Fly Away Peter by David Malouf

Fly Away Peter by David Malouf

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`Fly Away Peter' by David Malouf is a powerful war story in which the author has used contrasting settings and strong symbolism to clearly portray his own ideas and opinions of war, and further the readers understanding of the text.

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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Similarly, when Jim sees an old man digging in the earth, he automatically assumes that a grave is being dug. He soon realises that that it is not a grave, but seeds being planted. This brings a feeling of hope and new life into the story, and makes it obvious that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The same message is portrayed through the image of the sea in the last part of the book, aslo showing rebirth and renewal.

The way in which David Malouf has used strongly contrasting settings - of the sanctuary and the war scene, and through the use of symbolism, `Fly Away Peter' is a book in which the harsh realities of war are shown, and made very apparent to the reader. He also effectively makes his own opinions of war evident and this all helps add to the readers' understandings of the meaning and messages behind this touching war story.
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