Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Simple Gift: Key Scene Analysis

To gain a better understanding of how language and visual techniques work together to create meaning, it is a good idea to analyse a few key scenes from the text.

Make notes about a key scene in The Simple Gift, taking into account:
• language or visual techniques
• examples of the techniques from the text
• analysis of how these examples relate to belonging.

Then write a full analysis of the scene and its techniques, and their relation to belonging.

An example of a scene has been included in the following modelled response. After you have read the modelled response, choose a different scene to analyse.

Modelled response
Key scene: Wentworth High School

Techniques and examples:

- Visual imagery of classroom/school – Principal driving her Holden out of the school grounds, the teacher leaving homework on the board, Billy’s offensive farewell written in red lipstick on the window
- Personification of wind ‘howling’ and rain ‘blowing potato crisp wrappers’
- Quote of Billy’s message to the class and teacher ‘“may you all get / well and truly stuffed”’ and ‘“ Billy Luckett, / rhymes with …”’


- The weather represents the depressing nature of Billy’s experiences at school and emphasise why he deliberately separates himself from this environment.
- Billy’s insulting message to his teacher and classmates sabotages any chance of him returning to belong in that environment.
- Reference to the Japanese curriculum highlights the ineffective nature of learning and why Billy chooses to not participate in school life.
- Billy chooses actions that isolate him from the school environment and society in general through stealing and abusive language.

Full analysis of how the techniques and examples represent belonging:
The dreary nature of Billy’s school environment is established at the beginning of this section through personification of the wind ‘howling’ and the rain falling in sheets ‘blowing potato crisp wrappers / across the oval.’ The composer personifies Billy’s farewell to his home through the ‘rainy afternoon / of my goodbyes.’ This accentuates the possible sadness Billy felt that he could not accept the environment he was forced to grow up in. This depressing feeling probably reflects how Billy felt about his schooling at Wentworth High School. The potato crisp packets all over the oval illustrate what students typically dispose of in the playground. These packets are now picked up by the wind, representing the lack of respect students’ show to their school environment, an attitude that Billy has also adopted.

Billy’s message to his teacher and peers reflects his contempt for the school system as a place of learning. The insult is final and shows that Billy will not be returning to his school. He has chosen to not belong in this restrictive environment. He loathes the curriculum, the teacher and his classmates as shown through the reference to learning about the ‘geography of Japan’, something Billy considers irrelevant and dull. This is further contrasted with the proceeding section ‘Westfield Creek’ – a place Billy loves as he goes there to read books he sometimes purchases but usually has stolen from the library. Billy calls Westfield Creek his ‘favourite classroom’. Here he is in control of his learning and can read what interests him.

However Billy’s attitude to life represents his isolation from dominant society and that this isolation is not good for him. Although he has chosen to separate himself from achieving a traditional education at school, his attitude shows he is lost and extremely unhappy. He abuses his fellow students and teacher by telling them to get ‘“well and truly stuffed’”. He wanted his teacher Mr. Cheetam to ‘chew’ on ‘Billy Luckett, / rhymes with …’”. The ellipsis replaces an expletive and represents Billy’s dissatisfaction with the dominant form of education and the way people belong in society, indeed are forced to belong due to compulsory education. The name of the teacher Mr. Cheetam is a play on the word ‘cheat’, suggesting that Billy feels that he has been cheated by the form of education he has been given at the school as indicated through the homework of geography of Japan on the board. Billy is not content. He stole the ‘K-Mart Red lipstick’, which symbolises his defiance, opposition to the oppression of the school system most people belong to and passionate nature. The offensive message on the board was obviously a premeditated act as he stole the lipstick in advance, ‘especially for this occasion’. He calls himself a 'lucky bastard’, who is able to say his farewells to the restrictive environment of his school. Later Billy realises that theft isolates him from belonging meaningfully to a group. He chooses not to steal a piece of jewelry for Caitlin, purchasing it instead, due to the realization that if he were to be caught, he would jeopardize his ability to belong in Bendarat, a place he values and feels comfortable.


Anonymous said...

this is great thanks for the help...i can't belive no one else commented!! :)

Anonymous said...

agreed ^^ you go gurl :)