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The Ways Belonging or Not Belonging Can Shape Our Sense of Identity

  • Date Submitted: 08/08/2011 03:54 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 37.7 
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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 one’s identity. This can be seen through challenges to society. Dickinson conveys her exclusion from human society through capitalisation in ‘This is my Letter to the World’ and inclusive terms in ‘I died for Beauty-but was scarce’.   Dickinson’s segregation is deliberate, however, demonstrating her independence as she challenges the standards of Victorian society. Her poetry also explores the enrichment associated with a sense of belonging, as Dickinson feels at one with nature. This connection is represented to the audience with personification in This is my Letter to the World’ and imagery in ‘I died for Beauty-but was scarce’. Similarly, Sittenfeld uses rhetorical questions in ‘Prep’ to emphasise the alienation of the central character, Lee Fiora. Lee refuses to conform to the expectations of her school community, which creates a barrier that prevents belonging, reflecting Sittenfeld’s subversion of contemporary societal expectations and values. Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ also parallels Dickinson’s poetry in that his novel represents a sense of belonging to nature. This connection demonstrates the potential of the individual to enrich their community and is depicted through Salinger’s diction choice. Therefore, the three composers depict the individual’s perceptions of...

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