There is a clear distinction between the appearance of belonging and the reality of an internal struggle. This links to the simple gift as the appearance of old bills belonging is to the category of homelessness and hoboness, as opposed to the reality of his internal struggle of losing loved ones. He loses the purpose for living and loses motivation to pick himself up and make something of the rest of his life. This is a story which remains untold with the simple assumption that he is nothing more than a poor unfortunate and grumpy hobo.
The appearance of Billy’s rebellion as opposed to the reality of his internal struggle of searching for unconditional love and an environment where the person he wants to be can be fully expressed without criticism or restriction. The appearance of Caitlin’s belonging to the rich and privileged of teens, creating the assumption of the freedom she would have as a result of her family’s wealth and her attendance to a prestigious school.
This is opposed to the reality of her internal struggle for freedom and independence, to be able to love unconditionally without scrutiny and disapproval of her parents, to experience a family bond which is not bound by wealth but through pure love and concern for the well being of one another. This idea is also linked to “open hearts for the youngest on the streets” by Erik Jensen where the appearance of belonging is categorized as just another of the 100000 homeless, whereas the reality is the internal struggle to start a new life that rejects aspects of ‘torment, abuse, neglect…’.
All these ideas can be linked to “an individual’s identity can become fragmented by choosing to belong to a different community”. This quote becomes true in the case of both Billy and the youth on the streets as they become homeless in the slightest chances of gaining a sense of belonging, in order to reject alienation. In Steven Herrick’s free verse novel, the poem entitled lunch states ‘I’m poor homeless, but I’m not stupid’.
We see how his identity has been fragmented and recognized, this recognition of his new identity shows the enjoyment and acceptance that he has in this new community. Even though he is poor and homeless he feels a greater sense of belonging in the freedom of a new community rather than his life at home where he experienced isolation, ‘gave me one hard back hander’. A sense of belonging through connections to places serves to provide a sense of collective identity and sense of cohesion and cultural community. Example of this is the carriage ‘hotel Bendarat’.
This becomes the catalyst for the Billy’s personal search for belonging, as he meets old bill who presents him with ‘the simple gift’. Also in the article from Erik Jensen, Paul moulds gives the youth on the streets “…that unconditional love that you just want from a parent”. This cohesion between the youth and Paul gives them a sense of belonging and also achievement for Paul. Billy plays the role of both the homeless youth and the homeless worker as he searches to find a sense of cohesion, whilst helping old bill back on his feet to find a meaning in life.
The story being told as a free verse novel suits the kind of the story being told as it is very much a story of the thoughts and perspectives of individual characters being fused into a story of self-discovery and change. The verse structure acts as each character’s own internal monologue, therefore serves as the characters own reflection as well as a means of characterization from the point of view of the audience. What is said by the character is what is in their minds and is not said to other characters; therefore they are given an authentic voice.
Themes (1) Adopting a distinctive voice or voices ‘Too rich’ Caitlin In the passage of text, Caitlin talks of her family’s affluence and the fact that belonging to the higher status of Bendarat grammar school rather than Bendarat high school like her other friends creates a feeling of alienation. However, Caitlin’s tone is not one of ungratefulness but rather an acceptance of the expectations of her with her simultaneous struggle for independence.
Caitlin mentions her dad is ‘too rich for his own good’ which implies that although there is no ill treatment in her household as there was in Billy’s case, there is definitely a gap in the relationship with her parents, as if money has been used to fill the void of any lack of affection. The role of the parent is also a factor in ‘open hearts for the youngest on the streets’. In comparison to Caitlin’s situation the youth of the streets experience neglect. On the other hand the reasons for this neglect are very different.
The youth have no one there constantly for them, whereas Caitlin has someone her parents there with the materialistic world creating the barrier. In the final part of the passage, Caitlin says: “And I can’t wait for university so I can leave home and that’s why I work at MacDonald’s and mop floors” These words not only highlight the boundaries which Caitlin feels enclosed by, but also the universal nature of teen struggle for identity and independence. The use of MacDonald’s as a place of employment is particularly effective.
