The Simple Gift

Topics: Interpersonal relationship, American middle class, Caitlin Todd Pages: 5 (1681 words) Published: January 28, 2013
Perceptions of Belonging in The Simple Gift by Steven Herrick And The Island by Armin Greder

Belonging is a multi-faceted concept that involves intrinsic aspects of human nature that are reliant on the individual’s life-long bond with various social, political and interpersonal relationships. Belonging is also fundamental in shaping an individual’s core values and identity, thus it is central to the human condition. A sense of belonging is developed through strong relationships over time is explored in Steven Herrick’s novel ‘The Simple Gift’ and Armin Greder’s picture book ‘The Island’. In The Simple Gift we see how an individual’s interaction with others can lead to a sense of belonging. Sharing common values and discontent with their family life enable the three protagonists to bond because of their shared experience of loss and deprivation. Billy Luckett, Catlin Holmes and Old Bill are all escaping the emotional and psychological pain associated with their respective families and as a result all three characters become alienated and is connected through this shared negative experiences. In the poem Champagne, the use of criticism when referring to his father as ‘The old Bastard’ accentuates both Billy’s sense of alienation and sense of disconnectedness from both family and place. The reason behind Billy’s alienation is not only because of the absence of any mother figure, but because of his dysfunctional relationship with his callous father, who has destroyed Billy’s sense of belonging or connectedness to the family. The nature of this relationship is conveyed when Billy’s father displays a violent episode in the poem ‘Spent’, where Herrick adopts flashback techniques: ‘he gave me a backhander when I was only ten’. As ‘actions speak louder than words’, his father’s negative impact on Billy’s ability to belong is made apparent when Billy chooses to be become homeless rather than remain at home with his father. The difficulty associated with not being able to develop a sense of belonging to other people, places or shared events, motivates characters such as Billy and Caitlin to reject their family’s values as superficial and look for emotional security and a new environment of shared values through their growing relationship and love each other. Caitlin’s own dispossession from her family is similar to that of Billy’s because she sees them as materialistic and superficial. Disunity amongst the family can be seen through Caitlin’s negative interaction with her parents. The novels negative undertone is revealed through the reference to Caitlin‘s parents’ social economic status and a ‘dad who spoils and buys your unnecessary crap’ and after listing the objects in her bedroom, the her defiant tone in ‘I’m not a spoilt brat OK/ spoilt to boredom/ but I’m smart enough to know that none of this means anything…’. This repeated hyperbole highlight the superficial value of her parents and it also creates a barriers between them, as Caitlin is searching for something more spiritual and lasting, rather than simply adopting the middle class values and traditions of her parents’ generation.

The same lack of harmony within family becomes a catalyst that strengthens their bond because it is based on mutual understanding of each other’s circumstance. This emotional bond is metaphorically represented as Billy reflects on how he feels about Caitlin and the impact she has had on him. He likens their relationship to: ‘a circuit plans/ Caitlin at the centre/ and me spinning crazily in her orbit’, the bond is symbolised as gravity: a strong force which pulls two particles close to one another. Their intimacy is marked by the euphemism: ‘I know what would happen and I know what I would want to happen’. The repetition of ‘happen’ emphasises their emotion understanding of what love truly is and how it has developed; unconditional and selfless.

It is the caring nature of their relationship that nourishes their mutual love and respect for...
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