Belonging of Characters in Literature

Belonging is an instinctive human desire that is difficult to obtain due to the immensity of barriers placed to prevent it. Belonging can be achieved through the development of relationships between others as well as the establishment of a connection to place. Furthermore one can choose to renounce the conventions of society and thus achieve personal understanding and belonging. Various barriers, such as language barriers and the inability to conform within society can lead to feelings of displacement and non-belonging.

The subjective concept of belonging and non-belonging is explored throughout Shakespeare’s iconic play, ‘As You Like It’, Anne Frank’s ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ and Shaun Tan’s graphic novel, ‘The Arrival’.

Shakespeare’s comedy, ‘As You Like It’ expresses the notion that presence of bad/choose better word- relationships form a barrier for belonging while development of good/better word relationships, based on values such as friendship and love, promote a sense of belonging and can emerge in response to barriers.

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Say why he is so bitter-Oliver’s soliloquy reveals his hatred and resentment for his brother, expressing his desire to “see an end to him”. His sense of otherness is emphasises in the statement, “I am altogether misprized”. His separation is further exemplified through the presentation of his brother, Orlando, as his antithesis. Oliver’s abandonment of his filial responsibilities towards his brother lead to the exclusion of Orlando.

The use of bestial imagery in Orlando description of his treatment as like that of a “stalling of an ox” and ‘horses are bred better’ reinforces his bitterness about his status within his family and the barriers placed on him by his brother.

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The biblical allusion to the ‘prodigal’ son reinforces Orlando’s feelings of exclusion and rivalry with his brother. This is furthered through the repetition of the motif “nothing” and other negative dictions, “unkept”, “gain nothing” epitomize Orlando’s feelings of segregation.

The litote, “I shall do my friends no wrong for I have none to lament me” amplifies Orlando’s alienation and isolation from society, in which he feels he has nothing to offer, “I am not taught to make anything”. Furthermore, Adam’s use of violent metaphors and images of brutality in describing the house as a ‘butchery’ exemplifies Oliver as Orlando’s barrier to belonging, due to his abandonment of his filial responsibilities.

Orlando and Oliver’s relationship is juxtaposed with the relationship between Rosalind and her cousin Celia which flourishes in spite of the alienating behaviour of the Duke. The positive connotation in the description of Celia and Rosalind’s friendships as “inseperable” epitomizes belonging. Celia hyperbolises her close connection with Rosalind through the high modality statement, “I cannot live out of her company”. The mythological allusion to “Juno’s swans” is a connotation of the intense connection and sense of belonging to each other felt by Celia and Rosalind.

The superlative “never two ladies loved as they do” illustrates the potent nature of their friendship, in that it is as strong as love. The presentation of this relationship highlights that positive relationships provide one with a sense of belonging, while negative relationships, particularly those abandoning filial ties, act as a barrier to belonging. Like Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, Anne Frank’s, ‘The Diary of A Young Girl’ examines the effect of positive and negative relationships on ones ability to finding a sense of belonging.

The barriers that exist are external-mention context and some quotes of war-and also based on judgements that are made by Anne’s mother-yet The protagonist, Anne Frank herself, is prompted to seek refuge in others just as Rosalind seeks refuge beyond the realms of the court in the Forest of Arden. Anne’s feelings of isolation from her family, and the barrier it brings to her sense of belonging, are represented through her childish register and honesty in the statement, “Daddy’s the only one who understands me”.

The conflicts within the relationship between Anne and her mother is displayed through the use of diction such as, “alien” and “stranger”, exemplifying her separation and displacement from her family. The hyperbole and visual imagery in, “harsh words and shouts are constantly being flung at my head” shows Anne’s personal disappointment and her feelings of dislocation from her family. This conflict is juxtaposed with her affectionate description of her father as “sweet hearted”.

Anne’s human desire to belong is highlighted through the emotive words in, “I cling to father”. The use of “cling” displays her determination to belong. The development of Anne’s loving relationship with Peter allows them to both find a sense of belonging within in each other, and to be each other’s confidant. The simple statement by Anne, “I was happy just plain happy” affirms the ways in which her relationship with Peter gives her feelings of fulfilment.

