In the novel Fly Away Peter, David Malouf explores the individual’s ability to transcend the immediate, and create ‘other worlds’ of his or her own:
"Meanwhile the Mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into happiness: ...it creates,...
Far other worlds..."
Malouf uses the continuity of life to highlight the importance of the individual’s mind set against the meaning of human existence. Malouf’s three main characters, Jim Saddler, Ashley Crowther and Imogen Harcourt, are used to present Malouf’s themes in a unique and sensitive manner. Malouf also implies that fate is predetermined and beyond the control of the individual. The only escape route offered is through man’s imagination. "It is the human mind, the imagination which makes us special..."
Malouf suggests life has a continuity, that there is a ceaselessness surrounding time and as a result, individual life is to be savoured. Malouf uses symbolism to represent life’s perpetuity. A prominent example of this is the migrational patterns of the birds in the novel. Birds continue regardless of time: "The timespan for them was more or less infinite.". When Jim marvels at the sandpiper’s ability to find its way across the world and back: "...because the [memory] was ... there... in the long memory of its kind." The constant reference to bird migration becomes a clear symbol of the idea of continuity.
The concept of the continuity of life is also expressed by the association of humans and earth. The notion "...that the earth was man’s sphere...", occurs throughout the novel and represents re-growth and the idea that life goes on regardless of circumstance. Jim felt himself ‘dissolving’ into the earth when he ...
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...he suggestion that fate is predetermined. Another example of this is the young officer who was hit leading his men onto the battle ground. He died with the look, "I wasn’t ready. Unfair!" Malouf shows that fate is predetermined. The only way the individual can escape it is by creating his own ‘imagined’ world.
Fly Away Peter is unique in its presentation of universal and prominent themes. The significance of the individual, as opposed to the meaning of life, man’s ability to transcend the immediate, the continuity of life and predetermined fate are all examined in a sensitive and perceptive manner. Malouf crafts his three main characters to portray and develop the essence of his main themes. The most prominent of these themes is summarised by Malouf when he said: "We can and must transcend the conditions we find ourselves in, however terrible they may be."
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