The concept of belonging shapes meaning within a text by portraying the relationship between the individual’s identity and the pressures that arise from a collection of individuals. In my understanding, it is the decision to belong which is problematic in that it can destroy the self and the identity. This notion resonates with my understanding of belonging as it is explored in Emily Dickinson’s evocative poetry and A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. Through a central persona Dickinson explores the way in which the decision to remain an outsider is beneficial to the self whereas Williams uses a variety of central characters to portray a problematic standstill caused by their own decisions. Both authors are somewhat reflected within their own work through their personal context, which are then deflected onto the reader.
The first stage of my argument is that Emily Dickinson deliberately shapes her personas to reject their world in order to retain their sense of identity conveyed through the issue of the outsider. After years of pressing hunger, “noon” has come to “dine” for our persona in I Had Been Hungry All the Years representing a shift in approach and a new uncertainty that comes with the protagonist’s moment of belonging. Dickinson reiterates the plight of the individual with recurrent use of the first person pronoun and uses juxtaposition in the lines “As berry of a mountain bush/ Transplanted to the road” to act as a simile of displacement. The self and the identity has been so completely defined by its starvation that the ‘plenty hurt’ in that belonging threatens to destroy it. At the moment of consummation and satisfaction, Dickinson dwells on the lexical chain of pain and illness, of strangeness and out-of-placeness (“hurt”, “ill”, “odd”, “transplanted”). It is interesting to note that the poem was written in 1862, before her own seclusion had hardened into an unalterable mannerism, so perhaps the concerns facing the “person outside...
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