Understanding nourishes belonging. A lack of understanding prevents it.
Belonging is not a solo act. For belonging to exist there must be some facilitation on the sides of two separate parties. Belonging hinges on how these parties create an understanding of each other. Many of Emily Dickinson’s poems reflected the difficulty which she experienced upon attempting to forge a connection with her society. Her personas in “My Letter to the World” and “I had been hungry all the years” both initially struggle with belonging to their society, and resolve these issues through establishing a sense of understanding; the former with her peers and the latter with herself. Similarly, the titular character in Shaun Tan’s acclaimed picture book, “The Lost Thing” finds itself alienated in a world that is dismissive of things it cannot understand. This lack of understanding stems from the society’s inability to reconcile with that which is different, and the “Lost Thing” ultimately must journey to a sanctuary where it is understood and accepted. The composers of each text underscore their ideas using powerful imagery, with symbols and metaphors common features of all three.
Understanding facilitates the development of belonging, and this cannot occur unless individuals go out of their way to forge connections with the larger world. The persona in Dickinson’s “My Letter to the World” attempts to do this on a massive scale, addressing her “letter” – a metonymy for her entire body of work – to a world that is dismissive of her. The persona makes it clear that she is writing to a society that “never wrote to me”, which suggests feelings of isolation. These feelings are turned around upon the establishment of a connection with the persona’s countrymen based on the persona’s love of nature, which is personified and described here with a regal and majestic beauty. It is due to this love that she allows herself to ask them to “judge kindly of her”. The persona’s adoration of Nature...
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