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In Fly Away Peter, David Malouf carefully and subtley indicates humans ability to transcend the immediate and create an alternate perception of their own life. Malouf does an exceedingly good job at expressing his opinion on the importance of the continuity of life, and the human mind set against the meaning of life. The three main characters, Jim Saddler, Imogen Harcourt, and Ashley Crowther are all employed in different contrasting ways to add meaning to the main concepts in the book. Malouf implies throughout the book that fate is beyond the control of any individual person, and that the only way to counter this is through the imagination of man. “It’s the human mind, the imagination that makes us special” is a prime example of Malouf’s intention. This is just one example of how David Malouf’s intention was to express the idea of fate in the book.
Malouf also intends to imply that individual life is extremely important, using symbolism to represent life’s perpetual continuity. An outstanding example of this is his detailed descriptions of migrational patterns of birds in the novel. As birds have no concept of time, the book quotes “The time span for them was more or less infinite”. Maloufs use of Jim and the sandpiper was very well done, as when Jim is amazed at how the sandpiper can find its way across the world and abck, it becomes apparent that the many references to bird migration are intentionally there to symbolize the continuity of life
Yet another example of Malouf’s intention to imply that time is ceaseless, therefore meaning that life can have little meaning is when they discover the mammoth fossil in France. Malouf writes “looking at them made time seem meaningless”. This line also gives substance to the argument that Malouf is trying to say that as time is never ending, life is insignificant and that it is the ability to create your own world which gives life meaning.
Malouf’s final message towards continuity of life and time comes to a climax with the death of Jim. With Jim’s death, his mind is transported to a forest where he and his lost friend Clancy Parkett dig earth together, along with many others. Clancy then brings up another message of time, saying “There’s all the time in the world mate. No trouble about time.”
The three main characters all provide excellent examples of individual life, in contrast to the significance of masses of life lost in the war. Jim Saddlers offers insight to this, posting himself a question “What does it mean the likes of us?” This question, although essentially unanswered goes to suggest that life may not have meaning as a whole, but the significance lies within the individual. Jim realises this towards the end of the book, stating that “Nothing counted”. For Jim’s life he had been intent on naming things, this compulsion of recording birds shows Jim’s human nature for something to be permanent.
Imogen Harcourt in some ways brings permanency to things; however Imogen did this through means of photography. Imogens personality, photography, views, and attitudes all reinforce the notion that life is brief and needs to be savored. Her love for photography indicates that her love of life is expressed through the permanency of photography, as that moment is captured forever. This provides a nice contrast to Malouf’s intention to portray the insignificance of life, and how people find their own ways to find permanency and enjoyment in their lives.
During the final chapter of the book, Imogen’s grief that is expressed towards the loss of Jim’s life brings things into perspective. “That is what life meant, a unique presenceâ€¦. A life wasn’t for anything. It simply was.” David Malouf intended to cement this idea of life being brief compared the endless nature of time with the symbolism of waves crashing against the beach in the final chapter of the book. The waves, metaphor is quoted as “they rose, gathered themselves, stood poised a moment holding the sun at their crests, then toppled. There was a rhythm to it “. The notion that this brief moment should be savored, rather than a bleak outlook on the big picture. Having momentary beauty and significance is an important contrast that David Malouf intends to weave throughout the book.
David Malouf presents important life messages in a unique and uninteresting way. Significance of individuality, mans ability to transcend the immediate, and the meaning of life are all touched upon in a symbolic matter. Malouf has carefully constructed his three main characters to portray a contrast in individuality and to emphasise his main themes. A prime example of this is summarized
David Malouf’s intention to touch upon a wide range of themes has worked well in Fly Away Peter, themes such as the significance of the individual as opposed to the meaning of life, man’s ability to transcend the immediate, and the continuity of life. Malouf crafts his three main characters to portray and develop the essence of his main themes. David Malouf’s intention to express these themes in a subtle and interesting manner was well designed and worked effectively throughout the book.
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