Fly Away Peter Analysis Essay
“How Does David Malouf Use Partnerships to Convey Thematic Concerns? ” In the book Fly Away Peter by David Malouf, the author has used partnerships as a consistent theme throughout the book to convey his views on life, continuity and change. In the beginning of the book we are introduced to the main character, Jim. Jim lives in Queensland on a property he describes as paradise where he watches birds. His main focus in life is watching and writing down information on the different bird species he sees in ‘the book’. Jim can be described as naive because of his narrow minded views and inability to accept change.
He likes things to be constant and remain the same and he dislikes anomalies. This is why he is bothered when he encounters a bi-plane flying over his paradise, Jim does not see it as natural and according to him it should not be sharing the skies with the birds. Things start to change for Jim when his friend Ashley Crowther makes Jim go in the bi-plane for an aerial view of the property, Jim does not see the point as it only confirms what he already knew. He then becomes associated with Immogen Harcourt while observing a bird he had never seen before, the Dunlin.
The Dunlin is a sign that things are about to change for Jim. Immogen tells Jim the Dunlin is a very common bird in England where she is from; Jim develops an immediate liking for her. The events in the book have so far been building up Jim’s innocence and creating a set of views and character traits that will be partnered with the contrast of events in the second half of the book. When news of the war reaches the shores of Queensland, there is a mad rush to join the army and Jim becomes swept up in the pandemonium and joins with Ashley.
His father is happy that Jim is signing up as he believes it will make Jim into a man; however Jim does not care about his opinion as the two are stark contrasts of each other. Jims journey from innocence to experience begins that night when he loses his innocence to a woman he meets at the pub. When Jim arrives in France we start to see the contrasting partnerships, the trenches of the battlefield are hell in comparison to Jim’s paradise back home, the birds of the skies are replaced by rats that symbolise death and the harmless bi-plane flying overhead is replaced war planes that symbolise destruction.
At first Jim is excited to be a part of the change, another contrasting partnership to his firm stance against change back home; this excitement doesn’t last long as life in the trenches sets in. The author starts putting across his views on life in the second half of the book, Jim is surrounded by so much death that it consumes him and he starts to wonder what the point of his life was if he was going to die anyway. His view changes when he comes across a farmer sowing crops among the battlefield and realises that the only thing that matters about an individual’s life is what that individual does, whether it’s sowing crops or watching birds.
Jim starts to notice the presence of birds and the beauty of nature even in the battlefield and realises the continuity of life. The concept of continuity is shown in the farmer bringing new life to the battlefield even though thousands of people are dying, it’s also shown in the discovery of a mammoth fossil. The mammoth had been dead for thousands of years, covered by sediment and time but life had still gone on. Jim realises that life will continue long after he is gone too.
Jim’s death is a chance for the author to put across his views on the afterlife. In Jim’s experience, the ghost of Ashley leads him through a forest to where a group of men are digging, digging to get home so they could spend their afterlife there. Back at Jim’s home, Immogen sits on a beach grieving about the loss of Jim while watching the waves. The waves become a symbol for life and the war, one wave of men may die but there will always be another wave right behind it to back it up.
It can also be seen as the entire war is a wave drowning thousands of young men, but just like the waves, life will continue. The author then puts out his final view on life that “a life wasn’t for anything, it just was”. Some of the partnerships we saw in summary were that of the setting which the author displayed by setting the book between paradise and hell. There is also a partnership in Jim’s character, he is close minded, innocent and naive but when exposed to the war he becomes experienced, his mind broadens and he dies a broken man.
To conclude; the author is able to inform the reader of his meanings and intentions in the book ‘Fly Away Peter’ by using partnerships to explore deep topics such as life and its meaning, using a highly articulate style of writing, forcing the reader to think deeply by use of symbolisms and through the use of highly detailed characters and settings. These areas have proven effective in conveying the authors intended topics of life, death, companionship and sanctuary across to the reader and make for an intriguing read at the same time.