A sense of belonging or not belonging greatly influences an individuals identity. A change in identity occurs when belonging is found through meaningful, intimate relationships, with senses ofplace, community, safety and familiarity. The free verse novel, The Simple Gift, composed by Steven Herrick, and the dramatic fairytale film, Edward Scissorhands, directed and created by Tim Burton, both explore the concepts of belonging and relationships through the strong use of literary techniques; and focus on a changing Identity as a base for belonging.
Both texts have significantly different perspectives of belonging and identity. Edward yearns to belong and become part of societys conformity and routine, whereas Billy aspires to a life of solitude and self reliance. Billy is a misfit in high school, having no significant relationships and a heartless abusive father, the old bastard. Before he embarks on journey for belonging, it is evident that he lacks a sense of belonging at home and in his community. Billy describes his home house as Deadbeat no hoper shithole lonely downtrodden house in Longlands road, Nowheresville.
This string of informal negative description emphasizes Billys emotional isolation and dislocation within his community. His missing sense of belonging gives him the identity of an outcast, which proves belonging or not belonging greatly influences an individuals identity. Billys escape from his town, Nowheresville to Bendarat coincides with his discovery of relationships, acceptance and nourishment from strangers. Herrick has used the characterization of Billys father figures to portray his desire to belong.
When Billy first escapes his town, and we see first see the weather motif, mirroring Billys belonging to place, the rain is personified as Billy describes it as hitting you in the face with the force of a fathers punch. This metaphor shows why Billy needed to escape from his abusive tyrant father, and his lack of intimate relationships and belonging. Herrick later utilizes the characterization of Ernie and Irene, total strangers who through altruism and kindness offer him refuge and simple gifts. Ernie starkly contrasts Billys father, and introduces the motif of gifts, which influences Billys selfless nature.
Irene, the librarian, offers Billy empathy and doesnt judge him. The two characters of Ernie and Irene have anagrammatic names, because they were both designed to serve the same purpose offer the simple gift of kindness and altruism. Billys relationship with these characters fosters his change of identity to a much more caring person. Although Billys sense of not belonging is evident, he finds places of isolation, safety and familiarity throughout The Simple Gift. His makeshift home, a train carriage becomes his home and provides him with sense of belonging to place.
Billy describes the train carriage as a cave and a hotel. He classifies it as a cave because it protects him from the elements and furthermore as a hotel because it is not his permanent residence. His places of belonging and refuge greatly influence his identity. Further on in The Simple Gift, Billy discovers true belonging is found through meaningful, emotionally nourishing relationships. Billys relationship with Old Bill is one of the most important, as they give each other purpose, safety and nourishment.
Billy explains thats why I help Old Bill, for no reason other than he needs it; this shows Billys altruism through the use of simple gift motif. Billy develops another significant relationship with Caitlin, a wealthy girl who is smart enough to realise none of this means anything, because like Billy, she values a lack of material possessions, and dislikes the identity associated with being wealthy. Billys relationship with Caitlin provides him with belonging, trust, emotional nourishment and support. Billys belonging through these meaningful intimate relationships greatly influence each characters individual identity.
The suburban community in which Edward attempts to belong has its own inclusive sense of belonging and conformity. All of the houses in the community conform; they are all one single, bright and cheerful colours. Edwards house is dark and gothic on the exterior, but beautiful on the inside, which is symbolic of Edward himself. The houses are a motif that explores the townspeoples identities. Throughout the film, Edward yearns to belong to the community that resides near his castle, and is willing to transform himself to belong.
This is powerfully shown through the use of the talk show scene, where he admits he would like to have normal hands and another woman tells him he would be special, and he says yes I know, because he is willing to sacrifice his individuality and uniqueness to conform to the towns superficial identity. This scene explores belonging by showing the extent Edward will go to, to belong and permanently change his identity. Edwards gaining of belonging and change of identity is abruptly halted when the catalyst of the burglary occurs, because the town now sees him as villain. In the scene where Edward is being chased and he sits beside dog. When he cuts away the hair covering the dogs eyes, It runs away scared. The dog in this scene is symbolic of the whole town now judging him superficially, seeing him as a freak. By this scene it is clear Edward isnt going to belong. The end of Edwards story directly contrasts the conclusion of The Simple Gift, as Billy has found belonging through intimate relationships. Edwards sense of belonging in the town is fostered by his fairytale-like relationship with Kim, Pegs daughter. As Edwards relationship with the town as a whole progressively fails, his relationship with Kim strengthens.
This is shown through the increasing close-up camera angles on both Edward and Kims faces, and most importantly in the poignant scene where Kim dances in the snow made by Edwards ice-carving; she rejoices in his individuality. The camera angles in this scene show Kim and Edwards relationship and Kims acceptance of Edwards individuality. Edwards relationship with Kim shows the importance of relationships in belonging, and his sense of belonging and changing identity in the town is explored vastly through his growing relationship with Kim.
The Simple Gift and Edward Scissorhands both creatively explores senses of belong and not belonging, and how a sense of belonging can change an Identity for the better or worse. Conclusively, Billy finds belonging due to finding intimate relationships and a sense of place, and Edwards quest for belonging ends in a tragedy, due to his failure to conform to the suburban communitys identity; and never being able to have meaningful relationships.