Belonging: Family and Identity
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Belonging has been said to shape our identity. How does our sense of belonging shape who we are as individuals. Belonging is an inevitable part of life, and its presence in many shapes and forms, defines and moulds one’s character and identity. Since belonging emerges from the connections made with people, places and things; these links allow ideas and perspectives to be shared and new interests to be formed. As a child or adult these are absorbed due to the mutual respect present in such a relationship, and taken out in their life, thus shaping their identity. However, in some situations the strong connection present can restrict one’s exploration of the world and therefore restrict the development of an identity. These ideas are illustrated in the biography Romulus, My Father by Raimond Gaita, the film The Blind Side directed by John Hancock and the poem ’Dermott’ by Colin Thiele. Family is one of the strongest sources of belonging that can be found and they act as the most supreme provider of ideas and morals from which one can base their life upon or form their identity on. In Romulus my father, Raimond’s relationship with his father is very important in Raimond’s development as he says; ‘I know what a good workman is. I know what friendship is. I know what honesty is.
I know these things because I saw them in my father’. The biographical format and the use of present tense here as he repeats the words; ‘I know’, emphasizes how even with a long period of time, this relationship has impacted Raimond’s life until adulthood, shaping his identity and his way of looking upon life. It is this relationship that Raimond shares with his father that allows him to possess the inner self confidence which he uses to venture out into the surrounding areas. This decision to venture out is also based upon him wanting to be like the other farm boys as ‘I was the only one who did not kill rabbits’, highlighting his desire to attain an identity through conformity. As Raimond undertakes this journey to find his identity he has an epiphany as highlighted by simile; ‘as when one sees the second image in an ambiguous drawing’ and symbolism; ‘possessed of that key, my perception of the landscape changed radically’, also establishing his development of a belonging to the Australian landscape.
This epiphany indicates him developing his identity as; ‘this drove me deeper into the world of books’, thus illustrating how he develops a new interest, thus shaping his identity, all through the belonging he forms with the Australian landscape. The Blind Side provides another example of how belonging shapes your identity as we see Mike grow from a young, black boy surrounded by nothing but pain and loneliness to a football superstar, all because of the connection he had with the family. We find that Mike’s attitude and outlook on life is altered as a result of his addition to the family and this is portrayed through the director’s use of juxtaposition of past and present. This beneficial change is highlighted by the scene when before Mike had met the family, he tried to approach two little girls playing on swings but they quickly ran away from him. This same scene is set out in the exact same way after Mike has connected with the family and we see, through the zoom-in of the camera, his big smile as they begin to play together. This example amplifies the essentiality of belonging in the form of family, to forming one’s identity as a family relationship brings that comfortable inner-feeling of knowing that someone will be there for you no matter what, thus possessing one with self-confidence, both of which add to one’s identity.
On the other hand, belonging can sometimes have negative impacts on the development of one’s identity. Dermott is a representation of how belonging, in the form of family, can have negative impacts and as a result cause one’s identity to be strayed and destructive. This is in contrast to Romulus, my father as here, the strong relationship between mother and son prevents the growth and development of the child. He is engulfed in the wrath of his; ‘mum-mountain who rumbles protectively’, with the use of personification and onomatopoeia contrasting her mountainous size to her small, defenceless child Dermott. Through the use of; alliteration and hyphens in the words; ‘rug-wrapped and pill-protected’ and ‘toe-trodden and shoulder-shoved’, the poet highlights the damaging affects this strong connection has on Dermott at school and how he is unable to make relationships with others. This poem emphasizes the idea that belonging can also prevent the shaping of one’s identity as they are held too tightly to explore the external world or be able to produce relationships with others. This idea that a strong connection can have negative impacts on the development of an identity is also present in Romulus, my father as Raimond himself says; ‘my father’s insanity cast a shadow over everything I did or thought’.
This use of personification suggests that through belonging, emotions of one in a relationship can impact the other, and therefore his father’s insanity made him unconfident in what he did from then on, thus limiting the extent to which he could explore the external world and develop his own identity. Identity is also shaped by interests which are can be formed by relationships, as evident with Hora and Raimond. The mutual respect that is present in a friendship is the primary catalyst for a share in interests. Hora’s interests in education and science are passed onto Raimond through another mutual interest, sailing; ‘Hora often told me stories as we sailed. As I grew, they changed from adventures to accounts of great men’. The use of intertexuality and historical allusion bring the story to life as he talks; ‘of Albert Schweitzer, who… studied medicine’ and ‘Ignac Semmelweis who tried to prove… they were the cause of rampant childbed fever in maternity wards’. These stories foreshadow Raimond’s future, as the stories are all of great contributions to medicine, and Raimond studies medicine in England as an adult. This illustrates how through the friendship he and Hora shared; he developed an interest in medicine which he took upon as a job and his identity was shaped. The Blind Side highlights how, through Mike’s connection with the family, he earns a confidence which allows him to connect with other entities in life such as football.
The mother becomes the vital link between Mike and football, as she uses the metaphors; ‘SJ is the tailback and I am the quarterback’, to help Mike understand football and his position. From then onwards he annihilates everyone he comes up against and his name is soon spread all across the community, thus forming his identity as he becomes a hero who’s repeatedly chanted about; ‘Big Mike! Big Mike!’ This example portrays how belonging, in the form of family, can bring about other connections in your life, such as football, and thus mould your identity as interests, self-belonging and skills are developed, all of which contribute to one’s identity. In conclusion, belonging allows one’s identity to develop, as the mutual respect present in such a relationship allows the transfer and sharing of ideas from one to the other from which interests and the way one lives their life can develop. These developments all add to one’s identity, which is the way in which you live your life. However, belonging can also restrict this development as seen in Dermott and briefly in Romulus, My Father. Therefore, through the examples of Dermott, Romulus, My father and the Blind Side, belonging can be said to shape one’s identity.