Belonging Essay ‘Romulus My Father’, ‘the Lost Thing’ and ‘the Catcher in the Rye’

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2023
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Our search for who we are is fuelled by our innate desire to achieve a sense of acceptance and belonging. Belonging doesn’t just happen; it involves many factors and experiences in order to feel that you truly belong. Feeling a sense of inclusion can enrich our identity and relationships and can lead to acceptance and understanding. In order to understand who we are we need to belong and this is effectively represented in Raimond Gaita’s memoir ‘Romulus My Father,’ Shaun Tan’s ‘The Lost Thing’ and JD Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye. An individual’s interaction with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their experience of belonging to an environment. ‘Romulus My Father’ demonstrates this through the profound sense of acceptance that exists within Raimond. He delivers his observations in a reflective and thoughtful tone, particularly in his recollections of his father, as he “loved him too deeply… no quarrel could estrange (them)” and felt a genuine sense of familial belonging. This is also evident even after Christine dies.

He observed, “We came together as son and husband with the woman whose remains lay beneath us. ” Juxtaposed against Raimond’s belonging is the suffering of Christine in her displacement. Christine struggles to be the mother that society expects her to be, and her inability to relate and conform is described by Raimond as, “a troubled city girl, she could not settle… in a landscape that highlighted her isolation. ” Raimond’s despondent tone conveys how Christine could not fit into the community and in Australia.

As a result, her isolation and alienation lead her to betray the institution of family juxtaposed by “I felt awkward with her,” which shows that Raimond’s relationship with his mother has lost the familial belonging it once contained. Similar to Christine’s feelings of estrangement, Romulus “felt like a ‘prisoner’ in Australia,” that was looked down upon and unwanted, resulting in a sympathetic response from the reader. Throughout the novel, we witness Romulus facing and struggling with these opposing pressures.

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Feelings of estrangement and an inability to simply ‘fit in’ are similarly explored in Shaun Tan’s “The Lost Thing”. Tan explores the attitude and bitterness towards things that do not belong, and the intricacies of a world that directly reflects society and its inability to accept differences. The fundamental need to belong can consequently result in many altering themselves in order to conform to societal expectations. Feeling a sense of belonging and acceptance involves facing many pressures and difficulties, which are clearly demonstrated by Tan.

The Lost Thing is largely ignored and hardly noticed by the community, despite its bright red colour and large appearance that makes it stand out to the reader as it is juxtaposed with the dull and industrialized background. However, regardless of it curious appearance and obvious presence, the community is self-absorbed, too preoccupied with their ritual habits to even notice it. Towards the end of the book, it becomes clear that there are many other lost things that regularly appear in the city, but their presence can only be measured by the minimal extent to which they are noticed.

This demonstrates the negative attitudes directed towards people or things that do not stereotypically fit in with the rest of society. Tan also explores the sense of belonging created in such a detached environment. The citizens of the organised community develop a sense of identity by conforming to the rule of society and following the organised standardizations, as demonstrated through the reoccurring motif of the identical houses drawn in neat columns. Ultimately for them to be accepted, they exclude others.

Attaining a sense of ‘belonging’ can act as a nurturing force for notions of identity, bringing fulfillment and enrichment of character and this is clearly demonstrated throughout JD Salinger’s novel ‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ through the protagonist nature of Holden Caulfield. Holden seems to be excluded from and victimized by the world around him. As he mentions to his professor Mr. Spencer, he feels trapped on “the other side” of life, and he continually attempts to find his way in a world in which he feels he doesn’t belong.

Part of Holden’s alienation is a result of his inability, or perhaps unwillingness to grow up. Holden is fearful of adulthood, claiming that adulthood is world of superficiality and “phonies. ” We are constantly reminded of Holden’s war against “phonies”, ironically reflecting on Holden’s phoney and fake personality. Like a child, Holden fears change and is overwhelmed by the complexity, but he is too out of touch with his feelings to admit it. Instead, he spends much of his time criticizing others. When are you going to grow up? ” Carl Luce makes it apparent to Holden that he must grow up and move on from his issues which are holding him back. In the conclusion of his journey, Holden is able to gain a sense of belonging and acceptance within his sister Phoebe. Although losing his brother Allie was incredibly hard, Holden finds comfort in his close relationship with his sister and is able to move on willingly. The feeling of acceptance involves many factors and experiences.

The innate desire to belong and ramifications of not belonging are clearly represented within ‘Romulus my Father’. The struggles of belonging in the self-absorbed organized society of ‘The Lost Thing’ clearly demonstrate our basic need to be accepted. JD Salinger is able to prove that a sense of belonging comes from a sense of identity within ‘The Catcher in the Rye. ’ Belonging can enrich our identity and relationships and can lead to acceptance and understanding.

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Belonging Essay ‘Romulus My Father’, ‘the Lost Thing’ and ‘the Catcher in the Rye’. (2017, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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