Belonging Essay (the Simple Gift + My Sisters Keeper)

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Belonging is a controlling force influenced by our personal situation and is characterised by the understanding of our relationships and interactions with others. An individual’s perception of belonging is greatly influenced by interactions with the environment and their surroundings. Experiences which are originally perceived as negative lead the individual to develop insight and reflect upon their current circumstances, ultimately resulting in a positive action and outcome.

This is clearly demonstrated in the prescribed text, The Simple Gift by Stephen Herrick as we see the unlikely friendship and bond develop between the characters, Billy and Old Bill and the passionate relationship that forms between Billy and Caitlin. In this text, Herrick uses extensive amounts of literary techniques to describe feelings, ideas and representations to illustrate the complexity of belonging and how adversity and circumstances can bring individuals together “And he tells me about his Jessie/ and his wife/ and the house he visits…and how he’s afraid to forget…”. The formation of unlikely friendships and bonds is well evidenced by the relationship between Anna and Campbell Alexander in my selected text, My Sisters Keeper. The complexity and fragility of relationships and how changes in the environment or random events affect an individual’s sense of belonging can be easily found in both texts.

In The Simple Gift, a series of random and tragic events lead Old Bill to simply close his front door and walk away from the life he has known forever. When Billy packs up and leaves ‘Longlands Road’ he embarks on not only a journey of self discovery and happiness, but a journey to find a place where he can belong. Even though Billy knows he’s going to end up homeless with no family or friends to support him, the determination to find a place better than ‘Longlands Road’ overpowers his fear and the uncertainty of his future “ As dad stood over me/ and said/ no more sport/ no more forever”. Through a random encounter in an unlikely environment these two characters form an unusual friendship and bond based on raw emotion and the brutality of life at ‘The Hilton’, the local rail yard of Bendarat. As their unorthodox relationship develops their lives take on new meaning. They force each other to make changes that ultimately influence their long term survival and outcomes “ But at least I’m not drinking so much,/ and I can’t smoke in the cannery/ bloody hell,/ this kid’s going to turn me,/ into a health freak!”. In the ultimate act of selflessness, Old Bill gives Billy his house as he acknowledges the desperation of Billy’s situation, the validity of Billy and Caitlin’s relationship and their need to be together and have a place to belong “I know Billy has only got/ until this afternoon…so obvious/ and so simple/ and so unbearably painful/ my whole body shakes…”

In My Sisters Keeper a chain of negative and tragic events re-enforces the relationship between Anna and Kate, as Anna strives to belong and Kate fights to no longer belong for the benefit of others, “This is it, I know I’m going to die now, I suppose I’ve always known that, just never knew when, and I’m okay with it, really, I don't mind my disease killing me, but it’s killing my family aswell”. The harsh reality and brutality of Kate’s disease leads to the development of the friendship between Anna and Campbell Alexander as Anna fights for her medical emancipation, “I wanna sue my parents for the rights to my own body”.

The connection between the two texts, The Simple Gift and My Sisters Keeper is evident as the characters search for a way to eliminate their feelings of alienation and finally discover a sense of belonging. Unexpected encounters in unfamiliar surroundings lead to the formation of passionate relationships between Billy and Caitlin and Kate and Taylor. The intensity and intimacy that develops as the relationships evolve create a sense of self-worth for the...
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