The desire to belong somewhere is natural for all human beings due to the fear of loneliness. Social exclusion is a common problem pictured both in modern literature and historically. Even though the essence of the issue remains unchanged, the shifting realities contribute to differences between the contemporary and classic interpretation of the matter. The present paper offers an intertextual analysis of the theme of social exclusion using an article in New York Daily News and two classic novels, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.
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Significance of the Article
Today’s tendencies to globalization and emigration have given a new life to the problem of feeling lonely. Since many people do not know how to deal with people from other countries, they are prone to labeling to feel secure. Longing for Belonging Can Lead to Feeling like an Outcast, an article by van Rij, tells a story of a person with multiple labels. The article describes how tags can both save and ruin a person’s life since they can be a source of social inclusion and exclusion. Van Rij states that race and religion are the most common sources of labeling, which simultaneously make a person belong to a group of people, such as a nation or a church community, and disconnect from othes. People are likely to feel belonging to their family; however, “if we cannot find it in our families, we will roam the world until we find belonging” (Van Rij). The motif is crucial for today’s society, as divorce rates go up and more people of different race, culture, and religion live together due to globalization.
The search for a group of people to belong to can be both dangerous and advantageous. Van Rij gives an example of her mother, who found comfort in joining a Catholic church leading to positive changes in her life. At the same time, the author of the article describes a case of a Belgian young man converting to Islam and joining a terrorist organization (Van Rij). As seen from the examples, sometimes the search can broaden one’s horizons, which is crucial for a modern person. The fear of social exclusion may lead to learning new ways and getting rid of labels and insecurities. However, such exploration may end in a disaster, as immature minds are often confused by the abundance of choice. Therefore, the trends of today’s society suggest that people should avoid labeling and try their hardest to live as one big family.
Similar to the article, the two books give examples of how failure to belong to the family can influence a person’s life. In his journey, Huckleberry Finn had to critically evaluate all the events to distinguish between right and wrong. Sometimes he would ask, “what’s the use you learning to do right when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?” (Twain 95). The inability to be comforted by his original and foster families leads the boy to searching for a better place in life. It is only a miracle that such an immature soul does not become evil or psychologically damaged by experiencing the cruelty and unfairness of the world. In short, Huck’s adventure may be compared to the story of van Rij’s mother mentioned in the article, since both searches for a places to belong to were successful and advantageous for them.
However, the journey described by Stephen Crane in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets cannot be called fortunate for the main character. Maggie was a stranger to the place she grew up in since she “blossomed in a mud puddle” (Crane 29). The girl’s failure to associate with her family and society leads her to look for shelter in Pete’s hands. However, that ends with her being abandoned by everyone, becoming a prostitute, and dying shortly after Pete’s betrayal. In other words, Maggie exchanges bad for worse by belonging to the community of prostitutes. This is much similar to the example of Michael Delefortrie, a Belgian young man, who joined an extremist organization as depicted in the article by van Rij. In brief, Maggie’s journey provoked by the longing for belonging ended in a disaster.
Even though the essence of the feeling that drives the characters of the books and the people mentioned in the article by van Rij is the same, all of them deal with different circumstances. At the end of the 19th century, women did have many options in their lives, as they were dependent on their husbands. Van Rij’s mother was not limited by such strict boundaries, which helped her to find a better place in life than Maggie, who was left wondering, “Where kin I go?” (Crane 103). At the same time, Huck Finn had fewer possibilities than the Belgian young man described in the article, as today people experience more freedom and have access to extensive knowledge. However, greater opportunities sometimes mean deeper confusion, since Huck found a way to distinguish right from wrong and Michael failed to do so. In summary, even though the two novels resonate with the contemporary article, there are significant differences in the social environment of the epochs described in the works under analysis.
Help in Understanding
The two novels discussed in the present paper can help the reader to appreciate the problem brought up in the article in several ways. First, the classic texts can help to realize that the problem is not new, and it has been around for at least a century. Second, the books promote the appreciation that the longing for belonging is universal and can affect anyone, regardless of their sex, social class, race, or age. Lastly, the context of the novels helps to understand how the realities of the world have changed and why people should be grateful for all the social changes. However, despite those changes, everyone is prone to agree with Pete’s words saying that “An’body treats me right, I allus trea’s zem right” (Crane 113). Therefore, everyone should avoid labeling to live in peace and mutual understanding.
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Fear of becoming an outcast can lead people to different and sometimes reckless attempts to find their place in life. The problem is not new since it has been discussed by many writers, including Mark Twain and Stephen Crane. Realities of modern society made the problem evolve due to the globalization process. However, even though the social environment has changed, the intertextual analysis shows that the issue is still relevant and, perhaps, more pressing than before. As van Rij suggests, the primary way to address the problem is through avoiding labeling people by their race, sex, social class, and religion.
Van Rij, Gabriella. “When a Longing for Belonging Can Lead to Feeling Like an Outcast.” NY Daily News. 2017, Web.