Have you ever been in a room packed full of people, yet no matter who’s around, you can’t shake a feeling of un-ease, or a sense of not belonging? This has probably happened to each of us atleast once before. “Belonging” is usually defined as just generally being accepted, we assume it’s a reference to someone being treated differently to others, whether it’s for better or worse. But sometimes, it has more to do with the place we are in, rather than the people who are around.
To prove this, I’ll be discussing Shakespeare’s As You Like It, a romantic comedy set in a ficticious world, where the illustrious Court is supposedly the place to be for educated citizens, and the Forest of Arden, a place of exile, is thought to be harbour to many theives and those discarded from society. The dramatist uses techniques such as imagery, metaphors and dramatic irony to highlight key aspects of belonging and not belonging. In contrast to this text, I’ll also examine My Sister’s Keeper written by Jodi Picoult, where the sense of place is not physical, but familial.
Picoult uses similar techniques to Shakespeare’s in As you like it, with imagery and irony used as common themes through-out the text. As You Like It revolves around Rosalind who’s uncle, Duke Frederick banishes several characters from city life in the French Court. But when Rosalind herself is exiled, her cousin Celia declares that she will join Rosalind, and that they must go to the Forest to seek the rightful Duke, Rosalind cries “Alas, what danger will it be to us, maids as we are, to travel forth so far!
Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold” This is where Shakespeare introduces the reputation of the forest, known as a dark and scary place of banishment and explains Rosalinds sense of obligation to dress as a man and call herself Ganymede, as she feels she must protect herself and her cousin. Throughout the text Shakespeare uses symbolism in many different ways. He commonly uses metaphors or similies not only to describe things, but sometimes to give them a double meaning.
An example of this being Rosalind’s choice of alternative identities, when she picks the name Ganymede, who in Roman myhtology is a cupbearer and a symbol of homosexual love, this adds to the continuum of sexual possibilites. When Orlando’s selfish brother Oliver first causes him to join those exiled into the Forest of Arden he fears for himself, and his servant Adam, yet his opinions of the forest change when he meets Duke Senior and his comrades. “Hath not old custom made this life more sweet than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court? ” The Duke asks him.
Eventually others come to realise that their impression of the forest was also wrong, and that it has the potential to give them true happiness. As opposed to finding a physical place, Jodi Picoult demonstrates a different kind of belonging. Sara and Brian Fitzgerald dedicate their every moment to their middle daughter Kate, who is suffering from leukemia, leaving their other two childern, Anna and Jesse, feeling like they have no place in the family. This affects Anna in particular, as she was concieved in a lab to be used as “spare parts” for Kate, and made to donate things like stem cells and bone marrow.
She is pushed too far when she is told she has to donate a kidney to her sister, and seek’s medical emancipation, leaving her feeling even more out of place in the household. The eldest child Jesse however, rebels his own way by committing arson and petty crimes. Throughout the book Picoult uses this allusion to fire for many things; Kate’s uncontrollable illness, which seems to destroy everything within it’s path, or Anna initiating the law suit, like she’s starting a blaze that she might not be able to contain.
It is again used as a comparison to Kates disease, by her father Brian, who is a firefighter, when he suggests that some fire’s need to be left alone until they burn out. Though both text’s have clear links to family, another aspect they share is great irony. In As You Like It, dramatic irony is used quite often because we, as the audience, always know something that the characters don’t. When Rosalind, acting as Ganymede, ends up weaving a very tangled web for herself, she is the character who comes to help everyone achieve their happy ending, and find their rightful place.
Shakespeare’s use of this technique brings great entertainment, and adds to the comedy. However, in My Sister’s Keeper the irony is not so comedic. Jesse announces in court that Kate had forced Anna to stop donating organs as she was ready to let her luekemia take her life. Leaving the courthouse, after winning her case, Anna and her lawyer are caught in a terrible car accident, resulting in her giving her kidney to Kate before she passes, this helps Kate to fight off her cancer.
Through this Picoult’s use of irony, much different to Shakespeare’s, allows Anna, who never knew her part, to help her sister find her own place in the world. In conclusion, the very different text’s both highlight aspects of belonging, or not belonging, to a certain place. Whether it’s physical place or a role that you need to find. The Authors use of techniques such as imagery and irony, and as focus on relationships involving both love and hate, helps to convey what belonging truly means to them.