In a society which inherently seeks to categorise individuals, it is paramount that each person finds their genuine place in the world. The most powerful influences that impact on an individual’s sense of belonging include identity and heritage. It is a part of humanity which makes us desire to want to belong to a social, religious or even racial group which ultimately forms the person we become. Renowned author Carlson McCullers reflects these ideas. “I think the idea of wanting to belong haunts every child. And not only children. I think it is the primary question. 'Who am I? What am I? And where do I belong?”It is of grave importance that we understand we are simply mere shadows of everybody who is around us. Furthermore our development as an individual is strongly influenced by both nurture and nature. As Indian leader and renowned philosopher, Mahatma Gandhi, once claimed that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Ultimately we need others to help us to explore the limits and potential of what it is to be human.
It is generally accepted that our true identity is best discovered through the connections that we make with others and without them it is hard to establish a sense of belonging. From Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it outlines the importance for an individual to belong. What was listed as the third most important need was to be connected, love and accepted by others. He has too stated that this, ‘need (to belong) is especially strong in children and can over-ride the need for safety’. In the novel, ‘The Member of the Wedding’, McCullers explores this idea as she displays through the protagonist Frankie Adams the implications of not being loved or not belonging. As a result, Frankie is haunted from being “a member of nothing in the world”. As she is on the brink on the adolescence, she experiences much confusion which results in the endangerment of her life. She has come from a dysfunctional and unloved family where the closest members in her life are her six year old cousin John Henry West and her maid Berenice Sadie Brown. From devoid of acceptance this makes Frankie feels largely ostracised within her town, leaving her emotionally and spiritually desolate, and in turn, inhibiting her ability to identify who she truly is.
From the people around us we begin to have a sense of acceptance from our familial ties and intimate relationships with others shape who we are. These connections ideally provide love, protection, security and the opportunity to discover our values, attitudes, and beliefs that help to define us from the time of our birth. In ‘The Member of the Wedding’, although Frankie is accepted by her younger cousin John Henry and housemaid Berenice, she lacks proper familial bonds. With her mother having passed away after Frankie’s birth and her father not giving her the love and attention that she requires it is evident the hardships and struggle face without nuture. In McCullers bildungsroman she evokes the danger that individuals face if they do not have the correct nurturing from a young age. This applies to both Frankie and Honey who were both displaced from society at a young age because of their differences to the social norm. The consequences of not being an individual proved to be detrimental for them. Furthermore the example applies to Frankie. In the course of the book, she changed her name twice along with her identity. Due to Frankie’s confusion with identity, she comes very close to committing suicide, and ‘she pointed the pistol at the side of her head and held it there a minute or two’. Our families are an omnipresent force in our lives and with their absence we can be left questioning our sense of self.
To obtain individuality an identity the paradox is we are only able to gain one through the social interactions that we make with others. The concept of attaining an identity...