In the novel Fly Away Peter, David Malouf explores the individual’s ability to transcend the immediate, and create ‘other worlds’ of his or her own: "Meanwhile the Mind, from pleasure less, Withdraws into happiness: ...it creates,... Far other worlds..."
Malouf uses the continuity of life to highlight the importance of the individual’s mind set against the meaning of human existence. Malouf’s three main characters, Jim Saddler, Ashley Crowther and Imogen Harcourt, are used to present Malouf’s themes in a unique and sensitive manner.
Malouf also implies that fate is predetermined and beyond the control of the individual. The only escape route offered is through man’s imagination. "It is the human mind, the imagination which makes us special..."
Malouf suggests life has a continuity, that there is a ceaselessness surrounding time and as a result, individual life is to be savoured. Malouf uses symbolism to represent life’s perpetuity. A prominent example of this is the migrational patterns of the birds in the novel. Birds continue regardless of time:
"The timespan for them was more or less infinite.". When Jim marvels at the sandpiper’s ability to find its way across the world and back:
"...because the [memory] was ... there... in the long memory of its kind."
The constant reference to bird migration becomes a clear symbol of the idea of continuity. The concept of the continuity of life is also expressed by the association of humans and earth.
The notion "...that the earth was man’s sphere...", occurs throughout the novel and represents re-growth and the idea that life goes on regardless of circumstance. Jim felt himself ‘dissolving’ into the earth when he was about to die. Closer to the moment of his death, Jim noted:
"The earth smelled so good. It was a smell that belonged to the beginning of things..." This symbolism is a prominent feature of the novel, and again, clearly outlines Malouf’s views on the perpetual nature of time. Another example of Malouf’s idea that time is ceaseless and therefore often life may have lttle meaning comes with the discovery of a mammoth fossil in France. When the bones of the ancient creature were dug up and displayed, Malouf writes: "Looking at them made time seem meaningless." This particular line also provides substance to Malouf’s conception that, on the whole, life is insignificant, that its importance lies in the individual’s ability to create his or her own world. As life may be brief, each moment must be savoured. Malouf’s depiction of the continuity of life, the ceaseless nature of time and the importance of the individual mind, culminate in Jim’s death. In death, Jim’s mind transported him to a forest clearing, where he began to dig. He went there and joined up with his lost friend, Clancy Parkett, and there they dug the earth together, along with a long line of others. It was Clancy who sums up the notion of time, when he told Jim: "There’s all the time in the world, mate. No trouble about time..." Each of Malouf’s three main characters provides examples of the importance of individual life, as opposed to the significance of the collective lives of a group. The novel’s main character, Jim Saddler, offers the most insight into this. Jim himself poses the question: "What does it mean, the likes of us?" The question is universal and remains, essentially, unanswered. However, Malouf’s suggestion is that life has no real meaning as a whole; the significance lies within the individual. Jim eventually comes to a realisation that: "Nothing counted." For all his life, Jim had been intent on naming things, recording. In particular, his compulsion to name birds shows Jim’s need for permanency: "It was giving the creature, through its name, a permanent place in the world,..." Fly Away Peter also encompasses the idea of constant change throughout time, that: "Everything changed. The past would not hold and could...