'Belonging' Essay

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Belonging is dependent on the perspective of the individual

Belonging is an inevitable human condition that empowers an individual for better or sometimes for worse. It is a concept that deals with the human need or desire to feel a connection with a person, place, community or thing. Perceptions and ideas of belonging, or of not belonging, vary within each individual and can be shaped by personal experiences and relationships. There are many ways through which an individual can belong to a relationship, however some find it difficult to establish similarities in identity with others, so must suppress their individuality in order to belong or else completely withdraw. While there are texts that explore many aspects of belonging, there are some that also represent this choice not to belong, or barriers that prevent belonging. Such texts include the film Into the Wild directed by Sean Penn, the poems I Had Been Hungry All the Years and This Is My Letter To the World by Emily Dickinson.

In the film Into the Wild, Christopher McCandless is a young man whose perspective of belonging within society has been altered by the dysfunctional and materialistic relationship of his parents. The fragile nature of his family’s relationship is portrayed in the dinner scene, which is muted and employs an unstable hand held camera that emphasises the tension and separation that is present. As a direct result of his experiences of dysfunctional relationships, Christopher develops a negative view of society as a whole. ‘”You know, about getting out of this sick society…I don't understand why people, why every person is so bad to each other so often.”’ Christopher’s individual perception of the way society works has been shaped by the relationships and experiences he has witnessed and gone through as a child. For this reason he perceives society as poisonous, and instead of trying hard to belong to this ‘sick society’, he chooses to escape. ‘”No longer to be poisoned by civilisation he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.”’ In the film, Sean Penn depicts this view of an oppressive society that Christopher develops, using dark metaphors of conflict to strengthen this. For example, fence-posts are described as ‘black sword-tips’ and red tiles ‘hardened blood’. Throughout the film Into the Wild, the environment acts as a vehicle for belonging in which Christopher is able to understand the importance of connections between people and happiness. This is portrayed through a number of scenes of him in the environment which are shot in natural light, contrasting to the fluorescent lighting used in the civilized scenes. This lighting technique reflects Christopher’s own views that the environment is a place where he can truly learn about belonging, something he couldn’t do whilst in his own fractured society. In the film Into the Wild the protagonist shows a preference for knowledge over belonging. ‘”Rather than love…give me truth”’

Christopher McCandless has learnt from previous experiences that love and relationships count for nothing unless there is truth. It is because of this lack of truth in society that he does not feel the need to belong within it. However, after going on his journey and developing new relationships and experiences along the way, he regrets his decisions towards the end. This is seen through the director’s use of the diary to convey his thoughts. In an extreme close up, he writes ‘lonely’ slowly and deliberately, and underlines it to emphasise the strength of his sense of loneliness. The music is moving and poignant, highlighting his regret over his isolation. In addition, the final scene shows a sequence of rapid flashbacks showing characters with which he created relationships. The voiceover is in second person ‘”What if I were smiling and running you’re your arms?”’, stresses his regret at his refusal of connections. This use of voice over in addition to a positive number of images finishing...
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