Without the support of others and the security of place, a sense of belonging cannot be achieved”
Belonging is a sense of enlightenment felt when an individual gains an understanding of themselves in relation to others and the wider world. The gift of protection and security is vital for the individual to develop a sense of belonging, and help prevent alienation. ‘ The Simple Gift’ is a free verse novel written by Steven Herrick which features a protagonist, Billy, who feels a great disconnection with his society and the people around him. Likewise, ‘The Blind Side’,directed by John Lee Hancock is a 2009 feature film that features a boy called Michael Oher who, like Billy, feels a strong sense of insecurity from the place he grew up in and feels alienated from society. Both texts feature protagonists that don’t belong due t the fact that they have an inadequate level of security and support needed to feel safe in their environment. They both leave their hometown in pursuit to change their lives and find connections with people and place that will allow them to belong. When we don’t belong, there is a desperate need for the individual to find safety. In The Simple Gift, the poem Longland’s Road features Billy’s unhappiness with the society he belongs in. This alienation and lack of relationships with his father and hometown acts as a catalyst for his move. This poem contextualises the novel and highlights the lack of security Billy is receiving. The way he “throws rocks down Longland’s Road” reflects the disconnection and hatred Billy feels towards the environment. Herrick uses a listing technique through the repeated words “and” and “the” to link together all the negatives the environment and people in it represent. He lacks a strong sense of security which could have prevented his alienation. The use of negative connotation in the dialogue “deadbeat, no hoper, shithole lonely” accumulates all the aspects of the environment that he dislikes and feels a lack of protection with. This hyperbole signifies the viewer of how extreme the situation is. When an individuals place is dysfunctional, and the person feels a sense of insecurity, the individual will continue to feel a lack of belonging.
Isolation acts as an obstacle to an individual’s sense of belonging.The Blind Side’s initial scene where Michael is walking down the street of his hometown evidently conveys the disconnection and vulnerability he feels. He walks alone as he is alienated and lacks relationships with the people around him. This scene shows a similar connection with Billy’s hometown as its dirty, rundown and dysfunctional. This long shot in slow motion captures Michael walking down the street with this environment portrayed amongst him. Close ups show the emotional fear represented in his body language and facial expressions and that he, like Billy, lacks the sense of security needed to belong. Random acts of kindness can present a sense of belonging; providing one comfort and reassurance In the poem ‘Keep Warm’ in The Simple Gift we see Billy’s level of security escalate. Billy has left his environment in search of a place where he can feel security and guidance from the outside world. The tone of the poem progresses from a negative tone of, “hey kid, get outta there”, to a positive tone of protection through “keep warm”. This allows Billy to feel confident in his change and continue his pursuit for belonging. Ernie, the train driver is Billy’s first encounter with security as he provides him with warmth, food and a place he can feel comfortable in. The Librarian, Irene, also acts as a support device as she welcomes him into the Library. The poem, ‘Lord of the Lounge’, signifies the connection and security he feels within this place. Through the internal and external monologues we realise that he feels a sense of power in the Library. He feels in control of his life and feels comfortable in the environment. “That’s me, on a deserted island, in the library”...
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