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How Does Malouf Use a Variety of Literary Conventions to Make Meaning in 'fly Away Peter'?

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"How does Malouf use a variety of literary conventions to make meaning in 'Fly Away Peter'?"

Fly Away Peter by David Malouf is a philosophical novel, deceptively simple in plot and structure, which delineates Australia's involvement in the First World War, not for its historical implications, but for the exploration of human nature. Through the development of Jim Saddler, the protagonist, Malouf explores the place of the individual in the mass of humanity and, by extension, the very meaning of life. The atrocities of war enlighten Jim to the duality of human nature, his confrontation with chaos allowing him to develop a new and deeper understanding of himself. Malouf's philosophical approach to the meaning of life is effectively conveyed through contrasting setting construction, symbolism, imagery and characterization.

The duality of human nature is a prominent theme in the text, articulated primarily through imagery, symbolism and structure. Malouf explores the very best and worst of human nature, portrayed effectively in the conflicting landscapes. Queensland, the setting of the first half of the novel, is an idyllic, fertile swampland evocative of the Garden of Eden in the story of Genesis. Here, people are in balance with nature and live harmonious, orderly lives. They are largely naïve and believe the world to be mostly good and that violence is a rare occurrence. As Jim later acknowledges, this was a 'state of dangerous innocence'. Europe, located on the other side of the world, is an 'old country', ravaged by centuries of war. This is the setting of the second half of the novel; it is the reverse of 'paradise'. The soldiers bury themselves in 'pits' (reminiscent of pits of hell) and are under the constant threat of attack, surrounded by the swollen corpses of their comrades. The presence of rats directly contrasts to the birds: 'they were the familiars of death, creatures of the underworld, as birds were of the life and the air'. Malouf is brutal in his depiction of the dehumanizing cruelty of trench warfare, portraying graphic images of death and misery - the dark side of the human nature. Malouf relates this duality of nature to Imogen's photography: 'the light and the dark' is necessary to develop a photograph. Humans are capable of great feats, to love, hope and imagine; however they are also capable of great evils. This concept is represented by the biplane, a 'double-edged sword' in itself: 'After just a few seasons of gliding over the hills ...new toys of a boyish but innocent adventuring had changed their nature and become weapons'. These ideas are central to Malouf's philosophy, conveyed effectively through a number of literary conventions.

The violence and desolation of war threatens to destroy Jim physically and emotionally. However, despite the cruelty of war, Malouf maintains that individuals must confront and adapt to change in order to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the wider world. This idea is conveyed through the notion of mapping, imagery and characterization. In Queensland Jim is complacent; he has 'a clear map of everything'. This

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