Belonging can be defined as the process of the association with the human race as socially active characters. It is part of the human condition which exemplifies the need for security, safety and acceptance. Aspects of belonging such as alienation and isolation can be associated with the concept of belonging, as not belonging is a reciprocal process of belonging. Belonging allows for the substantiation of characters through the formation of identity and connections.
Belonging is the human need for wellbeing, acceptance and social security. One belongs to a group, a family, a unit, and one can also be isolated from groups and rejected from communities. Through analysis of The Crucible by Arthur Miller in the milieu of the related texts The Outsiders by SE Hinton and the feature article, A Dangerous mind offer an insight into the concept of belonging is presented, and is substantiated through the use of literary devices.
In The Crucible, belonging is explored through a theme of persecution, whereby one must conform to the norms of society in order to belong. The alternative is alienation and displacement. The central aspects of reputation and empowerment are explored through a variety of literary techniques. Miller’s use of juxtaposition reinforces characters and emphasises upon their social faction. Danforth’s ultimatum, “A person is either with this court or must be courted, there is no road between” emphasises the two juxtaposing alignments in the society, whereby one either belongs or does not. The contrast here lies in the divide between individuality and social conformity. This is portrayed by Abigail’s calling of Proctor as the “devil’s man” who “put knowledge in my heart.” clearly trying to ostracise and label Proctor as an outsider, as well as the characterisation of John Proctor as a non-conformist through his desperate rejection of the labels society places upon him. He cries, “It is my name! I cannot have another in my life… leave me my name!” Conveying that his name and is his individuality of which the society is attempting to strip him. Without it, he is nothing.
Proctor’s counterpart is Abigail, a girl who was characterised by her alienation and displacement form mainstream Salem. She has no power, possession, belonging, or respect. She is an outcast who longs for belonging as illustrated by Miller through the emotionally charged plea of Abigail “I am a good girl, a proper girl! She made me do it!” It is with great dramatic irony then that the same child whom attains belonging by accusing others would ask Danforth “Let you beware Mr Danforth. Think you be so mighty that the power of hell may not turn your wits?” Demonstrating both dramatic and verbal irony of her actions and the establishment’s ignorance. On the other hand Danforth’s is the personified symbol of rigid social bonds. He calls out to Goody Nurse “Do you know who I am? Mr Nurse.” Showcasing how his place in society calls for respect and power. His assumption of totalitarian power over those who belongs to his discourse is further reflected in his parable “Hang them high over the town, who weeps for these, weeps for corruption.” Suggesting his power holds hostage the belonging of those who may rebel, thus exemplifying the power of belonging in creating identities and the human need for acceptance and security.
The Crucible is a reflection of how society treats those who belong and those who do not, and the community of Salem echoes the preoccupation with prejudice in today’s societies, thus resulting in characters propensity to either belong or not belong.
The related text, The Outsiders, also shares common aspects of belonging with The Crucible. The Outsiders explores the aspect of belonging through the story of two rival factions, the Socs and the greasers. Symbolism such as wealth is used to divide the two social groups and reinforce their individual characteristics. Cars represent the affluence of the Socs. Hair represents the free spirit and tenacity of the Greasers. The hair becomes an essential symbol of the group. When threatened Johnny cries “No not my hair, it was my pride”, showing the iconification of hair as a part of their identity.
“Socs will still be socs. Greasers will still be greasers. It’s the ones in the middle who are really the lucky stiffs.” This euphemism outlines that belonging is a reciprocal process, and that by belonging to either the Socs or the Greasers you automatically become enemies by virtue of its identification of you. This persecution theme is also linked to The Crucible. Proctor is similar to Two Bit, as both stand for individual beliefs rather than conformity using sacrifice and rejection of social norms as motifs. For example, Two Bit is persecuted for a crime he did not commit, similar to Proctor’s “Rat or Hang” situation. Integrity to the personal belonging of the characters as individuals, and loyalty to their social group is shown, and disambiguates the concept of belonging, allowing the responder to engage in personal connections and draw inferences.
Another text that reflects these notions of belonging is the feature article, A Dangerous Mind, by Robert Wainwright and Paola Totaro. The text details the plight of a Martin Bryant, a psychotic teenager whose life of rejection and alienation ultimately culminated in the Port Arthur Massacre. A series of historical rhetoric such as “enrolment at school only sparked a cycle of rejection and isolation…” and”Kids… understood instinctive that he was someone to stay away from” conveyed his inability to belong. The story utilises a juxtaposition of two periods of his life. In the former despite his alienation he had a loving mother, a supporting father, and latter a romantic relationship with an older woman who loved him. “Under the constant care and vigil of Maurice and Helen… his years passed uneventfully.” However all of these familial and romantic ties were severed as his parents passed away. Martin’s isolation is metaphorically described as “His loss was complete… he was without a rudder and a moral compass…” The last days before Martin committed the worst massacre in Australian history is described through the simile “He was like a Labrador puppy… always trying to impress somebody.” The text strongly stipulates the power of belonging and the importance of acceptance and family. Bryant’s actions are not dissimilar to those of Abigail because he is a victim of conformity. As a result, he perpetuates a horrendous deed both as revenge and as a means to draw attention to himself.
Hence, the three texts demonstrate to the responder the concept of belonging, its aspects such as alienation and not belonging through a variety of devices and techniques. These allow the responder to conceptually connect and enable us to satisfy the human condition of belonging.