Essay on Belonging - Swallow the Air

1034 Words Feb 20th, 2011 5 Pages
‘An individual’s interaction with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their experience of belonging.’
BY joseph king
When an individual’s sense of identity is corrupted through prejudicial attitudes they are left exposed and vulnerable allowing a sense of isolation and displacement in society. An individual’s ability to promote change within is largely influenced by the hardships they experience in their struggle to conform and the connectedness of identity that stems from acceptance. Tara June Winch’s novel Swallow the air, adapts the core concept that the perceptions and ideas of belonging are shaped within personal, cultural, historical and social contexts defining who we are resulting in a true understanding and
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The islanders’ reluctant tolerance towards the newcomer in the beginning of the book, turn into fear which is embodied through the words to perpetrate fear. “He will come and eat you up”, “he will murder us all.” The exaggerated aspects of hysteria are used to accumulate hatred towards the outsider.
Whilst Swallow the Air conveys the aspect of ostracism from society, the engagement of the natural world remains as a solace of comfort and security. May’s association with the landscape explores the natural phenomena to help her understand aspects of her social world. Romantic concepts are throughout the text to describe the natural world, “In the small clearing, where I’d hide, shared by umbrellas of grass trees and tree ferns I took the softest ground as a seat. It was dry there too.” Words such as ‘small’, ‘shaded’ and ‘soft’ depict the bush as benign and safe. This passage conveys a strong image of May’s solace in the natural landscape. The notion of an umbrella is metaphoric for protection and a place of refuge. The idea that an individual’s perspective and attitude can either aid or restrict their journey of belonging and acceptance is reiterated in Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree.
Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree allows us to ponder, question and examine the world that we live in and how barriers can intercept our sense of acceptance. In The Red Tree, we learn how fear created in our minds can form barriers as the nameless girl

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