What is life? This is a very difficult question that David Malouf invites the reader to ponder over in his novel, “Fly Away Peter”. One of the ways Malouf does this is establish the idea of binary nature of life; how something simply is, or isn’t. This is conveyed through techniques such as symbolism and contrasts that the author expertly uses, to create a philosophical text.
The binary nature of life is one of the central ideas, which is conveyed through multiple uses of contrasts. The most obvious contrast is in the settings. The novel begins in Queensland which is abundant with raw, untouched nature, and changes to Europe where the war is taking place. Jim Saddler loves his homeland in Queensland, admiring nature and spending days watching the landscape and in particular the birds. He is at peace with himself and his surroundings. “He looked about, his grey eyes narrowed, and the land was flat circle all round, grass-tips, tree-stumps, brush, all of it seemingly still and silent, all of it crowded and alive with eyes, beaks, wing-tips.”.In Europe however, he witnesses the effect man has had on nature in the developed countries, the gruesome horrors of war, and experiences a dark side of his personality “Nothing counted. The disintegrating power of that cruelty in metallic form, when it hurled itself against you, raised you aloft, thumped you down like a sack of grain, scattered you as bloody rain, or opened you up to its own infinite blackness- nothing stood before that. It was annihilating. It was all.” .The contrast between the serenity of life in the sanctuary and the savagery of the war in Europe is foreshadowed in Jim’s train of thought “The light, and then the dark” as he sees Miss Imogen Harcourt processing photographs. The binary nature of life itself is a contrast; it is the fact that things are either this or that, nothing in-between. The contrast in setting... [continues]
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