This use of a transitional corporation metaphorically symbolizes the globalization of feelings in regards to teenage development of identity and also creates a familiarity which enables a more personal connection with the reader. It shows there has been no attempt to glamorize a perfectly ordinary situation. ‘Simple gift’ old bill In this poem old bill reflects on the evening he has spent with Caitlin and Billy. He talks of walking back to his carriage through the rich streets of town; however there is no evidence of envy or self-pity.
Rather old bill seems to have been touched by the fact that he was able to be in the company of two youths who demonstrated a love and generosity he had not been used to for a long time. Old bill also expresses his satisfaction in the fact that he was able to feel this happy without being drunk. The only alcohol he had consumed that night was a glass of Caitlin’s dad’s expensive wine which Caitlin served him at dinner, making it even more enjoyable that it wasn’t just an effort to escape and forget.
The importance of alcohol is that it brings about a sense of belonging as Billy leaves a bottle for the train driver Ernie as a thank you for sharing with him. In contrast to the positive side of alcohol there is also a negative side where alcohol becomes the reason for abuse from Billy’s dad and is also the old bad habit of old bill before he realizes that alcohol is not the answer to happiness.
At the end of the passage old bill says: “I walked home to my old carriage and thought of how to repay them for their simple gift and I enjoyed the thinking” The simple gift which old bill had received was the gift of company and the gift of allowing him to witness that good things could still come out of life. The youth, innocence and thoughtfulness of Caitlin and Billy help him see that. Just like Billy and Caitlin, Paul moulds assisted the youth in noticing that they had the characteristics of Billy and Caitlin that could make good things come out of life, despite their past.
One other gift was the gift of rescuing him from the vicious cycle of drunkenness which provided nothing more than short-lived bliss, until he was sober and the grim of realities of his life crept back once more. This time old bill was sober and happy. (2) Showing characters interaction: Billy Billy is very much character in transition and his personal growth can be directly related to his interaction and relationships with others. In the beginning, Billy is depicted as being nothing more than a rebellious teenager displaying unacceptable behaviour in the initial setting of his life at long lands road.
This is later arguably justified with the revelation that Billy’s relationship with his father had been diminished by his father’s alcohol abuse and domestic violence. Despite his neglectful upbringing Billy musters the courage and initiative to make a new start and that new start is to take place in Bendarat. Billy’s morality which is a complete contradiction to that of his father’s is demonstrated in his care for his dog bunk brain and continues to become evident to the reader though his interactions between Ernie’s the train driver, the librarian, old bill and Caitlin.
These interactions bring light to Billy’s qualities of generosities, empathy, and gratefulness, even for the simplest acts of kindness bestowed upon him. Through meeting these people Billy gains a new found confidence in humanity, in that he discovers the potential for genuine relationships with genuinely good people. In return, Billy commits himself whole heartedly to these relationships. Old bill The transitions for old bill are also extremely significant.
Upon his first few encounters with Billy, old bill seems to be a cynical hobo loner, with no interest in any act of compassion showed to him by people such as Billy. However Billy’s genuine goodness soon becomes too overwhelming to go unnoticed and old bill finds himself feeling a sense of responsibility for this new person in his life. It is through his interactions with Billy and Caitlin that old bill is able to enter a phase of his life which is no longer stationary like the carriage he had been living in. verything that had been weighing him down, the memories of his wife and daughter, the implications of his choices not to return home, and a time he had spent under the influence of excessive alcohol, is lifted of his shoulders and his new life begins. From the genuine goodness of Billy and Caitlin and the beauty he witnessed in the love and concern they had for each other and himself, he is driven by a new sense of enthusiasm and optimism for life. Caitlin When it comes to high quality education, a stable home and possessions, Caitlin is certainly privileged.
She is definitely not ungrateful but is the perfect example that money can’t buy you freedom. Caitlin displays a level of maturity which seems slightly more advanced than that of her peers. Her personal thoughts invite the audience into her longing love and feel loved, be independent, and truly be herself without having to answer to anyone. In the article the youth are also in a rigid search for ‘…unconditional love that you just want from a parent”. Despite having no money, Billy possesses this freedom and it is through Caitlin’s interactions with Billy that she begins to evaluate her own life and values.
