"The Simple Gift" by Elder Joseph

Essay by yuivyHigh School, 11th gradeD+, August 2006

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The Simple Gift - Into the World

When individuals enter a new stage of personal experience, they are shaped as to develop a response of growth and change. The Simple Gift by Steven Herrick is a text that explores this concept of transitions into new phases of an individual's life.

The Simple Gift is a free-verse novel targeted to young adults. The novel is divided into eleven chapters and again into ten or so poems within each chapter. Each chapter and poems are given appropriate titles relevant to its content. Herrick's decision to compose in free-verse allows him to produce text written as thoughts or speech unrestricted by structure, rhyme or rhythm in a traditional poem.

Each poem is written in the first person with the persona indicated in script at the top right of the page, like a signature. The persona communicates intimately and personally to the responder, confiding the occurrences in a recountive or journal manner.

This is what first engages and maintains the interest of young adult responders.

The text gives special focus to protagonist Billy Luckett, a sixteen-year-old leaving home to live homeless. Billy is revealed as being a disliked, thieving, troubling character, but as responders, Herrick shapes us to feel sympathetic rather than antagonistic to him. This is through the intimate use of language and personal tales of experiences such as the poem "Sport" in Chapter 1.

At this stage, Herrick depicts Billy as an imperfect person, shaped by a depraved childhood rather than an evil person.

The train driver Ernie symbolizes the good humanity Billy; an element of his life he never truly experienced. Ernie takes Billy in without question from a cold night into warm shelter and food. From the mischievous boy emerges a scrupulous side as he leaves Ernie a sincere note...