Belonging- the Arrival & the Secret River

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Belonging occurs when individuals understand the people and the world around them. How is this evident in two of the texts you have studied? Belonging, that is, the connection an individual feels to the world he or she inhabits often comes down to the specific factors and forces that shape their experience. In the text The Secret River, author Kate Grenville illuminates a number of key issues in regard to belonging, none of these more poignant that place, location and locus often functions as a key determinant of belonging. This concept of belonging is also highlighted in Shaun Tan’s pictorial narrative, The Arrival, in which the importance of home and family and the sense of harmony and happiness that comes with understanding relationships with the people we love. The determinants of belonging vary depending on an individual and their views and experiences; ones sense of belonging may come down to who they are with without the location being a factor, where they are located and the physical environmental features and one’s culture and traditions. These varying determinants of ones belonging are represented in The Secret River and The Arrival in which each protagonist has different approaches to their ideal conclusion of belonging. Australian author Kate Grenville’s 2005 novel, The Secret River, explores the concept that place and geographical context and circumstance will often play a key role in determining one’s belonging. The opening pages of the novel introduce William Thornhill, a convict, transported to New South Wales in the year 1806. Thornhill’s journey tells of the great physical distance that now separates Thornhill from the warm familiarity of life at home in London; Thornhill’s new world is foreign, inhospitable place, disorientating in its otherness, and becomes a metonym for the great yearning Thornhill now has for his erstwhile life in England. To express this idea of one’s understanding and connectedness with their world being a determinant to their sense of belonging, Grenville uses a number of techniques such as hyperbole and simile. Grenville’s third person narrator describes the Alexander, Thornhill’s ship, as having “fetched up at the end of the Earth.” This hyperbole creates an image unassailable distance, of diametric extremity and in so doing dramatizes the concept of distance which, in turn, comes to represent Thornhill’s alienation from the world he knows and loves. Grenville uses figurative language to bring into focus her main character William Thornhill’s attachment t, and ultimate dislocation from the two places he calls home: A New South Wales penal colony, and London. London and the themes are represented in the simile, “as intimate to him as breathing.” In this case, the simile takes the idea of breathing which is both natural to us and essential to our being. This idea of intimacy then extends to Thornhill’s essential attachment to home and his understanding and recognition of its world. Like breathing itself, Thornhill’s London life is a giving force. When it comes to describing Thornhill’s antipathy to his new life in New South Wales, Grenville’s simile describes a disconnect, a non-relationship. Whereas Thornhill is closely familiar with the London night sky in his new life the stars are “meaningless as spilt rice”. This simile neatly captures Thornhill’s disorientation. The image of “split rice” suggests something both random and accidental. This reflects his emotive alienation of moving and not belonging in his new world. The idea that one must understand and be familiar with their environment and its individual traits that are only recognisable and known if you have a personal sense of belonging to our world.

One of the main ideas that emerges In Shaun Tan’s, The Arrival is that belonging is often influenced and shaped by family and the personal intimacies family offers. Tan develops this theme through the use of a number of specific visual devices. In chapter one of the...
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