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Individuals sometimes choose to belong but only on their own terms. To what extent is this true of ‘The Tunnel’ and two of Emily Dickinson’s poems? Human social behaviour is a contradiction of desires. We want to be distinctive individuals but simultaneously, we want to be included in society. We constantly yearn for a sense of belonging, however once gained we may choose to abandon it. This discord is explored in ‘The Tunnel’, a short story by Doris Lessing, as well as in ‘I had been hungry all the years’ and ‘I gave myself to him’, poems by Emily Dickinson. All three texts emphasise the fundamental human desire for belonging to societal groups or to the greater forces of nature. On a larger scale, each text introduces the paradoxical nature of belonging where the desire to belong may not be fulfilled by reality. Using different styles, both composers use metaphor and paradox in developing their ideas. All three texts explore similar emotional territory, however, Dickinson’s highly personal and abbreviated writing style contrasts with Lessing’s sensual and detailed descriptions. These three texts all convey the notion that individuals choose to belong but only on their own terms. Physiologically humans are programmed with an inner desire to depend on and belong to ‘a group’. This perception is conveyed in ‘The Tunnel’ by Lessing and in both of Dickinson’s poems where the main personas demonstrate an inner human desire to feel included. In ‘The Tunnel’, Lessing uses the persona of an eleven year old boy, Jeremy, to develop this idea. Initially Jeremy yearns to belong to the gang of older boys, but this changes with his experience. Lessing uses Jeremy’s perspective as a lens through which she provides the reader with detailed descriptions of the settings. Without overtly telling the reader, these snapshots provide insight into Jeremy’s desire to belong. For
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