Belonging: Narrator and Sense

Humans are constantly in search for belonging, it is something vital to our existence. A sense of belonging emerges from our ability to establish connections with place, people and culture. However when these aspects are challenged, we find out if we truly belong or not. Such ideas are explored in the texts, ‘The Ride of Zhu Bao Sheng’, a third person short story by Nick Long, and ‘Big World’, a first person short story by Tim Winton, which both explore the idea of belonging being challenged and how this affects one’s sense of belonging. Our sense of belonging is derived from the connections to the places around us.
One’s sense of belonging is challenged when changes or barriers arise between our connection with place, people and culture. In both ‘The Ride of Zhu Bao Sheng’ and ‘Big World’, we see the protagonists’ sense of belonging being challenged. Nick Long asserts that Zhu does not belong in the place he is in by using irony, making it clear Zhu feels a lack of belonging. This idea is shown through the line, “He was alone in this place. True, the town is full of people…” Here the obvious use of irony is used to emphasize Zhu’s detachment from the rest of the town caused by his sense of belonging being challenged after he moved from his ‘hometown’.
Inevitably with effort, he makes a connection to the place. This is evident by the line “almost drunk with the scent of the acacias, and of the dust, and of this new landscape. ” This dreamy state implies that a sense of belonging comes after we establish healthy connections with place. The unnamed narrator in ‘Big World’ tells of the differences between himself and his best high school friend in a confessional tone, saying “Unlike him, I’m not really from here. It’s not hosing blood that s**ts me off – it’s Angelus itself; I’m going nuts here. Unlike Zhu, the narrator chooses not to build a connection to the place, instead he intends to escape Angelus, evident in the line “f**k it, we’re outta here”. The use of the hyperbole, ‘I’m going nuts here’ shows that even after spending years in a place, one may never establish a strong connection with place to develop a healthy sense of solidarity with a community. We learn that when one’s sense of belonging is challenged, one can face the challenge and still establish a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging to place is closely intertwined with the people within that place.

The relationships formed around an individual are the cornerstones of their sense of community and belonging. A sense of belonging is often reliant of the relationships we build; these connections may determine our own self-perception on how we fit the world around us. We see the importance of relationships in ‘The Ride of Zhu Bao Sheng’ as he felt no sense of belonging. Zhu was challenged by not knowing anyone, evident in the line “Who will I talk to? There was nobody to answer the questions. ” The rhetorical question reinforces the idea that he could only talk to himself.
However, after speaking to a girl, he felt a sense of a relationship, which is reinforced by the change in tone and the use of a simile. “Zhu didn’t understand the words, but was amazed by the sound of them. Her voice was airy and light, like the song of a small bird”. Throughout the text, the language had been pessimistic, this contrast in tone, was the direct result of a relationship formed, in essence, a sense of belonging had been formed. Similarly in ‘Big World’, the importance of connection to people is clear.
The narrator felt a strong sense of belonging when around his best friend, Biggie, shown by the constant anaphora of the inclusive pronouns that runs throughout the entire text, ‘we’ and ‘us’. An example of this extensive use is “We fried. We’re idiots of a different species but we’re both bloody idiots. The repetition of inclusive pronouns shows the narrators strong connection with Biggie, which displays a strong sense of companionship when he is around biggie. It is only when this sense of companionship is challenged, that the narrator will know how strong this companionship actually is.
We learn that challenges that arise in many forms and can be overcome to see what lies ahead for one’s sense of belonging. Belonging is derived from our sense of connection with people and place. It is also derived from one’s culture. It is harder for those of a minority in a dominant culture to thrive in terms of their sense of belonging. A minority must conform to the dominant culture in order to establish a healthy sense of belonging with the dominant culture. Zhu’s culture and ethnicity is considered to my a minority.
Zhu experiences a barrier to belonging with the dominant culture. It writes, “But they were not Chinese people, and he could not speak to people who were not Chinese. Nobody ever taught him. ” Zhu’s culture has restricted him from communicating with those outside his culture. Being in a situation where one is a minority, one will find it very difficult to build connections with those of the dominant group. Conformity is needed, which Zhu gives in to, eventually attempting to speak English, the dominant language. In contrast to Zhu, the narrator of Big World’ does not have such issues with culture. The narrator’s culture is tightly bonded with that of the dominant culture allowing his sense of belonging to excel. Such connections with culture can be seen through heavy Australian idioms as Winton writes, “Mag wheels, a lurid spray job like something off a Yes album and a filthy great mattress in the back, a chick magnet, that’s what we want. The heavily idiomatic language suggests a strong sense of association with the dominant culture, in effect, provides a strong sense of belonging.
We learn that society will force you to conform in order to belong. When a person conforms to a culture, a sense of belonging to place and people will come with it. From the reading of ‘The Ride of Shu Bao Sheng’, we learn that one’s attachment to place is essential to their sense of belonging due to the human condition to want to form connections with place. This has been reinforced by ‘Big World’, where the narrator is challenged and could not form a connection with the place, resulting in a lack of belonging in that aspect.
Both texts have shown me the degree at which the people surrounding and individual will influence their sense of belonging and when barriers arise, with effort, these challenges can be overcome to establish a stronger sense of belonging. In addition to these notions of belonging, both texts have solid but contrasting views on belonging to place, however serve the same purpose as important aspects of belonging. In conclusion, the notions of belonging such as place, people and culture are all intertwined and are thus the cornerstones of ones sense of belonging.

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