Explore how perceptions of belonging and not belonging can be influenced by connections to places
Belonging is a universal human experience that occurs when individuals share a set of beliefs. It often emerges from our connections to place, in terms of both the surrounding environment and our perceived place within relationships. The pastoral comedy “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare strengthens our grasp of this elusive concept by exploring the influence of agrarian existence on how characters finds their place in society. “Line written in Kensington Garden” by Matthew Arnold similarly expresses a rapturous appreciation of nature while conveying the isolation of the protagonist in a tumultuous society. Ultimately through analysis of theatrical and poetic forms, the responder understands that our emotional links with place both physically and metaphorically can enrich our sense of belonging to one group while alienating us from others.
An individual’s interaction with the surrounding environment in AYLI is demonstrated through the contrast of the court and forest. The play unfolds in the “painted pomp” of the court where brother is turned against brother , in the Elizabethan context of the Chain of Being; this is reconnection of filial bonds, and the restoration of social station. The corruption of the court is demonstrated by the irony of Frederick’s “more villain art thou” when Oliver proclaims “I never loved my brother”; emphasising the fractured filial bonds caused by ambition. However, in the “Golden time” of the forest, nature nurtures a positive influence on the protagonists. The biblical allusion, “finding sermons in stones, books in brook… and good in everything” illustrates freedom from rigorous social constraints, and demonstrate a life free from human corruption.Demonstratively, Orlando saves Oliver from the lion and this noble act of courage transforms Oliver. His catharsis “I do not shame to tell you what I was, since my conversion so sweetly tastes, being the thing I am”. alludes to the restoration of brotherly ties once away from the court.Thus through the contrast of relationships within the court and forest, we gain deeper insight into how connections with place can add or take away from our sense of belonging.
Similarly, Kensington explores how the protagonist’s interaction with the garden strengthens his connection to nature while making him more detached from society. Arnold initially establishes the persona’s serenity through synaesthesia. The aural imagery of “tremulous sheep-cries” and visual imagery of “black-crown’d, red-boled pine-tree” stimulating a pure and peaceful setting and engages with the Romantic agrarian ideal of spirituality and personal affirmation. This is juxtaposed to the “huge world that roars hard by”, which the protagonist rejects the industrial revolution through imagery of corruption and disruption. Much like the Forest of Arden, the glade provides respite from the fast moving chaotic world and gives him momentary spiritual clarity. This is crystallised through the allusion of being “breathed on by the rural Pan”, the god of nature. However, unlike AYLI where nature repairs brotherly bonds, in Kensington, it only adds to the protagonist’s discontent toward society, the final stanza “that there abides a peace of thine/man did not make and cannot mar”, iterates the heartfelt connections that alienate the persona from mainstream society. Therefore, the protagonist’s links with nature reveal how connection can simultaneously enhance and inhibit our belonging toward different entities.
At another level, AYLI, through a discussion of inclusive and exclusive personalities, demonstrate the strong influence of human relationships over our sense of belonging.
Inclusive people, such as Duke Senior, are willing to embrace the values of others and gain fulfilment through such relationships. This can be seen through his warm and inviting dialogue, “sit down and feed and welcome to our table” when he first meets Orlando. His solid community ties with his loyal followers is emphasised by allusion to “like Robin of old” and this gives him optimism and a sense of fulfilment. On the other hand, Jacques is an example of an exclusive person, and can only view others from “a perspective of absolute righteousness” (Mark Bracher). Jacques generalises everyone as “fat greasy citizen” and intentionally removes himself from society to get away from the sinful behaviour and maintain his “pure values”. His “QUOTE” is TECH that demonstrates the same agrarian isolation as Kensington, as the Elizabethan ideal of life within God’s natural world dissassociates him from even the exploitive lifestyle of Senior and his ‘merry’ men. Through these two juxtaposing characters, Shakespeare reinforces how relationships shape our sense of belonging.
At another level, Kensington shows how a lack of connections to people can lead to isolation. The protagonist rejects the material society and seeks spiritual awakening through nature which is characteristic of the romantic era. In a way, he echoes the character of Jacques as both measure those around them by their rigorous moral code. The resulting clashes of values distance them from the world. Furthermore the normal eight-syllabic verses suddenly changes in stanza 6, “I, on men‘s impious uproar hurl’d”, to highlight his isolation when it comes to society. However, unlike Jacques, he wishes to connect with others, asking for “the power to feel with other give”. He recognises that his melancholic outlook prohibits his ability to fit in as shown through the repetition of calm. “Calm soul of all things”, “calm, calm me more”. This repetition indicates his wishes to numb the anxiety of his disgust towards society so he can conform and be accepted by others. Through this we see the intrinsic desire of humans to be a part of society, therefore illustrating the necessity of societal bonds.
Overall, AYLI and Kensington demonstrate how individuals can feel connected to place, other individuals and society. Both texts ultimately encapsulate the need of meaningful relationships to our sense of belonging.