An individual shapes his or her own sense of belonging.
Belonging is an intrinsic human desire, driven by an individual’s need for comfort, safety and confidence. However one’s yearning for affiliation, may lead them to shape their character and identity to fit society’s expectations, obscuring their individuality. In response, William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy “As You Like It” asserts that one must not compromise their identity for acceptance.Similarly Theodore Roethke’s poem, “In a Dark time”, accentuates the need for an individual to first establish their own identity and shape their own sense of belonging to attain freedom and happiness away from the constricting mores of society. A holistic sense of belonging is one built on the honesty and constancy of relationships that empower and encourage us to shape our own identity and connections.
In “As you like it” Shakespeare juxtaposes the filial yet hostile relationship of Oliver and Orlando with Celia and Rosalind to highlight the value of a compassionate friendship in attaining acceptance.Oliver, representive of the “envious court”, embodies the superficial and materialistic sense of belonging. This is reflected in his inner thoughts which are revealed through two soliloquies in the opening scene, “full of ambition, an envious emulator of every man’s good parts, a secret and villainous contriver against me. ” Although he is referring to Orlando, it is ironic because it is in fact a description of himself. Furthermore, Oliver’s selfish desires lead him to mistreat Oliver “his horses are bred better”.The use of animal imagery highlights the lack of care Oliver displays towards his brother, and as a result of this disconnection, Orlando is forced to leave the court, demonstrating the detrimental effects of a hostile relationship towards one sense of inclusion and identity .
In contrast to Orlando and Oliver, the relationship between Celia and Rosalind is described as “like Juno’s Swans. ” The mythical allusion to “Juno’s swans” emphasizes the intimate relationship between Celia and Rosalind, as Juno was the roman goddess of marriage and swans were thought to mate for life.Moreover, the value of a meaningful connection is demonstrated when Celia leaves her father and her position in the court to accompany the banished Rosalind in the hopes that she will find a new sense of connection elsewhere, “now go we in content, to liberty, and not to banishment. ” Here their expulsion and isolation from the court is described as “liberty” because although they are alienated, they are freed from the superficial sense of belonging that shapes the court. Belonging then is predicated upon the rejection of simple conformity, shown through the persona of “in a dark time “.This is paralleled to Rosalind and Orlando, who are prepared to define individual identity outside of social conformity, in stark contrast to Oliver.
At the beginning of the poem, the persona is caught between despair and hope as he struggles with the effects of his alienation, “my shadow pinned against the sweating wall, that place among the rocks, is it a cave or winding path. ” The “shadow” symbolizes the part of him that wishes to give into despair and allow society to dictate his identity and sense of acceptance.However this is contrasted with “the winding path” connoting hope for a new chance at attaining belonging in another setting, implying that the persona still wishes to shape his own perception of inclusion. The persona although ostracized by society, is confident in his ideals and individuality, “What’s madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstances? ” His defiance is emphasized through the rhetorical question, highlighting his desire to shape his own sense of belonging as opposed to allowing society to prescribe his identity. As the poem progresses his confidence rises, “in a dark time, the eye begins to see. The use of metonymy in “eye” delineates clarity in both sight and mind, as he has begun to “see” a path out of his alienation, a possible chance to venture out and establish new connections.
Although alienation is harsh, it forces one to either perish or evolve, in turn, developing and defining one’s identity so they may have the confidence to search for a new connection. Furthermore belonging can be established through the influences and the strong bonds one forms within a new environment, as shown in the nurturing social microcosm of the Forest of Arden and the pastoral tradition in “As You like it”.The pastoral tradition deconstructs the social constructs of the court, therefore freeing individuals to define their own identity and belonging. Duke Senior describes his experience in the forest as, “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
” Here Shakespeare subverts the artificiality of the “public haunt” and instead asserts that the forest breaks away the social constructs that prevent self-definition of identity.Once the characters are separated from the court, they can establish honest relationships that help to define identity and ultimately a stronger sense of social belonging. This is reflected in the deep connection that flourished between Orlando and Ganymede, who strips away his artificial social identity, of a courtly lover and an avenger, to reveal a more authentic character. As a result he saves his “unnatural” brother, “twice did he turn his back and purposed so.But kindness, nobler ever than revenge, and nature, stronger than his just occasion, made him give battle to the lioness.
” This illustrates that he now understands that empathetic relationships are central to belonging. Similarly Duke Frederick’s abrupt conversion, “And to the skirts of this wild wood he came, where, meeting with an old religious man, after some question with him, was converted both from his enterprise and from the world,” is an example of the Forest as a catalyst for personal change and a discovery of a new sense of identity and inclusion.A new setting provides a positive atmosphere for the individual to discover his identity, fostering harmony and promoting the return of an inclusive social hierarchy as defining belonging. In contrast to the nurturing environment of “As You Like it”, “In a Dark Time” asserts that individuals can shape their identity through the difficult experiences in an unforgiving setting as it reveals one’s weaknesses and forces the individual to negotiate a new sense of identity and belonging.
However, similar to “As you like it,” the isolation in nature strips down the persona, “I meet my shadow in the deepening shade, a lord of nature weeping to a tree” and forces him to determine and re-evaluate his weaknesses. His confrontation with his weaknesses engendered by his seclusion in nature is overwhelming, as depicted in the use of emotive language, “a lord of nature weeping to a tree”, but it allows him to mature, giving him the confidence to re-establish his sense of affiliation elsewhere. This is reflected when the persona delivers a “death of the self in a long tearless night”.This metaphorical death is in fact a “positive death”, as it represents the demise of his doubts and regrets embodied by his “shadow”. As the persona is not plagued by the doubts and pains of his alienation, he now has the strength to move forward and establish his identity and own sense of belonging.
The poem ends with “And one is One, free in the tearing wind. ” The use of capitals on the second “One” emphasises the establishment of his identity and although he enters a world of “tearing winds”, he has the strength to endure it and find a sense of connection.Belonging is an inherent human condition in which we strive to feel an unconditional bond of security, and is essential in establishing our identity and place in the world. However a sense of inclusion where identity and beliefs are compromised is not true acceptance, because true belonging is where one’s individuality is accepted and allowed to flourish.
As reflected in the pastoral comedy “As you like it” by William Shakespeare and the poem “In a dark time”, by Theodore Roethke, an individual must pursue the definition of their own identity to shape an accurate sense of belonging.