Tables Made into Trees
Transformation is one of principal themes of David Malouf’s short novel An Imaginary Life. Sent to a barbarian village in the outskirts of the Roman Empire, Ovid is forced to make changes to himself to find even the smallest bits of happiness. He starts to notice and absorb nature which, in turn, helps teaches him about himself. He first starts to notice his mental state improving from bleak to bright. He also begins to observe his surroundings and allow them to open his eyes and improve his attitude. These surroundings have a beautiful and powerful effect on Ovid and he learns that they can teach him more about his own emotions and thoughts than society ever could. The Boy is also a part of Ovid’s transformation. He is a tool and a link between human society and nature. While Ovid tries to teach the Boy about human culture, it is the Boy that teaches Ovid about being human. Malouf uses many tools including Ovid’s mind, nature, and the Boy to facilitate Ovid’s transformation throughout the novel. One of the major aspects of Ovid’s transformation is based on his mental state and his outlook on his situation. The first glimpse we get into his thoughts comes in the opening paragraphs when he is describing what seem to be his surroundings. He portrays the setting as a bleak and dull place with nothing worth mention and no hope to be had but he ends his description with “But I am describing a state of mind, no place”(16). This shocks the reader and exposes Ovid’s current state of mind. This bleak, pessimistic description is then contrasted to a joyful, beautiful description of a scarlet poppy. The contrast provides insight into the importance of changes in the natural environment, as Ovid is change from being troubled by the bleakness and emptiness of life that surrounds him to being overcome with joy from the color of the poppy. While he is on this high of emotions, he questions whether the people from his old life in Rome would look poorly...
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