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Jim is an innocent young man, living on the coast of Queensland. In this peaceful town, everybody is happy and at peace with themselves and with nature. The people enjoy the simple pleasures of life - nature, birds, and friendly neighbourly conversations. Their days are filled with peaceful walks in the bush, bird watching and fishing. Jim and his friends especially enjoy the serenity of the sanctuary and the wonders of nature that it holds.
When the war breaks out, this tranquil little town seems like the last place on earth that could produce a team of vicious, violent soldiers. Soon we see Jim thrown into a completely contrasting `world', full of violence and fighting, and the strong dissimilarity between his hometown and this new war-stricken country is emphasised. The fact that the original setting is so diversely opposite to that if the war setting, the harsh reality of the horror of war is demonstrated.
The birds show symbolism in more than one way throughout the text. As the soldiers are travelling from all over the world to fight for their countries in the war, the birds are similarly migrating for the change of seasons. The birds however, will all be returning, and many of the soldiers will never return home again. This is a very powerful message, which helps the reader to understand the loss and sorrow that is experienced through war.
Even when Jim is in this awful war-stricken place, one thing that he can still find comfort in, and which reminds him of his peaceful home is the birds, which are everywhere, still living their lives unaffected by mans war. This shows how nature is unaltered by mans cruel antics against other man, and how life and nature must, and will go on through all circumstances.
The symbol of earth also shows significant symbolism in different parts of the text. When Jim is dying, and begins to hallucinate, the action he sees of men digging in the earth represents the fact that Jim feels like he is finally escaping the war - which in one way, he is - and going home. This helps the reader to understand how passionately Jim wants to be out of the war and back at home, how many of the soldiers would have felt during the war.
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