Belonging Analytical Essay
The fundamental nature of humankind can arguably be described as ones urge to develop a sense of connection to one another and this desire to make connections can be described as the wish to belong. For an individual to belong within their environment, their identity can be put to jeopardy. They have to either acclimate to ideal views and become part of society or choose to be isolated. The notion of belonging is espoused through a strong foundation of external factors such as culture, society, gender, interests, ideologies, religion and sometimes internal factors such as fate, spirituality and innate. All these factors are bound to possess in one way or another. However, a lack of stability of these factors disconnects an individual from its unique identity. Concepts of belonging are seen throughout the novel Brick Lane by Monica Ali published in 2003 and Emily Dickinsons poems I died for beauty but was scarce(67), This is my letter to the world(66) and I gave myself to him(83). These texts identify and demonstrate how the ideas of belonging and isolation work in hand with ones identity.
When individuals or groups are marginalized in a society, their sense of belonging is compromised and we observe changes in their identity and how they react to their environment. In Dickinsons poem, This is my letter to the world, the change in identity is explored through language and the themes, power, impotence, alienation and loneliness. The form of the letter functions as a perfect metaphor as it is an eloquent means of communication and the world writing letters is a personification. This is my letter symbolizes her art and poetry which the speaker wants the world to consider. It is a real, abstract and sensual poem written in a chronological pattern carrying weight on lack of self-esteem with rather objective and somber tone. That never wrote to me represents isolation and portrays the ironic tone of self-pity. Judge tenderly of me suggests her persuasion towards the audience not to treat her harshly. The poem contains two quatrains and the rhyme is created by four and three beat lines to create empathy. The pronouns my, me emphasize the individuality and the phrase tender majesty creates the juxtaposition between the words tender and majesty.
Perceptions of belonging are further altered through acceptance dependent on the interactions and connections developed with other people. This concept is explored along with the mutual commitment of two people and the delicate nature of reciprocity in the poem, I gave myself to him. Dickinson displays neediness through blunt, direct self-expression the speaker enjoys her solitude and individuality but reveals a suffocated sensitive feeler. Dickinson refers to the lovers belonging to each other in marriage. The main message Dickinson tries to convey is that, commitment must be absolute and the challenge is to remain loyal and faithful. The analogy of a womans sacrifice in the marriage contract, the immorality of slavery and where the women belong in a patriarchal society in the era of American Civil war is portrayed by exploring a loveless marriage similar to a contract of slavery. Dickinsons use of commercial words is cleverly witty as if love is a business transaction. It is evident that Dickinson admires the poetry of Shakespeare as she used similar words that were used in King Lear and The Tempest. For instance, in The Tempest, No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall is Dickinsons equivalent to sweet debt of life and To make this contract grow : but barren hate, is the equivalent of solemn contract. Like many of her other poems, there is an underlying tone of hunger or yearning for acceptance. The poet uses strong connotations to create emotional resonance. In the last two lines of the second stanza, belonging might be uncertain when the woman loses her identity as a wife. The phrase sweet debt is an oxymoron and the juxtaposition of solemn with contract highlights the duality of the marriage vows both spiritual and legal. Another reading of the last two stanzas could refer to God and the debt we owe Him as He is our creator.
Perceptions of belonging are also nurtured by a sense of spiritual security. In Emily Dickinsons poem, I died for beauty but was scarce, she explores the concept of belonging through nature to describe the effect beauty and grandeur had upon the individual. The poem depicts the persona and a man drawn together after they have both died for similar causes; beauty and truth. This poem follows many of Dickinsons typical formal patternsthe ABCB rhyme scheme creating a four-three-four-three stress pattern in each stanza to influencing the musicality of the poem. The poem is written in the first person but Dickinson herself isnt the speaker. The first verse uses enjambment where the sentence continues into the next line which gives the lines a flow. Dickinson also uses ss-alliteration: "was scarce adjusted", w-alliteration: "When one..was lain", ff-alliteration: "...softly..failed? "For...." These alliterations are all liquid sounds which suggest that the speakers are talking as softly as possible so that the quietness of the grave will be preserved. The tone seems slightly softer to create remorse by the persona when Dickinson discusses the theme of death in an optimistic way. Dickinsons choice of words such as brethren and kinsmen suggests the strong relationship in a patriotic way. Pronouns such as we, I, he highlights the solidarity and the communion of the two characters. She recalls Keats Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty from Ode on a Grecian. Dickinson could also perhaps convey that belonging may exceed the physical barriers of life and death and be a metaphysical concept of humanity forever apparent from Until the moss reached our lips and covered up our names where she tends to include a sense of ghastly physicality of death by the use of imagery. This is also a metaphor she used to describe the fact that the persona is not capable to speak and her identity in the society is obliterated. The moss is the only literally living thing in the poem that creates a sense of vivid imagery by personification. Dickinson also manages to create a sense of martyrdom in the lines, I died for beautyone who died for truth. The phrase We brethren are suggests the sense of belonging but the irony is that it can only happen in death.
