Belonging is the complex process whereby perceptions of self and social allegiances are formed. As You Like it by William Shakespeare and Chocolat directed by Lasse Hallstrom are two texts that explore how perception of belonging and not belonging can be influenced by connections to people.
William Shakespeare’s As You Like It is a play that follows exiled characters into the forest, where relationships are mended and formed under the healing role of nature. Dramatic irony is used to convey belonging when Ganymede tells Orlando in Act 3 Scene 1: “I would cure you if you would but call me Rosalind and come everyday to my cot to woo me.” The dramatic irony creates humour as everybody but Orlando knows that Ganymede is, in fact, Rosalind. In Rosalind’s lines, she tries to outline how Orlando mistakes his love for her with true belonging.
Although Orlando does not know he is in contact with her, the audience is able to view how Orlando, in actuality, does find a true sense of belonging in her through his adamance in wooing Rosalind, despite Ganymede’s discouraging attempts. The dramatic irony allows the characters to establish a sense of belonging, as Rosalind is able to comprehend Orlando’s genuine feelings for her and grow an attachment toward him.
A soliloquy is used to reveal the unspoken reflections of Oliver as he refers to his brother, “I hope I shall see an end to him. For my soul – yet I know not why – hates nothing more than he… that I am altogether misprized.” It is clear in his words that Oliver is jealous of Orlando. Through his unjust actions and unnatural feelings, a wedge is forced between the two brothers, ceasing their feelings of filial connection. The soliloquy is able to prove how despite being a member of a group, it does not mean true belonging is achieved.
The notion that perceptions of belonging and not belonging can be influenced by connections to place is further justified through the use of simile between court and country life. Their opposing qualities are contrasted by Duke Senior in Act 2 Scene 1, “Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court?”
The simile immediate displays Duke Senior’s attachment to the Forest of Arden. By comparing the safe haven of Arden with the evil nature of the ‘envious court’, a feeling of belonging is not only established, but also, Duke Senior’s estrangement from the court and its citizens are highlighted.
The technique portrays how belonging cannot only be found in relationships and people, but also within places. Through Duke Senior’s pejorative feelings of the court, it is apparent that although he once was a member of the group, he did not feel as though he truly belonged.
Chocolat is a film that explores the idea of ‘never confuse membership of a group with true belonging’. The town is set in a small provincial town of Casquenet, France. The story follows Vianne, a chocolatier as she faces the obstacles to overcome the struggle of finding a sense of connection with the townspeople.
The community is portrayed as a conservative group of people who follow a set of rigid rules that shape what is acceptable of not. Immediately, the idea that belonging can not be found in connections to groups and communities as the townspeople conform to one another and find a sense of unity in doing so. This is indicated in the voice over, “If you lived in this village, you understood what was expected of you. You knew your place in the scheme of things. And if you happened to forget, someone would help remind you… Villagers held fast to their traditions.”
Although a sense of belonging within the community is established, the voiceover also highlights the absence of individuality in the town. Through the oppressive guidelines the townspeople must follow, there is a disconnection between an individual and their sense of self-identity – a significant platform needed to belong.
Josephine is disconnected to those around her as she fails to conform to her fellow tonspeople. : “ Josephine Muscat, she waltzes to her own tune.” Through Josephine’s dialogue, “You just don’t misbehave around here. Did you know that? If you don’t go to confession, if you don’t… then you’re crazy!” it is revealed how the pressure to conform has caused Josephine’s anxiety and her feeling of alienation.
Although Vianna becomes a member of the town, her true sense of belonging is not present. With her arrival, she is the subject of great curiosity and judgement. Though costuming, characterization and facial expression, Vianne’s character is juxtaposed against the dull villagers. Viannce, always with a friendly, smiling countenance and dressed in bright, colourful clothing, is portrayed as a lively character who shakes up the mundance patterns of the townspeople’s everyday lives. With the opening of her chocolaterie, people’s lives are enriched.
They are happier as their inner desires are awoken and they are encourage to embrace their individuality. The techniques of costuming, characterization and facial expression demonstrate not only how mere membership can be confused with belonging but also how individuals can challenge or enrich a group or community.
Through the various literary and filmic techniques discussed above, the two texts, As You Like It and Chocolat are able to explore…