Belonging: Emily Dickinson Essay

Belonging is an inherent part of the human condition. It enables an individual to gain a sense of connection within themselves and to the external world. In essence, to belong is to be human. These ideas can be explored through the poetry if Emily Dickinson. In her poem, “this is my letter to the world,” Dickinson demonstrates the fundamental desire for belonging through a letter which appeals to her society for acceptance.

This desire can similarly be seen through her poem “I had been hungry all the years,” in which Dickinson uses another human experience, hunger, to represent her insatiable need for belonging.

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The human desire for belonging can be nurtured or inhibited by an individual’s society. In her poem, “this is my letter to the world,” Dickinson not only reveals her desire to belong, but also the way that society has prevented her from achieving this. Dickinson accomplishes this effectively as she reflects her feelings through a “letter to the world.

Dickinson attempts to internalise the views of her society and, upon failing to do so, retreats further within herself where she finds a sense of belonging. The line “The simple news that Nature told, with tender majesty,” demonstrates Dickinson’s reverence for nature and the hope that people will be able to hear her message through it, which is personified as the mediator between Dickinson and her society. Within this poem, it is clear that Dickinson has a closer affinity to nature than she does with society.

It is through nature that she is able to gain a sense of belonging, which is fundamental for human growth and development. Dickinson’s messages are complex and profound but usually conveyed in simple language, which tends to create an enigmatic effect. In this poem, Dickinson uses metonymy to represent her society as “hands I cannot see. ” This demonstrates her alienation with society and her need to simplify them into something she is able to comprehend. The last line makes a final appeal to the readers as she writes “for love of her, sweet countrymen, Judge tenderly of me! Her choice of the term “countrymen” further emphasises her sense of marginalism from her predominantly patriarchal society. Dickinson’s inability to adopt the ideologies of her society has prevented her from achieving a sense of belonging to and had ultimately resulted in her alienation. Like Dickinson, the twentieth century writer, Franz Kafka struggled with the ideals and expectations of his society. Through his novella, The Metamorphosis Kafka discloses his feelings of alienation from those around him as he struggles with the ideological discourses of his community.

The story follows Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman who wakes up one morning to find he has been transformed into a giant insect. Kafka’s description of Gregor inverts the readers’ expectations however, as Gregor never seems to question his transformation. His soul concern is the fact that his family is will no longer sustain direct contact with him. The story begins at what would conventionally be the climax, however Kafka’s choice of introducing it at the start, changes the novella’s significance.

Kafka instead chooses to place the emphasis on Gregor’s inner transformation from his human life into the life he experiences as a bug. His simple matter of fact style gives the reader a feeling of alienation as the writing style is so different from what one expects. Through the similarities displayed in Metamorphosis and Kafka’s own life, it is clear that the bug is in fact a manifestation of Kafka himself. In his writing, Kafka often referred to himself as “unborn” or in-human. He found it difficult to accept his own body and regarded it as something foreign and not belonging to him.

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