fly away peter

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Q. Discuss the effectiveness of the way in which David Malouf employs a range of


literary techniques to present the main ideas of Fly Away Peter to the reader.


In Fly Away Peter, David Malouf employs a range of literary techniques to present the


main ideas of the text. Malouf uses many forms of imagery including visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile to show the beauty and serenity of nature and the destructive qualities of war. Contrast is used by the author to demonstrate the intrusion of


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technology on society by comparing the serenity and beauty of nature with the negative qualities of technology and its ultimate embodiment in war. Other techniques, such as irony and connotation, are also employed by Malouf to express the novel’s main themes.


Malouf bombards the reader with both positive and negative images. The


positive images generally describe the beauty of nature and the birds. This positive imagery includes ‘intensely blue mountains that were soft blue at this time of day but would later approach purple’, (pg. 1). This visual image is an example of Malouf’s use of positive imagery to celebrate life through nature and it paints to the reader a picture of unsurpassed beauty through its vivid description of the colour of the mountains and the use of words such as ‘intensely’, which enforces the magnitude of natures beauty upon the reader. The author also uses auditory imagery to express the serenity of the birds. The sound of the birds is shown a Jim’s escape throughout the book such as, ‘Thu thu it went, a soft whistling. Then, more quietly, wut. Very low, though his ears caught it’. This vividly expressive account of the sound of the birds encompasses every facet of the note, the sound ‘thu’, the volume ‘soft’ and the pitch ‘very low’, and thus enables the reader to hear the note in their mind, allowing them to realize the beauty of nature which Malouf is highlighting.


Conversely, negative imagery is used by Malouf to express the destructive evil of war and technology. Olfactory imagery describes to the reader the appalling conditions


in the trenches and thus the horrid qualities of war. The image of ‘stinking water that seeped endlessly out of the walls’, allows the reader to imagine the foul smell of the


water in the trenches and expresses to them the smell of war. This image also uses a visual component, ‘seeped endlessly out of the walls’, which intensifies the negative image of the smell by making the waters origins equally as disgusting by using the word ‘ seeped’, which has a painful and horrible sound to it which embellishes the image. ‘The rats were fat because they fed on corpses, burrowing right into a man’s guts or tumbling about in dozens in the bellies of horses’, shows the rats thriving on war and death, and shows that evil benefits through war, through the negative connotation of rats, described by Malouf as ‘familiars of death’ (pg. 81). Again, this enables Malouf to express his perception of the destructive nature of war by showing the reader a disgusting picture of the consequences of battle. Tactile imagery expresses the horrors of war. An example is the image of Jim covered in Clancy’s blood, ‘It was Clancy’s blood that covered him, and the strange slime that was all over him … drenched in a wetness that dried and stuck and was more than his own sweat.’. This image proves to be disturbing for the reader in its description of Jim’s state and not only allows the reader to imagine the blood soaked sensation, but also the visually disturbing picture of its reality. These images clearly show the destructive nature of war.


Contrast is a key literary technique which is used by Malouf. He contrasts the beauty


and serenity of nature with the destruction which arises from war. An example of this is


the harsh sound of war which arises from ‘a giant pipe that some fellow, some maniac,


was belting over and over with a sledge hammer. Thung. Thung. Thung.’ (pg. 80). This is


contrasted with the serene sounds of the birds such as, ‘ Thu, thu, it went, a soft


whistling. Then, more quietly, wut.’ This contrast shows the clear difference in sound


of the two settings and underlines the jarringly awful sounds of war and the ‘new landscape’ in conflict with the harmonic tones of nature. The intrusion of technology is also shown through the use of contrast. The description of Bert’s plane on page , ‘the lack of purpose in its appearance and disappearance at the treeline, the lack of pattern in its lumbering passes, and the noise it made, which was also a disturbance, is immediately contrasted with a beautiful image of nature, ‘dunes, shifting sand held together with purple flowering pigweed and silvery scrub; then the surf � miles of it.’ . This shows a significant contrast between nature and technology. The serene images that showcase the beauty of nature and the birds in the initial chapters of the novel are contrasted to horrible images of life in the trenches in the latter chapters, including, ‘they had seen dozens of unburied men, swollen black, their bellies burst, some with their pockets turned out white in the moonlight where the scavengers had been through’. Through this contrast of negative images of war with positive occurrences in nature, Malouf is able to show the reader the evil that ensues through war and technology and the celebration of life that is encompassed in nature.


Irony is used by the author to show the effect that war has on Jim, a representation of all of humanity, and its attempt to destroy his soul. The description of wartime construction, ‘It was all in a state of intense activity. Things were being organized, you saw, on a large scale and with impressive expertise, as in the interests of an ambitious commercial project, the result of progress, efficiency and the increased potential of the age’, uses irony as, while Jim likes for things to be organized, he is normally against progress but seems to be almost in awe of the magnitude of work that is occurring around him. This shows the extent of the war effort and the fact that it is encompassing all in its path to the point that nature’s saving grace is almost forgotten. Malouf compares the ‘new landscape of warfare’ to the construction of the pyramids by the Egyptians. He explains that, ‘in the middle of the new landscape, Jim realized what it was he had been reminded of …the building of the pyramids.’. The pyramids were tombs which were used by the ancient Egyptian to bury their kings and were a symbol of the Egyptians great technology while serving their purpose as a monument to the dead. The comparison implies that this wartime construction and technology, like the pyramids, is a symbol of death. Through this Malouf shows that technology’s intrusion on nature only leads to death and thus he shows the destructive nature of war.


These literary techniques all contribute to the presentation of the main ideas in Fly Away


Peter. Malouf’s use of imagery to vividly describe scenes of both nature and war, the use


of contrast to highlight war’s horror and nature’s serenity, along with a subtle use of irony and comparison , are very effective in presenting the beauty of nature and the destruction which arises from war.





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