The Crucible, Perfume, Rhapsody on a Windy Night
How do composers show that belonging can emerge from connections with people, places and communities? In you answer, refer to your prescribed text and at least TWO related text of your own choosing. An individual’s experience of acceptance and inclusion are required values in the human nature where one’s sense of belonging is an imperative factor. This could be created from connections emerging between people, places and communities where perception and ideas of belonging or not belonging vary. This is shaped within the cultural, historical and social context where the aspects of belonging in terms of notions of identity, relationships, understanding and acceptance are created.
The core text, The Crucible, a novel by Arthur Miller, related texts Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind and Rhapsody on a Windy Night, a poem by T.S. Eliot, reveal the characters’ choices to belong and not to belong and the barriers which prevent a sense of belonging within the people, places and communities.
The Crucible, set in 1692, focuses on the historical context of the witch-hunt occurred in Salem which is also parallel to the McCarthyism era, where both period’s social stability was challenged. Miller used the Salem witch trials as a metaphor of the McCarthyism where he used the play to criticize America’s social compliance and mass hysteria which links to Salem’s desire for power and domination through the social hysteria. The play shows that people often prey on those who are considered outsiders, particularly when the accuser is motivated by greed and fear. As Danforth demands the ‘truth’ from Mary Warren in Act 3, “Has he ever threatened you?”, indicates that he is searching for the answer that will satisfy him, isolating Mary Warren’s answer possibly because she is a child who is easy to manipulate. “But all organization is and must be grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition, just as two objects cannot occupy the same space” denotes the society highly values the need to be restricted and not individual which shows the extremely religious society they were surviving in, and were considered “heathens” if not believing God which already shows the ‘belonging’ that the people of the society is expected to follow.
This signifies that there was no individuality within this community and that change and differences were certainly restricted from the society. When Tituba was threatened “you will confess or I will whip you to death” and then comforted “we will protect you” connotates the juxtaposition that is displayed in order to suggest the ironic situation within the community and characters where the sense of belonging is expressed through the characters’ acceptance manner in such controlling way, highlighting all the connections of people, places and community used to express the emerging sense of belonging. Furthermore, Patrick Suskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer reveals the protagonist, Grenouille, as an outcast from society because of his superstitious sense of smell which links to the idea of ‘witchcraft’ as a barrier of belonging in The Crucible. With alienation and hatred for humanity as the central theme of the novel, the barriers that he face that prevents sense of belonging is represented through scent. His superhuman sense of smell, his body’s lack of scent and murderous acts he commits eventually leads himself to be isolated from people, places and community and with that, he begins to resent humanity. “An infant is not yet a human being; it is a prehuman being and does not yet possess a fully developed soul.”
Here, Father Terrier describes Grenouille as an infant. The connotation of child as subhuman already shows the barrier that prevents a sense of belonging which could also suggest how the environment of the society is presented in the text. “That cry, emitted upon careful consideration, one might almost say upon mature consideration, was the newborn’s decision against love and nevertheless for life.” Suskind’s use of personification gives the ‘cry’ human features to attribute powers of understanding and volition to a newborn which they could not possibly had. A newborn making ‘mature’ considerations and decisions is ridicule, which makes the protagonist seem more monstrous not only to the audience but the community. Another remark that highlights Grenouille’s detachment from society is considered by the characters around him. “He was after all only an apprentice, which was to say, a nobody. Strictly speaking, he was less than a nobody, since a proper apprentice needed to be of faultless i.e., legitimate, birth, to have relatives of like standing, and to have a certificate of indenture, all of which he lacked.”
The use of repetition of ‘nobody’ is displayed to underline his lack of humanity, his ugliness, his lack of desire for love, superstitious ability to smell and his name, which means frog, separates him from the rest. Because of his lack of scent, it is believed that Grenouille never makes a real connection with another person and that no one sees him as a human, not even himself. Similarly, The Rhapsody on a Windy Night by T.S. Eliot also demonstrates the protagonist’s alienation from the people, places and community through complex imagery. With respect to The Crucible and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, the poem reveals the isolation the protagonist experience from the rest through the lack of communication and interaction between people, places and communities through a midnight ‘stroll’ where his memories are triggered and considered as a walk for the final time. “The street lamp sputtered, the street lamp muttered” shows the use of personification of the street lamps to reiterate the idea of loneliness and that he is estrangement towards the society.
It also uses onomatopoeia and rhyme to create the rhythm of walking, creating the atmosphere of isolation. The street lamps could also symbolize the exposure of memories which are triggered by what the protagonist sees in the light of the lamp. Throughout the poem, the only communication that is evident is only the street lamps and there’s also a woman who “hesitates towards him”. This not only shows that there’s lack of communication between the protagonist and the world, but also that people around cannot make necessary human contact. “I could see nothing behind that child’s eye” conveys the opposite of children who are portrayed as bright and innocent characters but this could suggest that even children can no longer communicate.
“Every street lamp that I pass beats like a fatalistic drum” uses simile to demonstrate the catalyst for a sequence of thoughts, memories and images going through the protagonist as he passes each street lamp and also could represent hope in the dark setting. “As if the world gave up the secret of its skeleton, stiff and white” supports the idea of giving up on the world, thus life. “Stiff and white” suggests that the world has no goodness and no miracle and also symbolizes the world as hollow with no inside, flesh or soul. This could connote the fact that the community is the barrier that prevents a sense of belonging as it’s decaying and there is no hope offered for it. This is accentuated in the last stanza where he “sleep, prepare for life”. It could suggest the afterlife, thus death. Through the notions of lack of interaction, the composer demonstrates that sense of belonging or not to belong through the connections between people, places and communities.
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