Identity is an inherent human necessity that is shaped by one’s acknowledgement by others, the loss of such personal acceptance is as such a result of disconnection with family and place. This is only one aspect of the encompassing entity that is belonging and is thoroughly explored in Shakespeare’s “As you like it”; which demonstrates the necessity of place in one’s search of self -worth throughout the Elizabethan world. This concept is furthermore explored in “Maus: a survivor’s tale” by Art Spiegelman; an anecdotal recount that deals with loss of self through the loss of family, culture and community and finally “Grand Turino” By Clint Eastwood about the marginalisation of one’s belonging due to a socially non – inclusive society. Through the analysis of how the authors have dealt with concept of association to family and place. We are able to see the fundamental nature of identity and how it is shaped by its tethers to the recognition by others.
Central to Shakespeare’s satirical pastoral comedy AYLI is the notion of environments shaping the affirmation and identity of displaced individuals. This is best explored through Shakespeare’s use juxtaposition between the main two environments of the play – the Forest of Arden and the Court. Shakespeare’s critique of the court as the sinful realm of man in the rhetorical question “hath not old custom made this life more sweet than that of painted pomp?” demonstrates the inability of one to find inclusion when life is superficial and patronising. Arden on the other hand, a word play and symbolic allusion of “Eden” portrays an ironic religious freedom from displacement and newfound identities in a temporal and idyllic environment made for redemption. The two locations contextualise to the audience’s understanding of the Elizabethan chain of being and religious heritage “tongues in tree … good in everything”. Shakespeare’ use of biblical allusion in “Here feel we not the penalty of Adam,” which furthermore compares the court and Arden and stipulating that hierarchy of men brings disparity between the bond of brothers, fathers and family. At the play’s resolution, the use of high modality “in this forest, let us do those ends … shared the good of our returned fortune according the measure of their states” – exemplifies the return to normalcy as a result of reconnection to filial and social dues. Therefore through the contrast of locations and the belonging found in Arden and lack of fulfilment in the court Shakespeare demonstrates how different environments can induce connection/disconnection.
Similarly Speigelman demonstrates how the removal of the Jew’s sense of belonging stems from the destruction of their connection to home, to their community and towards other Jews can systematically dismantle one’s sense of belonging in WWII Nazi occupied Poland. This is most salient through the transition of Poland to the Jews from a utopia where they lived “like a king“ to a dystopia of tyranny, with them being objectified to a “filthy Jews”; the loss of identity resultant of racial hatred and political turmoil draws parallels to the dukedom of Frederick. The beginning of 1938 … in the centre of town it was a Nazi flag… everyone got excited and frightened”; the use of dramatic shadows and the low angle shot of the Nazi flag conveys the power of place, dominance and oppression through symbolism to significantly diminish the Jew’s sense of identity. Unlike the Forest of Arden, whose replacement for the court reinforces Elizabethan connections, the Polish ghettos where “families squeezed into two rooms” conveyed through long shots of dark decaying buildings and streets drawn into the symbolic shapes of the Swastika, illustrate the alienation created by displacement from community. Spigelman illustrates this disjunction through his protagonists symbolically donning a “Polish” mask, the rejection of his own identity is indicative that belonging is a product of association to place and as such the solidarity of one’s personal identity is shown to compromise by a place that utterly rejects their race and religion.
Shakespeare also demonstrates the disparity of having brother against brother and uncle against niece, which contextualised against the Elizabethan hierarchy is seen to be erroneous and self destructive. This is best demonstrated through the pairs of characters, Orlando/Oliver and Rosalind/Celia. Shakespeare juxtaposes the inalienable bond of brotherhood “I have as much of my father in me as you” against the twisted murderous intent of Oliver that “I never loved my brother in my life”. Contrasting against the sibling devotional Greco allusional analogy of” like Juno’s swans … coupled and inseparable” portraying the loyalty between Celia and Rosalind in reference to the life long bonds of symbolically noble birds. Thus a key motivational drive for the play is the restoration of filial bonds. The “hungry lioness” to which Orlando gives battle can be metaphorically interpreted as the negative emotions of selfishness, envy and revenge that keeps the brothers apart. As such when “but kindness, nobler than revenge and nature” enables Orlando to save his brother in the scene reminiscent of Hercules’s trials; it is a restoration of not only brotherly love but the Christian ethos of filial bonds. Thus the redemption in which Oliver “it shall be your good … all the revenue that was old sir Roland’s will I estate upon you” and reconnection of brotherly duty and bonds demonstrates that adherence to cultural hierarchies generates belonging.
In Maus much like Shakespeare’s employment of the family duty as a driving force behind the motivations of the characters as they overcome adversity to reach redemption and restoration. Spiegelman also utilises the motif of family and Jewish community values as a motivation for the protagonist’s survival through the death camps. Speigelman demonstrates this connection between hope and filial bonds through “just seeing (Anja) gives me strength” in which dramatic lighting and dark sombre colours juxtaposed with a close up his wife illustrates the strength derived from the hope of reunion. In juxtaposition, the loss of family is shown by spiegelman to have an utterly devastating influence. “I felt the nauseous … the guilt was overwhelming!” the use of strong dramatic lines to emphasise a pin stripe suit is a motif of the torture and imprisonment that links the feeling of alienation and fear in Auschwitz to that the loss of family. Finally just as Juno’s swans in AYLI, spiegelman illustrates that family is the key to fulfilment. The final image of a symmetrical gravestone where husband and wife are at last united demonstrates the inalienable bonds of family and love.
Likewise, Clint Eastwood’s film Gran Turino similarly explores the notion of environments shaping the one’s identity. This is most salient through the juxtaposition of the Hmong Ghetto against Walt and the greater American society that surrounds it. Eastwood initially critiques the ghetto environment as a place in which despite the providence of family and Asian culture, the youth are unable to integrate into society and such lack identity; this is portrayed by the hyperbolic negative connotations and racial slur in “You should be hangin’ out with your own people, with all the other Humongs!”, where the environment objectifies an individual to be merely a part of the “other Humongs” and without identity. Eastwood juxtaposes this against Walt and his American dream values with an initial low angle panning shot of the main street; in which Walt’s symbolic white picket fences and red stripes and white stars flag are contrasted against broken down and degraded residences of his Asian neighbours; an allegorical contrast in portrayal of belonging to society and social rejection. This is compounded by the director’s depiction of Thao; who is introduced through a series of mis-en-scenes where he is always centred in the frame, depicted between his Asian garden or filial values and Walt’s American lawn. It is through Walt’s passing on of the Gran Turino and the tool belt, metaphorical for a way out of the ghetto and not belonging and the passing of the American dream from a first generation migrant to another, that represents Thao’s adoption of his new identity as part of the greater American society, consequently furthermore supporting the idea that environments can induce connection and disconnection.