Expository Essay Example On Identity And Belonging In Literature

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Exploring Identity and Belonging:

*Taken from http://www.vcestudyguides.com/guides/context/identity-and-belonging

When studying Exploring Issues of Identity and Belonging, there are some key questions that you will need to ask yourself in order to understand the concept. Those key questions are raised in this chapter, Exploring Identity and Belonging.

What is Identity and Belonging?
An identity is who or what a person or thing is. Your identity defines who you are. It is a self-representation of your interests, relationships, social activity and much more. Our sense of identity and belonging is impacted by various factors, including our experiences, relationships, and our environment. The journey to find identity and belonging can often be a struggle, since we ask ourselves, ‘who am I?’ vs. ‘who do others want me to be?’ and ‘where do I belong? Where do I fit in?’ This point in our lives is completely subjective, meaning that it is our personal view that influences our decisions. The issue of identity and belonging has encompassed humans for many generations, and will remain a key turning point for many to come.


What is Identity?
Identity is multi-faceted, meaning that a combination of many traits forms one identity. An identity can be defined as anything, depending on what you wish others to perceive and also how others wish to perceive you. Listed below are some examples of ‘identities’ :

* Career Identity:
    > Lawyer, nurse, environmentalist, politician, etc.

* Family Identity:
    > Father, mother, younger brother, older sister, twin, nephew, cousin, etc.

* Skills Identity
    > Athletic, intelligent, leader, listener, etc.

* Cultural Identity
    > History, tradition, religion, gender, etc.

* Social Identity
   > Peer group, clique, gang, club, mob, social class, etc.

Note that people do not just possess one concrete identity. We are neither just a doctor nor an entrepreneur, but also someone who loves rock music and likes to dine out. In different situations, we may alter our identity accordingly to the environment and the people. For example, you may be lively with your primary school friends yet more reserved and serious with your high school friends. This is usually due to our innate desire to belong; sacrificing or amending our identity to do so.


What is belonging?
Belonging means to feel a sense of welcome and acceptance to someone or something. As suggested by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see picture), a psychological theory centered on humans’ innate desire for fulfillment, belonging is a need that we naturally seek in order to feel loved. In the same manner as our identities, there are many forms of belonging.

* Relationships
    > Family, friends, partner, teachers, associates, pet

* Social
    > Groups, classes, clubs, organistions, teams

* Environment
    > Australia, America, Melbourne, Queensland, countryside, metropolitan, nature versus man-made environments, etc.

If we fail to find a sense of belonging, isolation and depression often ensues. However, there are those who do not belong but are in fact, liberated by their independence. This may be due to their desire to rebel from family tradition, friends’ expectations or work commitment and thus, are pleased to be set-apart.


What influences identity and belonging?
Everything and everyone can influence a person’s identity and belonging. While some influences can be major, such as one’s relationship with their family, other influences may be minor, for example an incident with a friend many years ago. For different people, the same experience may have affected them to a different extent, for example, a pair of friends travelling to an art exhibition. While for one friend, the experience was exquisite and a good night out, for the other, it may have inspired them to switch careers and become an artist. Although we all live in the same world where many of our experiences overlap, the reason why we are all unique is because we ultimately choose what does or does not impact us in a crucial or unimportant way. It is through the addition of the myriad parts of our lives that come together to create our identity.

Why does the struggle with identity and belonging occur?

It is a valid point to argue that everyone has struggled with their identity and belonging during a chapter of their life. There comes a time when our opinions and beliefs begin to differentiate from those around us. During this time, some people may discover where they belong, whereas many others do not. It is not solely one stage of our lives when we are confronted with an identity crisis, but a continuous challenge throughout our lives as we encounter new experiences that will alter our thoughts, emotions and perspective on ourselves.

Identity and Belonging Prompts:

  1. It is difficult to possess a sense of belonging when we are unsure of our own identity.
  2. Our identity determines where we belong.
  3. Only upon reflection can we establish our identity.
  4. Mistakes help shape our identity.
  5. Everyone needs to feel a sense of belonging.
  6. Sometimes one may feel satisfaction if they do not belong.
  7. Discovering our identity is a challenging journey.
  8. Identity is never static.
  9. Everyone struggles with their identity.
  10. Others only see our true identity when we are confident with ourselves.
  11. We possess true identity when we belong to ourselves and not others.
  12. We find strength when we belong.
  13. Identity is shaped by positive and negative experiences.
  14. Our identity is never perfect; we must accept the good as well as the bad.
  15. We know our identity when we are happy with ourselves, not how people view us.
  16. Belonging relies on us forfeiting our individuality.
  17. Our identity is influenced by how others view us.
  18. Sometimes one’s sense of identity can cause more harm than good.
  19. Our belonging is not dependent on whether others accept us, but whether we accept ourselves.
  20. As long as we are confident with ourselves, then we will belong someplace.
  21. Belonging can be fulfilling and difficult at the same time.
  22. Belonging can trap and isolate us.
  23. Some people sacrifice themselves in order to belong.

