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The Ways Belonging Or Not Belonging Can Shape Our Sense Of Identity

1447 words - 6 pages

Discuss the ways belonging or not belonging can shape our sense of self and identity.

Within Emily Dickinson’s poems ‘This is my Letter to the World’ and ‘I died for Beauty-but was scarce’, Curtis Sittenfeld’s 2005 novel ‘Prep’ and J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye’, the composers represent the individual’s experience of belonging or not belonging. Our perception of belonging emerges from personal and social contexts, as well as our sense of self and identity. The potential of the individual to enrich society is shaped by notions of acceptance and understanding, whereas alienation from society, either by deliberate choice or preventative barriers, can be detrimental to ...view middle of the document...

Therefore, the three composers depict the individual’s perceptions of belonging and not belonging to the responder.

Dickinson experienced a sense of exclusion from her fellow “countrymen” to the extent where she no longer valued any human relationship. Reclusive, she lost contact with society and the “sense of belonging that can emerge from connections made with people, places, groups and the larger world”. This is apparent in the unconventional structure of her poetry, including ‘This is my Letter to the World’. Dickinson’s capitalisation is deliberately ambiguous in lines, such as, “the World That never wrote to Me”. The capitalisation of “World” has multiple meanings for the responder as Dickinson could be referring to the vast natural world or her narrow human society. She repeatedly emphasises the importance of “Me” in the final line: “Judge tenderly – of Me”. Subverting traditional syntax, Dickinson challenged the social restrictions of Victorian context. A petulant tone is sustained throughout to reinforce Dickinson’s strong and belief in belonging to oneself. Dickinson positions her audience so that the only way they can belong in Dickinson’s poetry is if they judge her tenderly.

Even though Dickinson rejects her nineteenth century society, ‘I died for Beauty-but was scarce’ depicts a close connection between two personas. The relationship shared between the personas is mirrored by the entwining concepts of Truth and Beauty. The two concepts share an identity as “Themself are One-”, which highlights the sense of belonging to another individual. This unity is conveyed to the audience through Dickinson’s use of collective terms. The use of the “we” in “We Brethren are”, for example, symbolises the everlasting brotherhood of Truth and Beauty, though they have metaphorically “met a Night-”. The strength of this relationship is emphasised in lines such as “we talked between rooms”, which portrays the barriers in society that prevent belonging. The repetition of inclusive terms also provides the responder with a sense of belonging to the text, which creates a stronger sense of empathy for Dickinson’s poetry. Dickinson is able to comment on the potential of an individual to enrich a community through the selfless sacrifices, “One who died for Truth” and the other “for Beauty”, made in the poem.

Similar to Dickinson’s poetry, Curtis Sittenfeld represents a sense of exclusion from society through the persona of ‘Prep’. The novel’s modern teenage protagonist, Lee Fiora, is disconnected from her peers much like Dickinson. Lee has to earn the acceptance of those within her school community at Ault Academy, realising “how much work Ault would be for me”. Lee is uncertain of her own sense of self and identity so she was “always worried someone would notice me, and then when no one did, I felt lonely.” Sittenfeld employs first-person narration to create Lee’s authentic teenage ‘voice’ and expose her insecurities as a barrier to belonging. This...

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