Steven Herrick’s verse novel, The Simple Gift, explores Billy Luckett’s growing sense of identity and self-worth through his developing relationship with Caitlin and Old Bill. Herrick uses a unique style of writing combining the modes of narrative and poetry to shape the contemporary story of an alienated youth when eventually discovers people in whom he can trust.
The actions of others influence us in any way both positive and negative. Billy, one of the main characters in the poem “Men” says ‘There is a man like Ernie and there are other men, men like my dad.’ In this quote, Billy is referring to the very differing treatment he received from Ernie compared to how his father treated him. This generosity of warmth affects Billy later in the story when he meets the character Old Bill and gifts Old Bill a packet of cigarettes. Bill explains in a later poem. ‘I help Old Bill because of Ernie and Irene and their friendliness. Because when I was twelve years old… I’d hidden in the neighbour’s chook shed, waiting for night… After an hour our neighbour came out…She left me dinner and walked away… a few weeks later that neighbour moved away and I never thanked her…’ The positive action of people that did not personally know who Billy is and their selfless kindness. Affect Billy positively and so improves his relationships.
The relationships we make are instrumental to whom we become. The character of Old Bill grows closer to Billy because of the mutual gratitude they share. Billy treats Old bill with kindness and compassion even if Old Bill is in his worst state. For example, when Old Bill was drinking heavily, Billy helps him, ‘I try to wake Him and help him inside into the warmth.’ later in the same poem, Billy says ‘ a kid who can’t leave well enough alone. Useless enjambment to emphasise the word ‘alone’. This reminds us that the characters are brought together by loneliness which ironically creates togetherness between the two characters. At the climax of the narrative, Old Bill realises that it is Billy’s consistent Interest in him which begins to reignite his interest in living. In the poem ‘Old and young’ Old bill say ‘wanted to buy him a coffee to pay him back, you know, for every morning coffee and breakfast.’ this demonstrates Old Bill’s determination not to let Bill be stripped of his optimism and kindness the same way as he had. The importance of the mutual gratitude, respect and kindness that Billy shows to Old Bill ensures that their friendship is build on a very personal level.
The combined styles of Narrative and Poetry create many dimension of ideas. Herrick uses the devices of poetry, such as alliteration and imagery to quickly establish a character’s feeling toward a person or situation. This allows for the complexity of ideas and the many different feelings that happens differently for every person. For example in the poem ‘Westfield Creek’, Herrick uses Positive dictation, repetition and alliteration in the quote: ‘I love this place. I love the flow of cold clear water…” because it is such a positive place for the main character Billy. The narrative devices of foreshadowing and flashbacks are also used in this verse novel. Foreshadowing is used by Herrick in an early encounter between Caitlin and Billy. ‘I read this and felt something in my stomach… hunger for food.’ These feeling foreshadow the sexual relationship that grows between Billy and Caitlin in a later chapter. Flashback is used to explain both the abuse Billy is forced deal with while living with his father and the tragic events that are revealed in regards to the death of Old Bill’s wife and daughter, which in turn helps us and Billy to understand why he takes such caution towards belonging to other people. The combined styles of narrative and poetry create a story with a lot of depth and character growth.
Herrick’s verse novel, ‘The Simple Gift’ explores the sense of identity and self-worth of Billy Luckett thought his growing relationships with Old Bill and Caitlin. The style of writing Herrick uses describes the emotions of the three main characters as well as the side characters.