Emily Dickinson and Milan Kundera - Belonging Essay

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Conflicting social expectations and doctrines beyond an individual's control engender a transience of identity, distorting one's sense of self and their ability to control their destiny. American Romantic poet Emily Dickinson represents this in poems 'I Had Been Hungry All the Years' and 'I Gave Myself to Him'. She explores the choice to belong to people, place and spirituality in a difficult religious and Civil War fcontext. The expectations created by the tumultuous experiences of many during the Civil War and the conflict between the uprising of an age of enlightenment and traditional religious values left Dickinson striving for a sense of identity. Similarly, Czech/French author Milan Kundera considers this idea in his novel 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being', a story of love and politics in communist-run Czechoslovakia between 1968 and the early 1980s. Kundera's personal experiences with this setting are personified through the shifting social conditions that the characters endure and their inherent loss of identity. All texts discuss the importance of belonging to community, people and experiences, but fundamentally, the importance of belonging to oneself first and foremost. Social expectations imposed on an individual as they grow lead to an almost insatiable desire to belong to a community, obstructing their ability to make controlled choices. Once the ideal of belonging has been attained, one remains relatively unchanged regardless of this fulfillment of their ultimate, innate desire. For Dickinson personally, her self-imposed isolation led to the yearning for a close communal group - such as the young, Calvinist group of religious women - which she was expected to identify with. In her poem 'I Had Been Hungry All the Years' (poem no. 82), the persona is looking through a window and desiring being able to share the food and wine on the table with those

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