Belonging and empowerment emerge from the individual through developing a personal and communal relationship with those around them. Helen Keller emphasises this in her statement “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Portraying the idea that power may arise from a sense of belonging and conversely vulnerability from a lack of belonging. This notion of belonging, the successful connections, created by individuals and communities are explored in the play “The Crucible,” by Arthur Miller, and “Luke’s way of Looking” by Nadia Wheatley and Matt Ottley. Both texts suggest that a sense of belonging arise through personal and communal connections and result in empowerment. Thus failing to connect condemns one to not belonging, with consequences of alienation, victimisation and loss of power.
A sense of belonging and empowerment arises through developing personal and communal relationships. This is evident in the dramatic tragedy “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller. The Crucible was published in 1953 during the period of McCarthyism, a time of paranoia and fear of communism. Drawing a parallel to the contextual concerns of his time, Miller wrote allegorically about the Salem Witch Trials. Miller illuminates how fear leads to a lack of connections between people, causing marginalisation of individuals. This notion is effectively explored by Miller’s Crucible, through the characterisation of the antagonist Abigail, the powerless servant and niece of Parris.
Driven by a sense of fear Abigail instinctively seeks to form relationships with those around her. Throughout the play she develops a communal connection with the other teen servant girls through engaging in a series of rituals. Connections are made between the girls and Abigail, developing their sense of belonging. This is evident in Act Three through the constant repetition of Mary’s dialogue, as they are echoed by the girls, “They’re sporting. They-“ “They‘re Sporting.” The use of this repetition, and that fact that Abigail and the girls, are able to pre-empt and simultaneously reiterate Mary’s speech, demonstrates the strong bond that exists and the subsequent sense of belonging that they all share. As a result of the communal connections, Abigail develops a clear sense of empowerment and dominance over those around her. This is illustrated in Act three through the use of negative connotative language, “Breathless and in agony, Dumbfounded, Horrified.” Words such as “breathless” and “horrified” reflect the emotions of Danforth, Francis, and even Proctor to the impact that a sense of belonging has ultimately had on Abigail.
This is further explored through “Luke’s way of Looking.” Nadia and Ottley’s picture book. Like Abigail in The Crucible, the protagonist Luke, gains a sense of inclusion through the communal connections that are found with his classmates. Wheatley employs the reoccurring motif of birds to illustrate this idea. The birds are symbolic of Luke’s wishful belonging, in particular the Phoenix, which acts as a metaphor for rebirth. The Phoenix alludes to the notion that the relationships formed with the people around him, have empowered Luke to realise his individuality and identity. By developing a sense of belonging through connections with the museum, shown through the symbolism of the complimentary colours of Luke and his surroundings, he gains confidence and empowerment. This is demonstrated when he returns to school. The significant use of colour, as Luke and all the other kids are in rich colours besides Mr. Barraclough, conveys the power Luke possesses over the boys and Mr. Barraclough. Thus, both texts illuminate the idea that successful communal and personal relationships facilitate a clear sense of belonging and empowerment for the individual.
Miller demonstrates the inherent sense of belonging and empowerment that emerges from communal and personal relationships by highlighting the alienation and marginalisation that occurs when connections to other individuals and communities fail to exist. This is best exhibited through John Proctor the protagonist. The Puritans were strong believers in Christianity, and persistent followers of the Ten Commandments, which bounded together their laws, and way of living. Proctor’s hesitation in reciting the Ten Commandments, when tested by Hale in Act two, is conveyed through the stage direction, “With some hesitation,” “He is stuck.
He counts back on his fingers, knowing one is missing.” The stage direction chosen by Miller depicts, the irony of Proctor not completely knowing the Ten Commandments, leaving out “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” which Proctor has failed to abide by committing Lechery with Abigail. Through his ignorance Proctor is unable to connect to the values and customs of the community and thus fails to attain a sense of belonging. Instead, he is marginalised, rendered powerless, and is forced to confess to false accusations of attempting to overthrow society, and admit sins that he didn’t not commit. Portraying the idea Proctor is powerless from the lack of relations made with the individuals causing alienation and marginalisation.
This is also demonstrated through the opening pages of “Luke’s way of Looking,” which unfold Luke and his failure to attain connections to those around him, namely his classmates and teacher. This victimisation and alienation that arises is portrayed in the first illustration as he stands isolated from the class, facing the opposite direction. The opposing vectors of the class and Luke, portrays to the responder his unique perception of life and its difference to that of the class. Like Proctor Luke’s different outlook and values, result in a lack of relationships to those around him and a clear sense of isolation. When individuals fail to make connections to people and the communities around them, they fail to obtain a sense of belonging, but instead experience alienation and estrangement.
Overall, Miller through “The Crucible,” and Nadia and Ottley through their picture book “Luke’s way of Looking” both successfully explore the notion of belonging, and how it emerges from communal and personal relationships. Through these relations, both text further demonstrate how drawing these connections and failing to draw connections result in the outcomes of belonging, supporting the existence of belonging that arise in communal and personal relations between individuals.