The verse novel, ‘The Simple Gift’ explores how relationships and place can impact detrimentally on one’s identity and sense of belonging. Herrick uses Billy to highlight how social issues such as dysfunctional families can lead to isolation and loneliness. Using first person narrative, “I”, Herrick in the poem 'Sport' establishes the barriers to belonging. Herrick uses flashback and hyperbole “he came thundering out” to highlight detachment from home prompted by Billy’s abusive alcoholic father. Detailed repetition of “I was ten years old” intensifies the poignant loss of Billy’s innocence and his displacement from a childhood sanctuary. Consequently the poem ‘Longlands Road’, uses personified enjambment, “rocks that bounce and clatter and roll and protest”, to capture the image of an angry boy who is searching for a sense of belonging. Imagery created through vivid descriptive language, “rundown and beat / the grass unmown around the doors”, depicts the impoverishment and disrepair of “Nowheresville”. While Billy’s description of “Mrs Johnston’s mailbox on the ground...” expresses his contempt and frustration. Subsequently, the ramifications of Billy’s discontent, portrayed by the sarcastic statement “It’s the only time my school has come in ...
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...an forget” to poignantly highlight the protagonist’s struggle to reclaim these memories. The protagonist’s suggestion to his brother, “We can find a new place” metaphorically represents recognition that he is unable to reignite his passion for the river. Like Billy, the protagonist must re-establish his personal sense of belonging as he begins his journey into adulthood. Therefore, experiences can initiate change contributing to one’s understanding and relationship with people and the environment.
Therefore, analysis of ‘The Simple Gift’ and ‘The River that wasn’t ours’ reveals belonging as an essential aspect to the human condition. One can feel connections to people and place through the varied nature of belonging. However, the consequences of not belonging can be detrimental to the individual or group and can result in feelings of displacement and distress.
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