We understand the themes of a novel through the growth of a central character. Discuss with detailed reference to Fly Away Peter.
The question of human identity and our role within the universe has always been a source of great debate and much contemplation. The quest to discover the ‘essence’ of our humanity is one of central concern in the novel Fly Away Peter by David Malouf. Through the central character’s voyage of realisation, we are confronted with a deeply philosophical approach to the meaning of life and death. Whilst on the surface appearing very simplistic and straightforward, multiple themes are intertwined in the framework of the narrative. Jim Sadler’s journey of self discovery provides a vehicle for the author to deliver his powerful messages portraying the transient nature of our existence. Specifically this is demonstrated through Jim’s experiences in relation to the insignificance of individual life, the inevitability of death and the unstoppable movement of time. Fly Away Peter also explores the gender stereotype of the soldier and the influences of our experiences upon our sense of self, as Jim’s military service essentially develops his inner consciousness.
In the opening section of the
(Page 121)Jim"tms acceptance of his death not only provides reflection on the inescapable occurrence of death, but also on the unstoppable movement of time and our inability to control our destinies. Whilst the atmosphere is still one of predominantly innocence, a strong sense of predestinate fate surrounding the war can be felt. Jim felt the ground tilting" to the place where the war was, and felt the drag of all those deaths. Man, in his death, is seen to be as one with nature, reverting to the earth from which he came. (Page 79)This also demonstrates the immediate loss of innocence caused by experiencing the realities of war. Malouf utilises the war as a vehicle for the exploration of the darker side of human nature, the frontline being the epitome of man"tms destructive disposition. "What does it mean,"tm Jim had wanted to ask, "the likes of us"tm Except for the accidental link of blood he saw nothing in common between his father and himself and resented the cowardly acceptance of defeat that made his father feel this change in his fortunes as a personal affront. But some sense of shame- for Wizzer, but also for himself- held him back from that" (Page 92)This meaningful passage emphasises of the indomitable nature of the human spirit, helping to create meaning and purpose to our existence. Jim could have scrambled away without difficulty then, but was held. The declaration of war whilst Jim is in Brisbane plays a significant role in Jim"tms development. Jim"tms relationship with the character of Eric assists in questioning the very structure of our society and the values that underpin our lives. This is demonstrated inJim, who till then had been merely drifting, and might have drifted as far as the city and become a mill-hand or a tram conductor, saw immediately the scope of it and felt his whole life change. Through the life and death of a central character, our purpose within the world is queried, attacking the very heart of our existence.