Belonging is defined as the right personal or social qualities to be a member of a particular group or fit to a particular environment. Brick Lane, a novel about a young Bengali girl named Nazneen. Similar to spirituality discussed in I gave myself to him, in Brick Lane fate is one of the main internal factors which shape Nazneens destiny and her belonging and existence as a traditional wife and mother. Nazneens apocalyptic entry to the world, an apparent stillbirth on the hard mud floor of a Bangladeshi village hut imbues in her sense of fatalism that she carries across continents when she is married off to Chanu, a man twice her age.
The story is narrated in the third person, a classic free indirect style narrative of a psychological novel works well here as Ali's considerable penmanship is employed to describe Nazneen's thoughts and feelings without appearing falsely sophisticated. Woven through the novel, chapter 7 consists of a series of interludes, provided by touching, passionate letters from her sister written in her simple style where Ali purposely disguises the sharpness and authenticity in the form of an epistolary chapter. The usage of Pidgin English in Hasinas letters symbolizes her character and expresses the haste of her life. Bricks are reinforced in this chapter as an important symbol as the bricks of Tower Hamlets and Brick Lane imprison Nazneen, the bricks of the garment factory Hasina used to work in, ruined her life.
The concept of belonging is embraced through a strong foundation of culture and place. When we lack the fundamental need of belonging, we experience alienation, boundaries and limits are out on our experiences. Nazneen experiences this alienation in her London council flat. However, she accepts the miserably lonely existence that fate has bestowed on her. Ghosting through a multicultural urban milieu radically different from that she was born into, she speaks to no one. She is stuck in the Tower-Hamlets high-rise with no English. Nazneen's only contact with home is the letters she exchanges with her sister Hasina, whose own fate changes in Dhaka throughout the fifteen years that this novel takes place. The title 'Brick Lane' describes the extent of her world and an accidental venture outside leaves Nazneen with a sense of exhilaration and accomplishment. Nazneen observes a hawk carrying its prey until it disappears. A sense of juxtaposition is created in this vision to give indirect evidence of Nazneens feelings. She can feel the power of tradition, which rules her life like the hawk ruling over its prey. But disobedience or resistance to her fate does not even touch her mind.
The similarities between Nazneens life and Dickinson are that both these women experienced alienation in their lives. According to This is my letter to the world, her reclusive life was in a sense of detachment and safe isolation by choice free of harsh judgments from a cruel world. Similarly, Nazneen experiences alienation by the society due to difference in culture and the fact that she is unaccomplished. The lines, They would not see her any more than she could see them. They knew that she existed but unless she did something, waved a gun or halted the traffic, they would not see her(56) explains that she is not accepted in the London society and considered invisible.
The notion that an individuals perception of their own acceptance is dependent on the connections developed with others; more precisely the relationship of Nazneen with Chanu, her husband. Chanus character is only seen through Nazneen's eyes though she does not delve deeper under Chanu's surface so the reader can hear his patronizing, self-assured speeches and lectures. The lines These people here didnt know the difference between me, who stepped off an aeroplane with a degree certificate and the peasants who jumped off the boat possessing only the lice on their heads(34), is one instance where Chanu brags and complains about discrimination and racism. Chanu deprives Nazneen from, socializing and prohibits her from attending English courses. He is slovenly, and as much of a do-nothing dreamer as he is controlling. Chanu is the insistent man of the house, and a scene in which we see his young and beautiful wife dutifully trimming his grotesque toenails reinforces everything that is gross and demanding about him. Nazneen sees a lonely empty hut, which was relocated there by a tornado. Her marriage is transformed into the symbol of a tornado taking her away and changing her life completely. She only sees the uncertainty of her destiny and her loneliness. At this moment she feels the difference between men and women: men doing whatever they could in this world (8). Through the letters Nazneen exchanges with her sister, author Ali shows the similarities and contrasts in the lives of Nazneen and Hasina, both subservient to their husbands, powerless to control their fates in the culture in which they live.
In both the texts I gave myself to him by Dickinson and Brick Lane by Ali portrays a patriarchal society where women are raised in the reliance and dependence upon men and how powerless women could be. Both the texts also discuss the theme of loyalty and commitment of women towards men.
In conclusion, a belonging is an intricate state of mind which relies essentially on the perspective of an individual. Perceptions that affect belonging can be determined by oneself: by intrinsic flaws and attributes, by choices made by the individual, by the individuals physical and emotional potential to belong and by society as a whole. However, these perceptions can be altered by physical and emotional barriers placed upon the individual.