An Imaginary Life

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An Imaginary Life by David Maluof

1. The novel is a symbolic journey from the constricting world of comfort and knowledge to the wonder and freedom of shedding everything. Discuss ‘An Imaginary Life' in light of this comment.

The novel ‘An Imaginary Life' by David Malouf, takes the main character Ovid, on a symbolic journey from the constricting world of comfort and knowledge, to the wonder and freedom of shedding everything. The way in which the novel takes Ovid on this journey is much like the shape of a spiral, as he circles back through the themes and issues in the text, and allows him through this process to shed the constraints that the comfort and knowledge he felt in Rome had places upon him. Nature, language, imagination, family and the Child are all themes that aid Ovid in his journey of self realisation and self discovery to find his true identity and a sense of belonging in the world. It is only through shedding the constraints of comfort and knowledge that he can do this.

The role of nature in Ovid's journey of shedding everything is evident between the comparisons of Rome and Tomis, and the first sighting of the poppy. When describing Tomis Ovid says "It is the desolateness of this place…We are at the ends of the earth.". He compares the nature of Tomis with that of Rome, and finds it to be lacking of colour and civilization. However with the sight of the poppy his first step in shedding his old self begins "Poppy, you have saved me, you have recovered the earth for me". In Rome he had lost contact with nature, but in Tomis he is able to reconnect with nature, and in sighting the poppy remembers his childhood in Sulmo. It is only in shedding his Roman self and returning to his beginnings that he can be free to discover who he is, and his true identity.

In Malouf's novel, language is a recurring theme which plays a large role in Ovid's journey. As a poet, Ovid is a master of language however when he first arrives at Tomis he cannot...
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