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"An individual's interaction with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their

experience of belonging."
Discuss this view with detailed reference to your prescribed text and ONE other
related text of your own choosing. 2010 HSC question BAND 6 response
Belonging is a multifarious construct which subsumes and circumscribes one's internal
perception of self. It is this sense of belonging which is inherently defined via interaction
with others, and this manifests as a symbiotically enriching and limiting experience.
Dickinson's "This is my letter to the world" and "I gave myself to him" epitomise her
paradoxical oscillation between yearning for social acceptance and enrichment and desire
for dissociation from a society she deems limiting. Her repudiation of the strictures
espoused in 19th century American society render her detached from the world around her
and her interactions with others. Similarly, Conrad's Heart of Darkness, via the trajectory of
Kurtz's descent into savagery examines the contradictory nature of identity as enriched
and limiting. Thus all three texts explore the inherent symbiosis between an enriching and
limiting experience of belonging and the ramifications of the paradoxical construct on one's
perception of self, circumscribed by the relationship and interaction with others and the
world.
"This is my letter" examines Dickinson's endeavours to at once arrest and safeguard her
autonomous identity whilst assimilating into a society she associates with erroneous
orthodoxies. Her withdrawal from society is paralleled with her desire for reciprocal
understanding and credence within 19th century American society. Thus her experience of
belonging is one of concurrent enrichment and limitations as she asserts her personal
identity as a female writer in a patriarchal culture. The initial line "This is my letter to the
world" serves as an accusatory proclamation addressing the literary populace with use of
personal possessive pronoun "my" establishing her projection of self. The entire poem is
inundated with refractive, compressed syntax which succeeds in making logical links
between consecutive statements and stanzas. This is demonstrated in the ensuing line,
"That never wrote to me." This exemplifies vacillation between past and present tense,
establishing her limiting experience of belonging as a result of her severe lack of
interaction with others. Thus, she condemns the parochial perceptions of the world around
her. Wolonsky expounds on this paradoxical experience of limitation and enrichment: "(The
poem expresses) her efforts to find her place in traditions of reclusion and her dogged
refusal to do so."
Similarly, Kurtz's identity is forged from his limited discernment of ideals of Eurocentrism
permeating late 19th century European society. As the epitome of the Western man, "All
Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz", Kurtz's identity is unmitigated in its affiliation
with European values and doctrines. This enriching social construct of identity is
exacerbated via Kurtz's removal from the parameters and supposed moral precepts of

European civilisation. His exertion of epistemological superiority based on the ensconced


ideas of European supremacy is demonstrated in his conviction: "We must necessarily
appear to them in the nature of supernatural beings." Spiritual discourse dehumanises the
natives, exemplifying Kurtz's identity as being limited to Eurocentric ideals. As a
consequence of severance from the safeguards of social strictures upheld and enforced by
Western society, Kurtz's sense of self becomes governed by the prospect of absolute
power: "we had taken a high seat amongst the debris of the land". This demonstrated
paradoxical import in the juxtaposition of 'high seat', denoting superior moral ground, with
'debris of the land', representative of negation of moral compass. Thus via Kurtz's
definition we can see the ramification of removal from European society in limiting one's
identity.
Comparatively, Dickinson's 'I gave myself to him' indicts the institution of marriage as a
mysoginistic means of commodifying women via patriarchal interaction between the sexes.
Condemning the enforced ideal of male supremacy, Dickinson elicits an expression of her
limited experience of belonging as a result of her status as a female writer, interacting with
a predominately patriarchal literary society. The initial stanza exemplifies economic and
masculine lexicon with words such as 'contrast' and 'rectified' endorsing the formality and
apathy of entering into the institution of marriage. 'The wealth might disappoint, myself a
poorer prove'. Here, she elicits an assertion of her personal identity limited as a female
writer in male literary society. Thus the poem projects the gender inequality of the 19th
century and the solely limiting experience this has in rendering Dickinsons persona
isolated from the world around her and from any interaction with others.
Alternatively, Conrad establishes circuitous interactions between characters via emphasis
on the paradoxical symbiosis and severance between exclusively male protagonists. This
is largely explored as symbiotically enriching and limiting experience for Marlow in his
connection with Kurtz. Marlow considers Kurtz as the psychological and practical objective
towards which he travels, accentuating his pursuit of Kurtz as intrinsically correlated with
his own 'destiny in life': 'for me it crawled towards Kurtz - exclusively'. Animalistic
connotations in the diction 'crawled' invoke a connection with Kurtz's crawling through the
grave symbolic of his deterioration of self then coalescing ideals of progress (enrichment)
and degeneration (limitation) with Marlow entangled in both. Marlow's insistence on the
permanence of their bond is highlighted in their first encounter 'When the foundations of
our intimacy were being laid - to endure - even to the end - even beyond'. Here Conrad
exploits the linguistic indeterminacy and inconclusive narration at Marlow's proclamation of
an eternal friendship. This intimates that whilst the connection is ostensibly being
cemented, the foundation is erroneously idealised. The relationship collapses into solitary
struggles for both characters, accentuating the symbiotic enrichment and limitation of the
connection which proves to be idealised and fantastical. This incorrigible sense of isolation
is mirrored in Dickinson's poetry reflecting her severance from the patriarchal functioning of
19th century society.

Thus, all three texts examine the notion of perception of self and interaction with others as
a way of circumscribing one's symbiotically 'enriching' and 'limiting' experience of
belonging.
Homework task due Wednesday
Having read the essay, complete the following:
Use a coloured highlighter or underline tool to show relevance to the question
Use a different coloured highlighter to show moments of comparison
Underline to show analysis of text
Create a table of new terminology (10-15 words at least)
word
(e.g.) circumscribes

Word in context (from essay)


circumscribes one's internal
perception

Definition of word
Restrict, to draw a line
around