She draws inspiration from Billy and it is evident that she has a deep respect for him; attracted to his genuine nature, respect and insight on life, which no amount of education could give her. Being with Billy provides Caitlin with a new sense of purpose and direction and a sense of belonging which she has been waiting for, for a long time. (3) Creating symbolism The key They key is more than a mechanism to open a door rather it represents old bills past and with Billy accepting the key, his future.
The idea of opening a door by the key opens new opportunities and a new life of possibility. The key was an object capable of separating Billy and old bill, while simultaneously uniting everyone. Trains- stationary and on the move The train was Billy’s escape to Bendarat; however it was the unused stationary carriage which pushed his life in a forward direction, allowing relationships to form and choices to be made rather than constantly having to run from authorities and his old life. Other ideas and symbols
The verse form suits the story told in the simple gift due to the economy of words, made possible by this form, providing a linear rather than episodic narrative with momentum. On this point Herrick comments that “the reader can see themselves progressing with the story. They see my stories less as poetry and more as narrative”. This form and the momentum it creates also coincides with the rapidity in which each of the lives of the central characters are changed through simple yet significant interaction with each other.
The use of first person persona in verse form also contributes to an overall sense of intimacy between the characters and the responders. According to Herrick “the dialogue can be more dynamic, but can also be more intimate”. The resulting empathy created between reader and characters enables a personal connection and an indirect challenge for self-evaluation of the readers own values and beliefs as the characters are confronted with different experiences. A verse form with tight end rhymes would have completely changed the tone of the novel.
Part of the appeal of the novel as it is, is its simplicity with its simultaneous capability to convey complex ideas and underlying messages. In this case I think that the use of rhyme would have completely contradicted the emotions of characters. A rhyming poem has all the right words in the right places, perfectly timed and sophisticated in its perfection. In contrast, the lives of Billy, old bill and Caitlin are far from perfect, as well as the fact that although the right words are not always said in the right places, their care for one another is shown in simple gifts.
The emotions of Billy and Caitlin are not uncommon to teenagers, and teenage emotion is anything but ordered, controlled and perfectly timed. By not using rhyme, Herrick places emphasis on what is said or thought rather than how it sounds when it is said. Furthermore, Herrick’s form more convincingly portrays an individual’s thought process, contributing to the authenticity of voice of the characters. This creates depth and tension. This ‘authentic voice’ allows the reader to have knowledge of the characters internal thoughts rather than their spoken word which can often be incongruous with inner thought due to fear of judgment.
This in turn suggests that the character’s spoken word would not do justice to the complexity of the emotions and thought processes which the characters are experiences from within. Other narrative features include descriptive and figurative language e. g. metaphors (‘the wind and rain hits you in the face with the force of a father’s punch’) and the use of concrete images or ellipsis to represent abstract feelings, showing of characters in different contexts and portrayal of the dynamic interaction between authentic characters (‘it’s heading west, and I’m not…so…’).
The dots show that there is a pause or short break in the speech. The give the reader the impression that the person speaking is lost in their own thoughts and we can imagine them looking reflective and thoughtful. The symbolic use of food, e. g. Billy prepares Weet-Bix for old bill and Caitlin showing her love by packing together. The books Billy reads symbolically represent his quest for knowledge about himself and the world, the rigid search is yet again evident.
He identifies with the characters in the books he reads, achieving a sense of belonging in his mind he is unable to achieve in reality. He learns a great deal about humanity through these characters and their experiences. The references to dream symbolically convey the idea that reality is something from which people wish to escape, in context dreams are reflections of the characters desires or fears. For old bill dreams symbolically represent reality, he sleeps dreamless sleeps when he is drunk therefore uses this as a way to escape the torture of images of his wife and daughter.
Bendarat River also relates to belonging as it serves as a means of both physical and emotional cleansing i. e. the washing away of Billy’s bad childhood memories. This immersion in water also resembles that which occurs in baptism. In baptism a person is symbolically accepted in to the church, b swimming in the Bendarat River, Billy is symbolically accepted into Bendarat. The overall perceptions of belonging presented in the simple gift are identity, relationships, acceptance and understanding. This is also evident in ‘open hearts for the youngest on the streets’.