Before we even meet Caitlin, we were introduced to characters such as train-driver Ernie who comforted Billy with warm food/drinks and the kind-hearted neighbour on page 85 who brought Billy soup when he got chased out of the house by his father. It could be argued that Billy’s abusive father even affected Billy’s life more than Caitlin ever could. It was revealed that Billy’s father said “no more sport no more forever” effectively dashing his dreams and passion for sport. I believe Caitlin has a lot of people to contend with before she can get the title of person whom most affected Billy’s life.
Caitlin is introduced to the readers on page 34 as the second of three main characters with Old Bill being the third. Although introduced before Old Bill, his role within Billy’s life is far more pivotal compared to Caitlin’s, for example, on 165 Old Bill was the one whom handed Billy the keys to his former house, effectively taking him off the streets. Likewise, Billy also had a huge impact on Old Bill’s life. The introduction of Billy to Old Bill on page 48 allowed for Old Bill to finally have someone since the death of his family, Bill would eventually inspire and motivate Old Bill to quit alcohol. Also, its considerable to note that Old Bill is the reason that Billy and Caitlin can have a future together as mentioned on page 160 by Old Bill.
Although Caitlin may not be the only one who changed Billy’s life or even the one who affected it the most, it wouldn’t be right to say that she didn’t have a significant impact on Billy himself. A theme of The Simple Gift is change and that is shown on page 39 when Billy stated to himself when he saw people from Caitlin’s school that they looked ‘smug’ however swiftly retorted his remark by saying “I thought of Caitlin and decided I shouldn’t judge, not yet anyway.” demonstrating that Caitlin changed Billy’s views on wealth and hailing from a well-off family. Billy is shown to be very affectionate toward Caitlin, on page 83 we see him spending $100 from his first ever pay check obtained from working at the cannery with Old Bill on a “thick sliver ring with the green emerald stone small and shining green like her (Caitlin’s) eyes.” Additionally, it is heavily implied on page 190 by Caitlin herself that she will move in with Billy once she turns eighteen with the quote “In two years I’ll be eighteen and I want my parents to know what I do, what I plan to do.” Thus giving Caitlin endless openings to have further impacts on Billy’s life.
Nevertheless, a major theme of The Simple Gift is relationships and you can bet Billy has plenty of them with other characters beside Caitlin. It is shown throughout the book that each and everyone of Billy’s relationships have some level of impact, be it positive or negative. For example, the friendly librarian, Irene, whom Billy met when he just ran away from home was of little impact to Billy’s life, however, Irene served as a glimpse of kindness in Billy’s life by making friendly small talk to him and up until Irene was introduced we had only seen Ernie treating Billy nicely.
Throughout The Simple Gift, we have seen Billy interact with other characters excluding Caitlin on numerous occasions, for example, Ernie and Irene. People in Billy’s past, especially his father, have had an unmeasurable impact on his life by simply being apart of it and affecting his choice to become homeless. Caitlin’s role, however, cannot be dismissed as she still remains crucial to Billy by the end of the novel. Nevertheless, because of all the people Billy knew and will come to know in his life, it is literally impossible for Caitlin to be the only person to have an effect on him.