The Simple Gift ‘Discuss the ways in Herrick’s “The Simple Gift” explores the concepts of belonging’ Steven Herrick’s novel the ‘The Simple Gift’, written verse the novel makes up many short poems, which evidently combined the creation of Herrick’s novel. The novel is presented episodically and told from 3 different perspectives (Billy, Old Bill and Caitlin). It explores the issues of independence, growth and relationships. Throughout the novel sensory images, create realistic settings. Gifts are freely exchanged in true spirit of generosity, this relates to the title ‘The Simple Gift’.
The novel explores questions of the world’s excessive materialism. Billy’s quest for independence starts at the beginning of the novel ‘I’m not proud I’m sixteen, and soon To be homeless I sit on the veranda And watch the cold rain fall’ Billy is lonely in his hometown, although he has grown up there you would expect to belong. Instead, he finds happiness in the books that he reads of people much happier than he is. He manages to find happiness in others but still maintains his independence. Billy takes control of his life and is faced with life changing and moral choices.
Part of Billy wants to live a life of being financially secure and another part of him wants to have a carefree way of life. He often finds his self-comparing himself to Old Bill, evaluating the highs and lows of living the ‘hobo’ life. Billy knows that Old Bill thinks of him as ‘A kid who can’t live well enough Alone’ but whilst Billy is trying to find his own independence he is helping Old Bill do the same. Old Bill’s healing process finally has begun, Becoming sober and the simple gift of friendship that Billy has provided him with.
This gives Old Bill back his place in the world not just being cliched as ‘an old drunk’ As time goes Billy’s transition into adulthood is evident as he acts on pure kindness. Independence is what is what everyone is striving for, as the redemption of qualities that they have had, lost or lacked. Billy is the main character; he experiences the most amount of personal growth. Billy’s world was surrounded by domestic violence, alcoholism and a sense of homelessness, this assists Billy is making the decision to leave. Old Bill shares such experiences that Billy.
They both sought to escape similar worlds. Old Bill sees himself in Billy as Billy also sees much of himself in Old Bill. For both personal growths comes with changing and understanding. The company of Billy to Old Bill has made him open his eyes to the world around him as he had closed them after he lost his wife and daughter. ‘Kids fall out of trees all the time… my sweet lovely Jessi fell and I fell with her and I’ve been falling ever since. ’ ‘I’d go off alone Because you can’t trust Those who break the rules And you certainly cannot trust Those who make the rules
So you do the only thing possible You avoid the rules’ This side of Billy has not seen before. He is not the stereotypical delinquent runaway as we first thought. This is an allusion to ‘Lord of the Flies’, reflecting Billy’s rejection in society and his status as an outcast as it is. This quote is Billy’s eventual decision to leave home, discover the world for himself and purse the need to be accepted. Billy makes his biggest move in personal growth as he overcomes his fear of alienation when he finally leaves the ‘house’ he resides in and finds ‘home’ the in Bendarat Hilton (railway carriage).
The growth of the two characters Old Bill and Billy demonstrate highs and lows that they have been through are continuing through for a better existence. Billy has never felt like he belonged. In the town ‘nowheresville’ is a good indication of his negative thoughts and attitudes towards the town. This gave him is the impetus to leave; ‘See ya dad I’ve taken the alcohol. Drink this instead, To celebrate your son, Leaving home’ The taking the alcohol gives the reader an insight of alcoholism of Billy’s father.
The quote also has a sense of irony as the sarcasm implies that his father will not miss Billy but miss the alcohol he has taken. As Billy ventures on his journey, he comes across a train driver (Ernie) who gives him an unexpected random act of kindness. This shows Billy that not everyone is like his father. Ernie gives Billy the simple gift of compassion. Along Billy’s journey, he finds that random acts of kindness are the biggest gifts that anyone can give. He makes great contrast between his father and other men he meets. As Billy arrives into this new town, the sun comes out; this is an implication of a new beginning.
Weather is used as a great symbol throughout the novel, showing the contrast from where he is coming from to where he is now. When arriving into his new hometown slight fog as first metaphorically indicating a confusion or inability to see what lies ahead. As Billy finds ‘home’ in the Bendarat Hilton, it becomes a regular occurrence for dinner is to dine at the local McDonalds. Whilst scavenging off other people food he finds a connection with a worker called Caitlin. As we venture through the novel, we find that Billy and Caitlin have much in common.
Caitlin reveals to us that although she wears her Bendarat Grammar School uniform she does not feel like she belongs to it. Billy and Caitlin both resent there families this creates an immense relationship that is formed between the two. As they, both share the similarity for a lack of materialism and values. As Billy makes a new start in the town, he comes across his next-door neighbour. ‘The Hobo Hour’ gives Billy a new connection with the Hobo living in the railway carriage next to him. It shows his that he has misjudged the man next door although they are in a similar situation. Billy realizes that his town has given him a new chance so why wouldn’t he give something back with kindness and compassion that has shown. It shows the compassion, kindness, and relationship ties that Billy has now formed. ‘We both sit Staring at the beer And the sunrise Sharing the hobo hour’ This quote from the “The Hobo hour’ gives a great indication that are not so different than first thought. The relationships formed by the main characters of the novel are the sort of relationships that Billy had never experienced before. This gives Billy the sense of acceptance and belonging to something greater than he had ever imagined
When Billy hugs Old Bill in pure happiness and gratitude for giving him the house. Old Bill is given a new start so has Billy and Caitlin together they make an inseparable bond, this bond being friendship. The simple gift conveys the idea that reality is something from which to escape. The novel is drawn together in many ways of the multiple points of view in doing so you able to engage with the inner character. The ‘simple gift’ signifies both giving and receiving of not something that is tangible but something that every character strives for Belonging.