Individuals often face a struggle to overcome the multiple barriers that prevent belonging, however we find that belonging is achieved by being in an environment that fosters a state of mind in which we understand and accept our identity and the world around us. These notions of belonging are epitomised in; Jane Harrisons play Rainbows End , David Malof’s novel The Great world and the movie directed by Sean Penn, Into the Wild. In Jane Harrissons play Rainbows End many of the characters find it hard to belong without connections to the land and without being accepted into the environment around them.
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Gladys has a strong desire to be accepted into the white community. This is shown through the repetition of ‘white’ and cleanliness throughout the play, showing that she isn’t able to reach a state of mind in which she feels accepted. The recurring motif of white: ‘white gloves’, ‘white shoes’, ‘guaranteed to turn your skin white’, – reinforces the gulf of difference between the Aboriginals and the wider white community. Gladys doesn’t feel accepted into the community and therefore she cannot completely understand her own identity, an essential part of establishing a sense of belonging.
The same notion of belonging is evident in Malouf’s novel which focuses on the lives of two men, Vic and Digger, and their experiences and relationships and the way in which these impact on their identity and their metaphysical connection with their environment. Vic is a character who struggles to understand who he is due to his very physical approach to belonging, epitomised through the metaphor: “The line that went downwards straight through you into the earth”.
It is apparent to me that Vic sees belonging as a physical condition, with the third person omniscient narrator saying that “his body had the final word”. This dominance of the body prohibits him from reaching a mindset in which he is able to comprehend his identity and place in the world. In the same way, Chris McCandless in Into the Wild feels an alienation from his family life and escapes to Alaska to find himself within a more accepting environment. His unhealthy relationship with his parents is rooted in his father’s denial of Chris’ identity.
Chris’ sister retells the story of their fathers affair, stating that; “this fact suddenly redefined me and chris as bastard children”. The dialogue is superimposed on a pan shot of family photos with them smiling, which is no longer the truth for Chris. It is this denial of identity that does not allow Chris to reach a state of belonging emotionally, and Chris therefore tries to do so by leaving everything behind and establishing a new name, Alexander Supertramp.
In Rainbows End the characters are much like Chris in that they are not able to find belonging in a place in which their identity is suppressed. The characters are forced to move to Rumbalara meaning “end of the rainbow” and their identity as Aboriginal Australians. Rumbalara is clearly a place where the characters are not happy in as Nan Dear bitterly says “They forced us to leave. Forced us to leave Cummeragunja. Our home. ”. The repetition of forced shows that Nan is unhappy in her surroundings and reflects the harsh treatment and lack of acceptance that the Aboriginal society received.
This simple sentence reinforces the importance of being in an accepting environment to be able to find acceptance and reach a state of mind in which one feels that they belong. The Character Digger in The Great World treats belonging as a state of mind, which allows him to understand who he is as well as maintain healthy relationships. While a prisoner of war, Digger still feels he is in his home town of Keens Crossing. The simile “letting his mind expand till it was diffused and free floating as a galaxy.. depicts his capacity to comprehend the world, which allows him to travel back to his home using his imagination, evident in the imagery “he could be there at will. All he had to do was draw into himself and look about”. Through the use of this metaphysical imagery, it is apparent to me that Malouf suggests that belonging is contained within ourselves and our ability to find this state is based on our capacity to understand our identity and accept it. Relationships are also a vital building block that helps individuals to reach a mindset in which they can fulfil the desire to belong.
This is apparent in Rainbows End as Dolly’s family feel as though they belong only once healthy connections are established. This is apparent as Nan Dear has accepted Errol and understands that not all white people are the same. This is shown in the dialogue between Errol and Nan Dear: “Thank you Mrs Dear…. ”, to which she responds: “Its Nan Dear to you… son. ” The use of ‘son’ shows the acceptance that Nan Dear has given to Errol and allowed him into her home. In doing so, Nan Dear changes her opinion of her wider community and is able to belong within it.
Chris McCanalis is also able to realise that he needs healthy human relationships to be able to satisfy the desire to belong. This epiphany comes too late as he is already on the brink of death from starvation. This close up shot of Chris struggling to write; “Happiness only real when shared” which is followed by a close up shot of Chris’ face with a tear flowing down as he smiles and sees himself in a flashback in his parents arms. Through this shot, it is apparent to me that Chris has forgiven his parents.
This forgiveness is what allows him to reach a state of mind in which he realises he had always belonged with his family, writing in his farewell note, “I have lived a happy life”. It is this realisation of identity and forgiveness that he gives his parents that allows him to reach a state in which he understands his place in the world. In contrast, Vic is unable to change his ‘vertical’ way of life, preventing him from establishing an authentic and meaningful relationship with his son, reinforcing that belonging begins with an introspective understanding.
The sensory imagery used to describe the relationship he had with his son Greg: “a coldness had developed between Vic and the boy” depicts a lack of understanding, emotions and connection. Through this character, Malouf aims to demonstrate to the reader that belonging is only ever possible through an introspective understanding of yourself and a state of mind, a metaphysical environment, that allows for the formation of relationships which fulfil the necessity to belong.