Belonging is an important aspect to everyone’s life. The concept of belonging is the same for each individual person, it can be formed and changed through personal, social, historical and cultural experiences, these experiences can also affect the way a person can belong and the degree in which they belong. The novel the “Simple Gift” by Steven Herrick provides a view of how people can belong and not belong, using techniques such as characterisation, colloquial and descriptive language and first person narration to show how a sense of belonging is achieved through your connection to the environment, acceptance by others and understanding of others. These meanings and perceptions of belonging can also be seen in the two related texts “The Blindside” and “The Island”.
Herrick also uses a free verse writing technique to convey how the characters of Billy, Old Bill and Caitlin do not belong to their community but by forming meaningful relationships they eventually connect to places and people, as well as using symbolism and imagery to give us an insight into each personas journey.
The Simple Gift is a about a boy called Billy who leaves behind a dysfunctional family in search of security and new meaningful relationships. Billy’s disconnection to his home town and its people is shown in the verses ‘Longlands Road’ and ‘Sport’. Billy has not experienced the primary sense of belonging that most children start their lives with – a family connection between parents and a child. Throughout the novel there is no mention of a mother figure in Billy’s life and as seen in the verse ‘Sport’ it is obvious that his father is a violent and unloving character. The disconnection Billy feels towards his father is seen through the quote “He walked back inside and slammed the door on my sporting childhood” after Billy had accidently damaged a window while practising sport and his father had banned him from ever playing again. This tells us that there is no bond between the father and son and as a consequence of this, Billy feels no connection to his family home in Longlands Road. In the verse “Longlands Road” Billy is saying goodbye to his hometown, describing it as a “deadbeat no-hoper shithole lonely downtrodden house in Longlands Roads, Nowheresville.” This tells us that Billy doesn’t feel any connection to this place and nothing is keeping him from leaving. When Billy arrives in Bandarat “with the sun finally lifting the fog” the sun symbolises the way in which Billy is leaving dark past behind and that this new town will provide the potential for a new start and a place to truly belong.
Ironically, it is by becoming home that Billy Ultimately finds a sense of belonging to a place and to significant people in his new life, especially a man called Old Bill who Billy had met when settling into his new home in carriage 1864. Old Bill is homeless like Billy, he has lost his sense of belonging to anyone or anything due to the tragic events of his past. The deaths of his wife and daughter have left him, jobless, homeless and alone. He is dependent on alcohol to remove any feelings or thoughts about belonging. The experiences of Old Billy show us just how important belonging is to human existence. Old Bill finds hope again through watching others find a connection. Not just through his relationship with Billy, but also because of the romantic connection between Caitlin and Billy. His observation of “Billy kissing his girl Caitlin” and his experiences at Caitlin’s dinner party help to remind Old Bill about how it feels to belong to people. By not selling his house on Wellington Road, he instead helps Billy to stay in Bandarat by giving him the house and he ensures that it provides him with a continuing sense of belonging to both Billy and to the memories of his wife and daughter. By watching Caitlin and Billy demonstrate the