australia’ (ch. 11. Pg. 169) The simile illustrates that, Ones experience of another culture or nation remains a barrier to a complete sense of belonging.
Christine Christine fails to belong to her family because of her mental illness. Christine’s mental illness proves too big a barrier to belonging for her family: ‘She seemed incapable of taking care of me, ignoring my elementary needs of feeding and bathing’ (ch. 1, p. 8). Due to Christine’s incapability of fulfilling her requirements as a mother, she is never able to be fully accepted as a part of the family. Her comings and goings from the family once they move to Australia further reinforces this obstacle.
Her infidelities with other men, while in relationships with both Romulus and Mitru, also become barriers to belonging to those relationships. Further more Christine is unable to belonging due to her inability to function as a ‘normal’ mother or wife. Even with her new family, Mitru and Susan, Christine’s mental illness continues to be a barrier to belonging. Gaita’s recollection of how he ‘wheeled her [Susan] in her pram for hours’ (ch. 6, pg. 90), illustrates that as a young boy he shows more affection for his half sister then his mother, demonstrating how Christine really didn’t belong in the family.
Christine’s eventual suicide, after many failed attempts, shows how her illness became a barrier to belonging. The need to belong is integral to the human psyche. As an adult reflecting on his mother’s life and death, Gaita is able to recognise in hindsight: “No failing of character, no vice, explains or even describes her incapacity properly to care for her children’ (ch. , pg. 112). The repetition shows he knows that her illness is the only explanation for why she was never able to belong fully to him, to his father or to society as a whole.
* Raimond’s sense of belonging to his father is shaped through his father’s constancy and consistency. From the outset Romulus took the role as the primary care giver, due to Christine’s inability to be a mother. Romulus ensured that Raimond felt he belonged by providing the basic life-giving necessities: ‘he denied himself so that I would have more; he fainted from hunger on more than one occasion’ (ch. 1, p. 9). This description of Raimond not going without and feeling security, when there seemed to be none, reinforces for us that he has an unwavering belief that his father will provide for and protect him.
Raimond’s sense of belonging to other significant adults helps bridge the absence of his mother. As a young child Raimond belongs to others in his community – Hora, Mitru, the Lilies, Miss Collard. This sense of belonging is largely driven and recognised by the fact that he doesn’t have a mother. When Hora arrived to care for Raimond after Romulus’s first motorbike accident, Gaita explains: ‘He did everything: made my meals, washed my clothes and prepared my school lunches’ (ch. 4, p. 44).
The use of the accumulation here reflects how Hora’s actions kept a sense of belonging to a home and family alive for Raimond, who no longer had the presence of either parent. It shows how a child’s sense of belonging is still largely dependent on knowing their basic needs will be met by someone and that it is enough to sustain their feelings of security. Raimond slowly develops a sense of belonging through ideas and learning, which eventually lead him away from his father and life at Frogmore.
Gaita reflects in his memoir that there were times in his early life when he became conscious that learning and ideas were elements he felt connected to, “Paradoxically, perhaps…drove me deeper into the world of books” (ch. 5, pg. 62). The metaphor used in the quote reveals the significance of learning for Raimond and, in particular, how he felt connection and comfort through his reading. As much as Raimond belongs to his father and the qualities he embodies, as he grows he feels the sense of belonging to learning and education that eventually shapes his independence from his father.