In order to feel as though you belong, you must first understand who you are and where you come from. This is because if you don’t truly understand yourself and your surroundings, then you will never truly feel as though you belong where you are. The text ‘The Simple Gift’ by Steven Herrick highlights that in life understanding nourishes belonging. Alternatively they reveal that a lack of understanding prevents belonging. This is revealed through the use of free verse, first person, flashback, and symbolism The Simple Gift is written in the form of free verse novel.
The novel allows the story to be told from a number of perspectives, enabling the reader to know each character through their emotions, insecurities and ambitions. From this, we know that Billy is a sixteen year old runaway, Caitlin who comes from a wealthy family and Old Bill who is a homeless alcoholic. “I’m not proud. I’m sixteen and soon to be homeless. I sit on the veranda… ” uses free verse novel conveying that Billy does not feel security and closeness at his own home. He decides to leave his home, choosing another path alone, despite of what lies ahead of him.
“I don’t need to work at McDonald’s. Dad would rather…. and mop floors” is an example from the perspective of Caitlin. Caitlin explains how wealthy her family and the unnecessary possessions she receives. The free verse novel exemplifies how rejective she is with what she has as if there was more to life than just valuables. The use of free verse novel enables both Billy and Caitlin with the mix of gender and social status that their lack of understanding prevents them from belonging. The novel also portrays how a lack of understanding prevents belonging.
Old Bill is troubled by his lack of understanding of his past. Being haunted for the rest of his life he is a homeless alcoholic who lost everything. Flashbacks are incorporated in the text to unfold the past. “In 1993, my ten year old daughter… that tree fell” uses a flash back of Old Bill’s past where his misery begun. Losing his daughter first from falling off a tree and his wife a year later from the drink driving. It reveals Old Bill’s reasoning for being a homeless alcoholic and desolation. Feeling the need to consume alcohol so he fails to recall the past and the pain is more at ease.
“I was ten years old in the backyard… as if nothing had happened” is another flashback utilized from Billy’s past. It unveils his neglecting abusive father, thus a reason why Billy left his own home. Billy accidentally kicked a soccer ball against the window, with a crack in the pane his father backhanded him without even letting him explain what had happened. There is a strong sense of how Billy does not belong in the novel as his father has a lack of understanding. The point of view used in this text is first person, such as “Caitlin and I lay in the huge bed…
beautiful green emerald ring’’ and “and I looked up into the sky… that Old Bill and I shared”. The use of first person allows the responder to directly engage with Billy’s own experiences. It shows the unlikely friendship and bond developed between Billy and Old Bill and the passionate relationship that forms between Billy and Caitlin. The use of first person manipulates the reader’s interpretation to describe the feelings and ideas of Billy, illustrating the complication of belonging and how trouble and circumstance can bring people together.
As Billy is with Caitlin laying in the bed, it shows that he is in a comfortable atmosphere, where he has found someone he truly cares about and allows him to be himself. The scene with Billy and Old Bill shows that they are he in a natural environment, and it is a beginning where they he finally understands his surrounding. Hence, it displays Billy’s acceptance and all three character’s sense of fulfillment and security which nourishes belonging. The Simple Gift depicts that understanding nourishes belonging through the use of symbolism.
Specific experiences in a person’s life can have large effects on the person and can lead to a lack of understanding or an understanding that nourishes belonging. Truth and reality and friendship are vital aspects of belonging in the text and without them certain connections cannot be made throughout the characters and a sense of belonging might not be found. At the end when Old Bill gives the key to Billy, “I held the Keys to Wellington Road… ” it symbolized Old Bill’s great understanding and care for Billy.
As Billy stated, “I wasn’t sure whether taking them meant Old Bill had a new life too or if taking them meant he now had nothing. ” The key is the symbol but it isn’t the material but the connection of Old Bill passing on the key to Billy that represents their friendship. Old Bill give away his house was the truth that he could not face reality and finally understood for the near future. Thus, symbolism is used in the text to convey that understanding nourishes belonging. The lack of understanding is what prevents us from finding somewhere we feel accepted.
When having a thorough understanding it is the opposite. It is what nourishes the feeling that we belong, as having complete trust in the people around us or the place that we are in. Understanding creates a sense of safety and security resulting in the feeling of belonging. The text discussed shows that the idea of belonging, as Billy has a neglecting father living in a detrimental environment shows he cannot belong, but the occurrence of running away and meeting Old Bill and Caitlin exhibits his progression of belonging, acceptance and understanding.