Sociological Perspective on “Romulus, My Father”

Social relationships are highly complicated and the development of the society is accompanied by ongoing contradictions between different social groups and individuals. In this respect, it is possible to distinguish social groups on the basis of class, ethnicity, gender, and other socially significant factors. At the same time, it is important to understand that an individual constitutes a part of the society and he or she cannot live in isolation from the society. Therefore, an individual naturally tends to get integrated into a society. An individual needs a social support, a kind of unity with his or her social group to feel a member of the society. Otherwise, an individual becomes an outcast. On the other hand, an individual can tend to the integration in specific social groups, which he or she identifies him or herself with and an individual feels the most comfortable in. this is actually the case of Romulus, the main character of “Romulus, My Father”, who had to pass through numerous hardships and start a new life in a new country, where he had to shape a new, mixed identity, which comprised his Yugoslavian origin and culture and Australian ones.

In fact, the story of Romulus is a story of an individual who is in search of his identity and his community, a social group in which he can live happily and in harmony with his social environment. In this respect, it should be said that, at first, Romulus seems to be a stranger in Australian society. When he arrives to Australia he is a stranger in a new country. He feels he is different from local people and after his arrival he settles in Bonegilla where he was moved to along with his family, the wife Christine and four-year-old son Raimond. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that Bonegilla was a very specific community since it was entirely comprised of immigrants. In fact, Bonegilla was a reception and cleaning camp for immigrants near Wodonga. In such a way, from the beginning, Romulus and his family as well as other immigrants turned out to be in isolation from Australian society.

Obviously, it was a serious challenge to Romulus and his family because it was a totally environment from the one they got used to in Yugoslavia, where they felt cultural unity with other people. At this point, it is important to distinguish personal problems of the main character from public issues. Mills defines the distinction between personal troubles and public issues as sociological imagination (Willis, 2004). In case of Romulus and his family, their problems are a mix of personal troubles and public issues. Their emotional and psychological problems referred to their personal troubles, while the problem of integration of immigrants into Australian society was an important public issue which affected the life of Romulus as well as the society at large.

In such a way, the reception and cleaning camp was the first stage of the integration of Romulus and his family into Australian society. After that, the family moved to Baringhup on the Loddon River, where, though, Romulus and his family are still in immigrant environment since they live with other immigrants, such as Romanian brothers, Hora and Mitru, who become their friends. Eventually, Romulus and his family move to Frogmore, a farmhouse, where the family could start a normal social life that could naturally facilitate their integration into Australian society to which they remained strangers all the way.

In actuality, specialists argue that society consists of various social groups, where individual shape specific social identities, which are distinguished on the basis of major social markets, among which it is possible to mention class, gender, ethnicity, age and sexuality (Holmes et al., 2007). At the same time, either factor contributes to the social inequality because the position of people in the society is unequal and such factors as class, gender, ethnicity, age and sexuality contribute to the inequality. In this respect, Romulus and his family turned out to be in a disadvantageous position as they were immigrants and originated from a different cultural environment. As a result, they were not acquainted with Australian culture, norms and traditions, as well as local language, that raised significant social barriers toward their integration into the local society. At that epoch, Australian society was still far from the implementation of the concept of multiculturalism, while today, “multicultural Australia” is the most recent statement of the current policy conducted by the Australian authorities (Holmes et al., 2007). At the epoch of Romulus immigration to Australia, being an immigrant neat to be inferior to native-born Australians, who apparently had larger job opportunities and lived comfortably in their socio-cultural environment, while immigrants like Romulus had to find their social identity in a new environment.

Furthermore, gender is another important factor which influences the position and social role of an individual. Romulus plays the role of a responsible father who takes of his family and work hard to maintain his family, while his wife apparently violates existing social views and norms, since Christine is unable to be a “good” wife and mother. Instead, she has affairs with Mitru and other men. In such a situation, the son of Romulus turns to be unable to take decisions defining his life since he is too young and totally dependent on his parents, especially his father.

At the same time, Romulus and his family perfectly feels the class difference compared representatives of the middle and upper-class of Australian society. The family lives in poverty and occupies the lowest social position in Australian social hierarchy. In fact, the class division in Australia persists till the present moment and the class distinction is based on the inequality of wealth and income (Holmes et al., 2007), while in the past this distinction was even more significant. As a result, the overcoming of social class barriers was another serious challenge Romulus had to cope with.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned and applying Mills’ concept of sociological imagination, it is possible to conclude that the life story of Romulus is the story of an individual who had to cope with numerous challenges and social barriers, when he changes dramatically his social environment as he immigrates to Australia. In the new country he faces the problem of the social exclusion because of his ethnicity, cultural difference and poverty, which determined his low social status. In this struggle with numerous hardships Romulus remains devoted to traditional family values and takes responsibility for upraising of his son. In such a way, through overcoming personal problems and social barriers he starts a new life.

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