Ultimately, it is one’s relationship to another or their identification with a wider social grouping that affects their sense of belonging. For others, especially those who seek solitude, a connection with physical place can generate feelings of security. To be ostracised occurs when barriers such as mental illness become evident and while some are forced into isolation, others choose to remain alone in seclusion.
This understanding of belonging has been influenced by a response to the memoir Romulus, My Father by Raimond Gaita, the short story Two Friends by Guy de Maupassant and translated by Roger Colet and the bildungsroman The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Through one of the fundamental relationships in life, the development of friendship, allegiances are formed, nurtured and forever bonding. In the course of this account of fragility, despair, loss and resilience, Romulus, My Father works to articulate an ethical understanding of belonging, belonging constituted in relation to the other.
This is seen most intensely in the relationship Gaita describes between his father and Hora. To form such friendships in which a sense of belonging is fostered, shared values, attitudes and beliefs are integral to such close companionship and understanding. “Character…was the central moral concept for my father and Hora…The notion of character suggested something steady and deep in a person. ” Hora and Romulus based their relationship on their shared and valued common traits such as this notion of having character.
Choice of the words “steady” and “deep” indicate that having character is an essential and profound element of humankind and those without are excluded as Christine was. Two Friends is about the cherished friendship of two Frenchmen whose loyalties are tested till their death. The introduction of the story serves to establish the significance of their friendship; this is seen in the phrase “firm friends”. Alliteration in this statement draws attention to the strength of their relationship and that such a solid connection concretes their sense of belonging to each other.
This firm friendship is founded, as Romulus’ and Hora’s was, on shared values. “They understood each other perfectly without any need for words, having similar tastes and identical feelings. ” This short story supports the notion that those who share similar character traits are extremely compatible and an unspoken understanding of one another immediately forms. This in turn creates a close companionship based on shared values. Cultural identity is a prominent theme throughout Romulus, My Father and has contributed to an understanding of the role that belonging to a nation plays.
The need for national identity and the will for patriotism are essential in forming a strong sense of belonging. “but only Australians could live there. ” This quotation alludes to the notion of not belonging and the exclusive language seen in “only” creates this sense of division between the immigrants and Australian society. When Romulus seeks out other Romanians as he “always considered himself Romanian”, the intrinsic need to belong to others similar to him confirms the importance of identifying with a nation to feel accepted. The context of the memoir also helps to establish the prevailing social attitudes about migrants and their roles.
Migrants were greeted with hostility and found it difficult to establish a sense of connection to the Australian community. In Two Friends, the two protagonists, Monsieur Sauvage and Monsieur Morissot are portrayed as brave, stoic Frenchmen who are proud to identify with and protect the French defence line. “They found themselves together again, side by side. ” The two friends are a microcosm for wider society, in conflict and in celebration, a country and its inhabitants stand united, “side by side”, to create a community to which all belong.
At the conclusion of the short story, they choose not to betray their country to which they have a strong connection to and are instead shot dead. It is these connections to social and cultural groups that ultimately define one’s sense of belonging yet for some, especially those that seek security and comfort in solitude, attachment to land and place generate feelings of belonging. Imagery of nature and the environment produces a sense of identity and belonging for Raimond and also for Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye.
For Raimond it is represented through his appreciation and genuine affection for the land and Gaita’s acute attention to detail when describing these. “More than anything, however, the glorious, tall, burnt yellow grasses…dominated the images of my childhood and gave colour to my freedom. ” The accumulation of adjectives emphasises Raimond’s affection for and connection to the Australian landscape. Holden invents a fantasy that adulthood is a world of superficiality and hypocrisy and childhood is a world of innocence, curiosity and honesty.
These ideals are revealed through the extended metaphor that childhood is an idyllic field of rye in which children romp and play and the adult world is equivalent to a fatal fall over the edge of a cliff. It is this nature imagery of the field of rye to which Holden attaches himself and belongs to. Barriers that prevent people from belonging are often beyond their control and these barriers may have negative implications for a person. Both Christine’s physical and mental illness prevented her from being accepted into the community of Baringhup. Seeing her from the outside, framed by the open window, sitting up in bed gasping for breath. ” This quotation shapes that character of Christine as an outsider and the window acts as an obstruction between her and others, she is incapable of forming relationships with those around her. The clinical prose that Gaita uses when recounting stories of his mother detaches him from her and again represents Christine’s isolation. Whilst often it is beyond an individual’s control in terms of whether or not they belong, in some cases people may choose to isolate themselves.
Belonging means conforming to a set of shared values and social expectations. Those who choose not to abide by the conventions of a social grouping or larger organisation are cast out. Loneliness is a motif continually seen in The Catcher in the Rye and the consecutive meaningless encounters Holden partakes in manifest his inability to relate to or be a part of any social grouping. His encounter with Sally Hayes shows how his loneliness propels him into their date but his need for isolation causes him to insult her and drive her away. Holden has a number of opportunities to break free from his isolation but he chooses not to.
As a result, he ends up isolated beyond his control. From the prescribed text, Romulus, My Father and the related texts, Two Friends and The Catcher in the Rye, it can be seen that a sense of belonging is formed through friendships based on shared values, identifying with a wider commonalty such as the national community or even through a connection with physical place. Factors beyond an individual’s control, such as mental illness, prevent belonging. Others choose not to belong and realise the negative implications of loneliness when they end up isolated beyond their control.