FLY AWAY PETER - CRITICAL ANALYSIS ESSAY
NAME: FERDY RAHMADHAN
SACE NO: 448469E
CLASS: ENGLISH STAGE 2
TEACHER: MS. MONAHAN
“Symbolism plays an important part in the novel. Discuss the symbolism of the birds
in relation to all three characters; Jim, Ashley, and Imogen.”
One of the most celebrated Australian writers David Malouf, is known to characterise his
writing through his extensive use of symbolism to engage his readers. In his 1982 novel, “Fly
Away Peter”, he effectively utilizes the symbolism technique to create greater meaning and
emotion. David Malouf demonstrates this technique by providing the readers with in-depth
images of characters, themes, messages, and life and its meaning. The symbolism comes in
different varieties, but mainly and repeatedly by the use of the birds as the symbols.
At the beginning of the novel, the readers are introduced to the main character Jim Saddler.
Jim is watching the birds in the sanctuary of Queensland coast. The birds are described as
“A vast population of waterbirds lived in the swamp and in the paddocks and wooded country
beyond were lorikeets, rosellas and the different families of pigeons… and high over all
stood the birds of prey, the hawks and kestrels.”(Chapter 1 pp.1) From Jim’s perspective, the
real world as he sees is the same as the sanctuary, where different kinds of birds live
harmoniously in a hierarchy. The hierarchy reflects the class system at the time. Jim is of the
lower rank, a young poor, working class man, meanwhile Ashley is a rich educated young
man, like the hawks and kestrels that fly higher than the any other birds of the sanctuary.
This is then contrasted with another symbol when Jim is observing a bi-plane flying over the
sanctuary. “Birds scattered and flew up in all directions… Did they keep their sharp eyes
upon it?”(Chapter 1 pp.3) The arrival of the bi-plane has caused maelstrom among the
birds/people and to the tranquil skies.“It was a new presence here and it made Jim Saddler
feel uneasy.” (Chapter 1 pp.2) The signs of trouble within the society, like the war, which
appears further on in the novel is channeled by the bi-plane at this stage. After hearing the
news of war, “...the days of the big migrations, those last days of August and early
September,...” as Jim describes, symbolises the soldiers. The migration of the birds are seen
as the migration of men and women ready to join the fight in the First World War in Europe.
Later in the war, Ashley Crowther and Jim see the soldiers as the birds back home. They are
part of a large troop but “had their own world, each one, about which [Ashley] could only
guess” (Chapter 15 pp.112)
The presence of the birds are repeatedly described to allow reader to grasp the novel’s
greater concept. During the boat trips around the sanctuary to see the birds, Jim awakens
Ashley to the importance of the birdlife of the sanctuary. Ashley wonders whether the birds
are in fact “extravagantly disguised spirits of another...