Belonging is the enlightenment felt when man gains an awareness of themselves, which may or may not include affiliations to others & the wider world. This insight is found in the texts of ‘As You Like It’ by William Shakespeare, ‘The Last Samurai’ directed by Edward Zwick & ‘The Past’ by Oodgeroo Noonuccal.
As You Like It initially accentuates familial & political usurpation, injustice, exile & the pain of being made to feel that no one longer belongs in either court or family. The physical level of ‘wrestling’ within the play metaphorically acts as an impulsive level of ‘grappling’ amongst civilisation. This diminishes any sense of connection amid urban society & in effect, the court is seen as a world of division, lack of acceptance & where powerless people such as Orlando do not seem to belong.
In the play, belonging, however, develops from the interaction of the characters nature & nurture. For Oliver & Orlando these aspects varied. Oliver is of noble ‘birth’, yet his degenerate nature contrasts to that of Orlando’s. Despite this, Oliver accuses Orlando of being a villain, whilst carrying only hate for him, personifying his soul, “I hope I shall see an end of him, for my soul… hates nothing more than he”. Henceforth an absence of filial connection existed between the siblings.
Nonetheless this insufficiency dwindles as the two venture through Arden, discovering diverse values, emotions & essentially a forced change of nurturing, with Oliver in particular. He experiences brotherly love & sacrifice, evoking an inherent benevolence, in the paradox, “Twas I, but ’tis not I: I do not shame to tell you what I was, since my conversion so sweetly tastes, being the thing I am.” Oliver now ‘belongs’ in a connected family relationship, & to a ‘self’ that he can now perceive as being different from before.
Shakespeare uses Jacques to show how the guise of ‘not belonging’, veneers a desire to find belonging on another level. “Out of these convertities there is much matter to be heard & learned.” In repelling a return to the court, Jacques endorses a transcended form of belonging, a self-belonging of a philosophical, intellectual & spiritual degree. Ironically, while isolating himself from man, it is through the company of various temporary characters that Jacques cultivates his conceptions about humanity.
From the movie ‘The Last Samurai’, the concept of belonging is centred on the idea of kinship & assimilation. Recalling Algren’s initial encounter with the Samurai, a reservoir of fear in the modernised Japanese soldiers is present as they are overwhelmed by their masochistic nature. Zwick’s use of fog concocts an atmosphere of ambiguity & evokes panic amongst the moderns, symbolic of their imbalance in contrast to the kinship of the Samurai. Evidently, Zwick shapes meaning by contrasting two opposing societies & values, allowing the responder to realise the importance of belonging.
Zwick’s attempt to provide the responder with an insight into Algren’s mentality is achieved with flashbacks & diary entries. The flashbacks are nightmares of Algren’s shameful past, which creates within him a resent & rage towards all things, the core of his isolation. Likewise the diary entries are an extension on this device in which they keep the responder informed on Algren’s current state.
Per contra, a clear breaking of disparity emerges as he writes “It is here I’ve known my first untroubled sleep” thus gradually assimilating with eastern culture. The entries begin to represent a lack of defiance & a growing curiosity, the idea of acceptance being associated with understanding & comfort ultimately grants Algren refuge & a sense of belonging.
The composer’s use of symbolism contributes to the assertion of attaining belonging. The rain is a recurring symbol which represents revelation & growth within Algren & the fire signifies creation & rebirth of a new asylum found with the Samurai. Colour itself is a symbol; the dull darker colours are mostly associated with the westernised area, rendering a disconnected aura. On the contrary, we are introduced to the collation of vibrant earthly colours found at Samurai village, betokening a sense of truth, a place where Algren can develop a conceptual understanding of himself & others.
In ‘The Past’, Noonuccal enunciates her sense of belonging to Aboriginal culture with the direct juxtaposition of the past & present; White & Aboriginal ethnology. The importance & connection to the land for Aboriginal Australians is accentuated through metaphoric antiquity, “But a thousand camp fires in the forest…Are in my blood”.
The multitudinous campfires insinuates the significant length of Aboriginal history in antithesis with late European settlement & comfortable white culture, “In easy chair before electric radiator”. Noonuccal differentiates past & present to express how an individual’s unresolved identity can influence their belonging in the present. Noonuccal fails to find association with present, white ethnics due to her inability to relate & attain solidarity.
As an Aboriginal Australian, Noonuccal’s belonging lies within her Aboriginal identity & her strong mutuality with nature, the land, her ancestors & the past. Her firm belief in animism expresses the camaraderie she shares with her environment. Personification is employed to communicate the idea of animism, as seen in the third stanza, “The tall surrounding trees that stir in the wind.” Noonuccal achieves a state of harmony through an intimate alliance with the land that shapes their integrity.
Ultimately, through the use of various literary techniques & discussion of the texts, it is prominent that…
Courtney from Study Moose
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