Fly Away Peter

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The novel Fly Away Peter expresses specific attitudes and values by encouraging the reader to identify with the central character, Jim Saddler. David Malouf, the author, attempts to expose the brutality of war and encourages readers to realise that one can be living a very sheltered lifestyle oblivious of the cruelty and negative side of life. In this text dealing with the experiences of Jim during World War I and events leading up to his signing up, the author uses biblical allusions, evocative and sensuous imagery, contrast of settings, metaphors and other characters to aid readers to establish an identity for the protagonist. It is through his central character that he communicates his disparaging perspective on war and points out how the majority is naïve towards the extent of evil within humanity and sufferings caused by this.

Biblical allusions allows the reader to identify with the protagonist because an intertextual link can be made between the first eight chapters and the "Garden of Eden". This is the section of the novel before Jim's involvement with war where he is living in harmony with nature and his life is full of innocence and happiness. A partnership forms between him, Ashley Crowther and Imogen Harcourt and Jim appears to be in his proper place. We, as the audience, identify with Jim because of the assumption that he is in "paradise…innocence before the fall" similar to the sensuous environment which Adam and Eve experienced. Readers are able to make this biblical connection between Jim and Adam who lived in a perfect state, godlike, until the sin of pride caused his expulsion from paradise, and the beginning of mankind's misery. The flight from Eden is traditionally called the "Fall of man". This intertextual link allows reader to understand Malouf's notion that despite the idea that humans, supposedly rational, ‘higher' creatures, potentially noble and wise, at times stoop to dreadful low points of villainy, in a way which shocks us. Thus questioning our own beliefs. Humans do encounter trouble as a result of our higher characteristics, our ability to reason, to organise and to believe in abstractions. Similar to Adam who lost paradise because of pride, humans ruin lives in the service of a very human notion of our own rightness and dignity. We tend to dismiss our vulnerability to the forces of nature. The young officer who dies during a charge yelling ""nfair!""shows the absurd vanity of humans, like the original vanity of Adam, believing he could not die because of an abstraction like fairness unlike animals who would not knowingly seek that sort of danger.

The two different settings in Fly Away Peter affect Jim, and his attitude and values are altered. As mentioned before Jim Saddler is in a place of security and enjoying his comfort zone (the swamp), unaware of the activities occurring simultaneously around the world and it is not until he joins up to fight in the war that he understands the full horror of war. He realises that "he had been living" till he came here, in a state of dangerous innocence." Jim recognises the innocence of children who only see part of life and when come face to face with horrendous events such as war find it like Jim said "annihilating…all". In the pre-war section of the novel Jim finds in his hobby of birdwatching a type of ‘connection' to forces greater than himself. Without ever verbalising it, he has achieved an almost pantheistic sense of union with Nature. Jim admires the birds for the miracle of life that they are, and in revering this miracle, his spiritual dimension is fulfilled. Using Jim, the writer aims to convey that those who merge themselves with the broader processes of life find fulfilment as opposed to those who stand on their dignity, defending a sort of selfish and cerebral individualism.

It is Jim's experiences during the war which enables the author to bring forth the folly, mad bestiality of war. Jim like so many...
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