Belonging Essay

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Belonging is about how one views their self and how one interacts with those around them. It colours who and what we are and how we fit into the world around us. People seek belonging for identity, relationships, acceptance, and understanding. Steven Herrick’s free-verse novel, ‘The Simple Gift’, effectively explores the notions of belonging through the protagonist’s journey. In a similar way, David Michod’s film ‘Animal Kingdom’ and Tim Winton’s short story ‘Neighbours’ both present protagonists that go through long journeys to find belonging through developing meaningful relationships and discoveringa sense of place. Steven Herrick’s free-verse novel ‘The Simple Gift’ clearly portrays that alienation and a lack of connection with people will lead to a lack of belonging. Immediately Herrick introduces the readers to Billy, a sixteen-year-old runaway who is alienated and isolated. Herrick implicitly displays that Billy’s father has abused him, which is the cause of his alienation. This is evident as Billy recounts how his father “gave me one hard backhander across the face, so hard I fell down…. And slammed the door on my sporting childhood.” This metaphor allows readers to understand that his father’s abuse led to Billy’s disconnection to from normal childhood experiences, thereby not allowing him to ‘fit in’ and belong to society. Billy’s isolation from the community is reinforced as he leaves the neighbourhood throwing “one rock on the roof of each deadbeat no-hoper shithole lonely downtrodden house in Longlands Road, Nowheresville.” Colloquial adjectives and expletives make evident Billy’s feelings of disconnection and resentment towards his hometown, suitably named “Nowheresville” by Billy. It is from this place that Billy seeks escape, and so chapter one ends as he begins his journey towards belonging “on a speedboat out of town… heading to the Waggawang Coalfields.” Herrick portrays that Finding a sense of place and meaningful relationships leads to belonging with Billy’s arrival in Bendarat where he is metaphorically and literally entering a new life. Although at first Billy is anxious, upon entering the town, he feels it brings a sense of hope for his future as he “walks slowly into Bendarat…with the sun finally lifting.” Through this use of weather motifs and personification of the sun lifting the fog, hope and positivity are unveiled for Billy after a life of negativity and uncertainty. He finds “Bendarat is the perfect town” and he makes “carriage 1864 home.” Billy begins his movement as he finds a physical sense of place. While the town of Bendarat Billy begins to move towards belonging through meaningful relationships, when he meets Caitlin; a representative from the ‘other’ society from which Billy and Old Bill are hiding. Ironically, Caitlin has everything she wants, but is still discontent. She represents her family’s wealth, acknowledging that her “Dad is too rich for his own good.” Caitlin and Billy develop an immediate bond, as they are able to talk and listen to each other without judgment or prejudice. As they meet, the narrative perspectives begins to overlap, and the reader gains insight into Caitlin through her strong voice, suggested through the use of personal pronouns “ I felt good… I kept mopping.” As their relationship develops, Billy finds meaning and purpose for his life as seen through this extended metaphor that Billy’s life has become “a circuit of plans with Caitlin at the centre, and me a badly-dressed satellite spinning crazily in her orbit.” With Caitlin in his life, Billy is centered and feels connectedness: she is someone to whom he can belong. Similarly, Billy begins to find belonging through a relationship with Old Bill; a homeless alcoholic with a sad past. Through the use of superlative in Billy’s description of Old Bill as the “saddest man in the world” the reader understands that Billy and Old Bill have the chance to change each other’s lives through meaningful relationships....
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