'The characters of Imogen, Ashley and Jim counter the despair created by war'. Discuss.
This idea of a countenance between the peaceful world of the sanctuary and the the chaotic world of war is one adapted by many, and with good reason. Through his novel, Malouf seeks to convey to the reader various themes. This is cleverly done in a number of ways, just one of which is this juxtaposition of the relationship between Imogen, Ashley and Jim and how it represents a peaceful world, and the 'despair created by war', its destructive nature and the effect it has on the world.
The bond between Imogen, Ashley and Jim is founded on their passionate interest and love of the birds, and the individual gifts that each brings to that interest: Jim's special knowledge, Imogen's photography and Ashley's sense of the land and nature. The relationship between the three reflects the calm, balanced and tranquil order of the natural world. Their appreciation of the 'primitive power' of the bush represents a harmony, it goes 'beyond mere convention or the law'. Malouf, in creating such a powerful representation of the natural world, has prepared us well for the impact of war.
The relationship established between Imogen, Ashley and Jim in the first half of the novel is skilfully juxtaposed with the trauma and upheaval of war in the second half. It is indeed a stark contrast to the tranquility of the sanctuary. The 'catastrophe' and 'madness' of the war hearlds Jim's 'fall from innocence'. This provides a dramatic contrast in mood, setting and action from the harmonious peace of the sanctuary section. The 'natural cycle of things' that Jim has been so in tune to has disappeared with the disturbance and destructive nature of war.
Throughout the latter half of the novel, during which Jim is caught like a fly in the web of war, the layers of discontent are evident - disharmony is a constant theme. This is made far more apparent through the way in which Malouf uses Jim as a reference to the old world, when everything was ordered and followed a pattern. Jim was there because of the unnatural act of war, but as 'a kind of private reassurance for himself alone', there is 'the presence of the birds'. This allows him 'to find his way back at times to a natural cycle of things that the birds still followed undisturbed'.