The theme of loneliness is addressed throughout the text, acting as a barrier to Anne’s sense of belonging, and highlighting Anne’s feelings of isolation. She states, “I’m so lonely and now I’ve found comfort” which demonstrates the ability for friendship to provide a source of belonging and comfort to Anne. The relationship developed between Anne and her diary, who is personified to be “Kitty” is one that develops throughout the course of the text.

The personification allows for the establishment of a personal relationship and friendship for Anne, as she states, “I have no friends”. She finds looks to the diary as a “source of comfort and support”. The positive connotations associated with this statement allude to the development of a strong relationship, which is eventually displayed in the alliterated statement in which Anne claims the diary has raised her from the “depths of despair”, suggesting its ability to allow her to find a sense of belonging.

The is further developed as the address, “Dear Kitty” which becomes the superlative, “Dearest Kitty”, a sign of the growing trust and friendship Anne finds within the diary and presenting the idea that while there are barriers that prevent belonging, the development of positive relationships, whether they be with people or object, provide a sense of belonging. Shakespeare’s, ‘As You Like It’, explores the concept of belonging and non-belonging and its link to ones surroundings and how a place can act as a barrier to belonging, while another place can bring about freedom and result in the presence of belonging.

The play presents two juxtaposing settings, the Court and the Forest of Arden and displays the dichotomies between them. The courts are personified in “envious courts” displaying them as a place of corruption, dishonesty and filial conflict. The ‘Natural Order’ has been abandoned, resulting in the appearance of conflict. The court acts as a barrier to belonging, and the conflict within the court, results in the exclusion of some characters. The strong alliteration in, “painted pomp” satirises life in the court as fake. This is juxtaposed with the Forest of Arden, a natural, idyllic place following pastoral values.

Duke Senior comes to be banished to the forest, where he is alluded to the likes of Robin Hood and his band of “merry men” which highlights the sense of community within the forest. Duke Seniors reference to his followers as “co-mates” and “brothers in exile” displays the connection and sense of belonging that the Forest of Arden provides them, enabling them to be coexistent. The assonance in the metaphors, “tongues in trees” and “sermons in stones” allows for the expression of freedom and flow, emphasising the influence of the forest on one’s sense of freedom and through this belonging.

Shaun Tan’s graphic novel, ‘The Arrival’ is an illustrated text that, like Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ explores the influence of place on finding a sense of belonging. The low angle shot of the family, positioned in the bottom right corner, in comparison to the dragontail shadow, presents a downward vector. This implies the family’s lack of power and therefore belonging to their environment – suggesting the idea that a marginalisation within society acts as a barrier to belonging and can lead to feelings of displacement.

This is furthered in the authors manipulation of form in the long shot of the urban environment covering a double page, hyperbolising that place can diminish ones sense of belonging through the absence of balance through the families small size, juxtaposing their large surrounding environment. In addition, the Arrival explores the idea that the inability to communicate forms a barrier to finding a sense of belonging. The title page of the text is written in an unknown language, which allows the reader to empathise with the isolation and confusion of the protagonist and highlights the effect of language on belonging.

Furthering this notion, the text utilizes a lack of words as a symbol of the protagonist’s inability to communicate. In chapter two, the protagonist is depicted with confused facial and body language in a montage of 12 close up images. His hands are shown in a questioning position and the frown line around his forehead and eyes suggests the frustration and confusion brought about by feelings of alienation and isolation in society. The front and end pieces of the book depict the illustrated faces of a diversity of people of varying nationalities.

The tiling of these bleached toned images across the double spread page conveys a sense of community through the experiences of migrants. This highlights the idea that belonging can be found and enriched through the shared experiences of others. This is continued through the flashbacks of other migrants through whom the protagonist finds a sense of belonging and interconnectivity. The use of dark colouring and imagery during the flashbacks both reflect and evoke the somber mood and atmosphere, consequently amplifying the idea that a lack of freedom and displacement from society can be a barrier to feelings of dislocation and non-belonging.

In conclusion, it can be seen that belonging is a difficult concept to obtain, through the various barriers preventing it, such as the inability to communicate and the presentation of negative relationships. Although these barriers exist extensively within society, the appearance of positive relationships – whether in families, or through people experiencing the same situations – and the development of connections to place, allow for one to gain a sense of belonging.

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Belonging of Characters in Literature. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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