Fly Away Peter Essay

This essay has a total of 1717 words and 9 pages.


Fly Away Peter





Malouf evokes the horror and absurdity of war in ‘Fly Away Peter’ through an
Australian frame of reference that creates reality for the reader. Discuss.



Malouf’s ‘Fly Away Peter’ uses an Australian frame of reference to
display the horrors and absurdity of war. The way in which Malouf writes creates reality
– the reader can suspend disbelief and believe that the events in the novella are
actually real. When we read ‘Fly Away Peter’, we see the story through
Jim’s eyes. Jim is a bird watcher, and he is Australian. Ashley, his employer, was
born in Australia and educated in England. Ashley has inherited the land on which Jim
watches the birds. The Australian frame of reference is seen through Jim, juxtaposed with
Ashley’s British influence.


The first few chapters of the book are set just before World War One, in coastal
Queensland. A description is given where Jim and Ashley live and their lifestyles. Here we
learn that they are not incredibly important or powerful people – they are ordinary.
Many readers can identify with the characters, creating a sense of feasibility and reality
within the story.


World War One is another setting in ‘Fly Away Peter’. Australia, being
strongly tied to England, to obliged to be involved in the war, despite the lack of any
other solid reasons. Jim and Ashley enlist, Jim as a soldier, Ashley as a general, only
Ashley returns. Descriptions of events and locations that Jim gives while in war really
display to the reader the horror and war and just how much people had sacrificed.


At the time of the World War One, Britain was Australia’s ‘mother
country’. Influences were still very strong, and Australia, still very young, needed
this support and comfort that Britain offered. Australia, as a country officially existed,
but she had no identity of her own to set her apart from Britain. This is seen in history
through the English style uniforms the army adopted, the clothes that were worn, and the
style of houses. The isolation of Australia also had an effect on her development. There
was a lack of technology, money and industry. Without that base, it seemed that Australia
would develop rather slowly.


World War One was to be a morale raiser for Australia – her first war as a nation.
It was seen as a chance to show to the world what Australia could be, the first step in
breaking away from the restraints of Britain. In ‘Fly Away Peter’, Australia
is seen through the contrasts of the descriptions of Jim’s homeland and descriptions
of the locations of the war.


“The landscape, the whole great circle of it, grassheads, scrub, water, sky, quite
took his breath away.” (Pg 17)


“There were emergency roads everywhere, cutting across what must once have been
vineyards or beet-fields, metalled for motor vehicles and guns, cobbled or packed with
dirt for the men, and they were all in use, with men on foot or on horseback moving in
dense columns, mules, horsed wagons, guns.” (Pg 68)


This contrast portrays Jim’s disturbance. He is accustomed to his peaceful, quiet
surroundings and his birds. The war though, is completely different. He is out of his
comfort zone, and in something he has never experienced. As this disturbs Jim, it disturbs
the reader, and foreshadows the horrors and troubles Jim faces.


Australia is also seen through the contrast of Jim and Ashley’s cultures – Jim
living in Australia all his life, and Ashley being educated in England. Ashley is seen as
higher class than Jim, because Ashley owns land, received a better education, while Jim is
working class, and was educated in a one room school. Ashley’s classical taste in
music suggests an education, also.


“He had been to school in England, then at Cambridge, then in Germany for a year
studying music, and light have passed anywhere on that side of the world for an English
gentleman.” (Pg 8)


War is not one of the most pleasant images this world has seen. Usually it is regarded as
one of the most frightening. When reading ‘Fly Away Peter’, Malouf almost
expects us to have a reasonable idea of the general experience and descriptions of war. We
only see the war from a single person’s perspective – Jim’s. Even
Jim’s descriptions though, give a good idea of the personal turmoils and hardships
throughout the war.


Continues for 5 more pages >>




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