Close analysis of The Simple Gift
Herrick noted that a free-verse text ‘allows me into the personality of each character—his or her thoughts, emotions, insecurities, and ambitions. The verse-novel form lets me tell the story from a number of perspectives, and, hopefully, with an economy of words. In short, it allows each character to tell the story in his or her own language, from his or her own angle.’ Flashbacks, such as those used by Billy on p. 15, highlight a ten year old’s sense of isolation which was prompted by an abusive father. The memories shared by Old Bill on p. 96, capture his utter desolation at the loss of firstly his only daughter and then his wife. Subtext, where so much more is implied than the words spoken, creates a parallel narrative, by giving ‘voice’ to a character’s unspoken reactions. Billy’s sense of alienation is so entrenched by his father’s repeated mistreatment, that he misreads the attempts by the librarian, Irene’s, attempts to provide him with physical security within the sanctuary of the library, p. 25. Notes, such as the farewell note to Billy’s father on the opening page, which powerfully summarises Billy’s disconnection from his father. The note itemising the etymology of Caitlin’s name on p.40 and Billy’s ‘business card’ on p.43, evocatively portray Billy’s tentative overtures to establish a connection with Caitlin. The note form allows him to express his innermost cravings to belong in a relationship, which he would have found difficult to verbalise at that point. Direct speech/conversation; such as Old Bill’s regrets on p. 109, which powerfully capture the frantic speed of life, which steals adults from the valuable family moments that foster belonging.
Alienation and isolation caused by an abusive father
| ‘gave me one hard backhander across the face, so hard I fell down… and slammed the door on my sporting childhood.’ (p. 15-16)
| * metaphor
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