Role of relationships in identity and belonging

  1. Our identity is shaped by our relationships.
  2. Our sense of identity can be difficult for others to accept.
  3. Belonging to one group pushes us away from another group.
  4. We cannot belong to multiple groups.
  5. Belonging can distort one’s identity.
  6. Family and friends help us define our identity.
  7. Our relationships help strengthen our identity.
  8. Belonging is when people accept you for who you are.
  9. Sometimes we can lose loved ones when we find our sense of identity and belonging.
  10. Relationships are an important factor in our sense of belonging.
  11. Who and where we belong influences our sense of identity.
  12. Other people may believe they know our identity, but in reality, they may not know us at all.
  13. Where we belong is influenced more by family than friends.
  14. The identity of one changes with different relationships.
  15. Belonging to a group involves us impressing others.

Role of environment in identity and belonging

  1. One’s physical environment does not necessarily indicate that one belongs.
  2. We never truly identity who we are because we are constantly shaped by our surroundings.
  3. Culture is an important factor in shaping one’s identity.
  4. It is only through multiple exposures to different environments that we can define our identity.
  5. Humans live in a world where everything tries to make you something else.
  6. It is only through a safe and supportive environment that we are free to discover our identity.
  7. We can lose our identity and belonging when our environment changes.
  8. We possess multiple identities when placed in different situations.

Additional Reading

It is important to further your understanding of ‘Identity and Belonging’ with examples apart from the texts your school has chosen. Additional reading will enable you to develop a greater knowledge base, meaning you’ll possess a wider (and more creative) perspective for essay prompts. Area of Study 2, or ‘Writing in Context’ encourages students to use multiple resources in writing. This means you can use examples of identity and belonging from news, history, literature, personal experiences etc. There are no limits to what examples you can use in your Context essay. Below are some ideas to get you thinking about identity and belonging outside VCE texts:

Australian media
1. Violence towards international students
2. Queensland floods
3. Victorian bushfires
4. Australian multicultural society
5. Proposal for Islamic school in New South Wales
6. Invanhoe Girl's Grammar School ban on same-sex couples at formal
7. Indigenous Austalians and non-indigenous Australians
8. Asylum seekers
9. Immigrants

International media
1. Libya's Berber people fight for their identity
2. Genetic engineering including 'designer babies'
3. Islamification
4. Sunnis and Shias
5. Argentina's fight for gender identity

Events in history

1. War of Independence
2. Women's suffrage
3. Tiananmen Square massacre
4. The Holocaust
5.  The Khmer Rouge
6. The Stolen Generation
7. The Apartheid
8. Vietnam War 

These are only a few of the many ‘Identity and Belonging’ issues that have occurred in current media and history. Research further and see what other ‘Identity and Belonging’ examples you can find.

People's issues with identity and belonging
1. Rosa Parks
2. Nelson Mandela
3. Martin Luther King
4.  Adolf Hitler
6. Osama Bin Laden
7. Barrack Obama
8. Benazir Bhutto

Remember that the people listed above are famous and have made their mark on the world. Explore individuals that may have influenced the world but are less recognised. Also consider people you know personally who may have influenced your identity and belonging.

Quotes on identity and belonging

1. "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." - Mahatma Gandhi
2. "If you understood everything I said, you'd be me." - Miles Davis
3. "Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe?" - Scott Turrow
4. "Nothing is original. I am the best combined effore of everyone I've ever known." - Chuck Palahniuk
5. "Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation." - Oscar Wilde
6. "My identity might begin with the fact of my race but it didn't - couldn't - end there. At least that's what I would chose to believe." - Barrack Obama
7. "At least when one speaks of oneself is passionate, well-informed and specific" - Jan Neruda
8. "Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never hurt you." - George R. R. Martin

Context writing advice

Identity and belonging short films

Below is a collection of videos from YouTube designed to get you thinking about identity and belonging. Some of the ideas and messages you won't agree with; however, it is important not only to understand your ideas surrounding identity, belonging and the relationship between them but to challenge them as well. I have also included some videos that discuss the new ways in which we are creating and sustaining relationships and how these may, in fact, be making us lonelier and more hateful. Others will help you explore other people's perspectives and lives.

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