Belonging consists of a struggle with opposing pressures. A desire to belong also consists of emotional conflicts and struggles between being acknowledged while also remaining as an individual and retaining personal ideals which may ultimately result in a connection. This is explored in Emily Dickinson selected poetry I died for beauty, but was scarce and I had been hungry all the years , as well as Scott Westerly’s novel Ugliest.
These texts all depict a struggle between being recognized and accepted in society and the desire to remain true to one’s self, exploring the radically nature of belonging which, on one hand, provides fulfillment, but also removes a sense of personal identity. Dickinson I died for beauty, but was scarce examines the struggle between opposing pressures of individuality as an artist and a search for acceptance through the persona’s attempt to acquire fulfillment after death.
The persona’s introduction as an outsider due to a lack of conformity in society is clearly illustrated in the first line of the poem “l died for beauty, but was scarce” where “scarce” serves to emphasis the persona’s lack of recognition and acknowledgment while she was alive. The introduction of the secondary persona metaphorically Juxtaposes this as “one who died for truth”, implying a difference between the two who are placed in “adjoining rooms” as an imagery of distance due to their differences, also showing the persona’s struggle with opposing pressures to reach out, yet building a wall when in fear of losing her individuality.
An examination of the paradoxical nature of belonging that creates struggles is also evident through the persona’s death “for beauty’ where beauty is a symbolization for Dickinson art is received as a failure as she is questioned as to “why I failed? “, showing the view of her society where a lack of conformity is seen as a failure and illustrates her absence of belonging in society as a result of choosing to retain her individualism as an artist, showing a struggle to make a choice between opposing sides.
This choice is ultimately illustrated to be a source of connection as “the two are one”, implying that dying as an individual has the potential to create harmony between people as they both die for individual values, further emphasized by the switch from first person angular “l” to inclusive pronouns “we brethren are” and “kinsmen”, highlighting the development of a connection between the two persona, who despite differing ideals, were both able to retain individuality.
Struggles between opposing pressures of conformity and individuality which can also bring about connection is successfully explored by Dickinson through the depiction of the persona’s conflict between a desire to belong yet desiring individuality as an artist, which ultimately results in a harmony between the two persona due to similar desires. Scott Westerly’s Ugliest also explores the struggle with maintaining individual identity while wishing to be accepted society through the perspective of protagonist Tally Youngling. Tally and Shay display conflicting perspectives towards the ‘pretties’ where Tally desire to Join the community evident in a positive tone that is used when describing them such as “beautiful” is contrasted with Shays views of the society in “doing what you’re supposed to do is always boring”, where a struggle between opposing views is illustrated through the two in which Tally shows a wish to be accepted while Shay instead only wants to remain herself rather than have her ideals forcefully removed.
Ultimately, Tally seclusion from the society she had “failed” to conform to creates a romantic connection between her and David, where despite their differing ideals in life are able to relate to each other due to favoring individualism evident in Davit’s statement of Tally mirrored different from the rest of them… That’s why you’re beautiful,” indicating a sense of inner individual beauty from choosing personal ideals over society expectations, similar to I died for beauty in which the two persona are able to create harmony as they both died for individual values.
Similarly, Dickinson I had been hungry all the years explores a struggle between a desire to be acknowledged in a society that had always been distant to her and a hesitation in entering it in fear of losing individuality through a persona’s brief experience with conformity. An initial, craving desire to be accepted is illustrated in “l had been hungry all the years” where hungry’ becomes a symbolization of her need to enter a society she had never been a part of.
This consequently creates a distance from society which results in hesitation as she “touched the curious wine”, the use of imagery effectively depicting the unknown nature of belonging to the persona and therefore a hesitation on how to approach it, also further illustrating the expectations of society through the need for table manners as the persona is required to feast in a specific way.
In the end, the persona discovers that “the plenty hurt me”, the unfamiliarity of the society she is even an opportunity to be a part of instead hurting her, and causes her to feel “as berry of a mountain bush transplanted to the road”, the simile emphasizing the feeling of detachment and discomfort from fulfilling the society expectations of her, causing an internal conflict between doubts towards entering the society despite her previous hunger for it.
The consequent repulsion felt in “Nor was I hungry’ once again resuming the symbolization illustrates her choice to return to solitary existence due to an unwillingness to conform to society, which she discovers as “a way of errors outside windows, the entering takes away’, showing a realization that “entering” from the symbolization of an outsider “outside windows” removes a sense of individuality as it forces one to conform to their expectations, and the persona ultimately overcomes her internal conflict and chooses to return to solitary as she discovers what it really is.
Dickinson successfully explores the conflicting nature of belonging through the persona’s struggle to make a choice between opposing pressures of conforming to society and maintaining her own self. Scott Westerly’s Ugliest correspondingly envelops the conflict to choose between a society that one has always dreamed of entering and another that is willing to accept one for who they truly are through the Journey of a girl named Tally Youngling.
Tally lack of inclusion in the modern society ‘New Pretty Town’ is illustrated in “she was an infiltrator, a sneak, an ugly,” the accumulation of unwelcome descriptions also serving to emphasize her position as an outcast, which is accompanied by her desire to be turned ‘pretty and be a part of the society which is evident in positive imagery of laughter and music”, and can be compared to Dickinson “l had been hungry all the years”, where hungry also represents the persona’s desire to be accepted.
The paradoxical nature of belonging which forces one to conform and erases individual identity is also effectively demonstrated through “becoming pretty doesn’t Just change the way you look… It changes the way you think,” where acquiring a sense of belonging is also indicated to remove all personal values and individualism and instead forcing one to change their ideals against their will, similar to the compulsory able manners in I had been hungry which creates expectations in which an individual is required to act.
Dickinson I died for beauty and I had been hungry along with Scott Westerly’s Ugliest have successfully explores the struggles between opposing pressures that exist in belonging, through portrayals of differing views and values in every individual and the society around us. The concept of belonging is paradoxical, creating struggles in choices between individualism and conformity, but ultimately a connection can be developed despite differing ideals.