An Imaginary Life - the Poppy Scene

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  • Topic: An Imaginary Life, David Malouf, Word
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  • Published : March 12, 2011
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An Imaginary life
By David Malouf
How Does Malouf Convey the Impact of the Scarlet Poppy on Ovid’s Journey towards Self-Understanding?

Malouf represents the discovery of the scarlet poppy as pivotal in awakening Ovid’s childhood self and in doing so beginning his journey towards self-understanding.
The appearance of the scarlet poppy arouses in Ovid, a connection to the memories of his childhood. In this moment Ovid is, as Martin Leer writes in ‘At the Edge’, in the geographical and psychological place were ‘things happen: where sudden discoveries illuminate hidden memories.’ The repetition of the truncated sentence ‘Scarlet’ and its poppy’s connection to the far-off world of Sulmo in:

“Scarlet… Scarlet… Scarlet… flower of my far-off childhood.”
highlights the poppy’s impact as well as how it catalyses a connection to the past and the hidden memories. The short sentences create a series of substantial pauses after each utterance of ‘scarlet’ which along with the repetition, establishes for the reader, the significance of colour in stirring Ovid’s memories. The compound word of ‘far-off’ however, implies that Ovid’s journey towards self-knowledge will be a long one.

The scene of the scarlet poppy also provokes in Ovid, an increased awareness of both language and his surroundings. The imagery used, including tactile, olfactory and visual in:
“The magic of saying the word made my skin prickle…
foul-smelling mud…
other colours come flooding back…they flash about me
emphasizes the idea of being one with language, nature and the universe. The tactile imagery triggers a sense that the word ‘poppy’ is a key to unlocking Ovid’s real self as a result of his unusual sreaction to saying such an ordinary word whilst the visual imagery creates a feeling of reminiscent and discovery from his childhood as the word ‘flooding’ suggests the memories were once locked up in the back of Ovid’s mind. The olfactory imagery however, suggests that Ovid is...
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