Fly Away Peter Essay

1 January 2017

Peter is a narrative which questions essence. Its content entails many of Jean-Paul Satre’s ideas on existentialism. Firstly that our existence precedes our essence, we are born as a “blank canvas” without purpose. This is in contrast to animals whose essence is purely instinctive. The second main idea is the existential life cycle; from perfection to innocence to awareness to dread to acceptance of our fait accompli, inevitable death. In a nutshell the moment we are expelled from the womb, is our “most perfect” form, “the blankest canvas”, thereafter, life only approaches death regardless of any life choices.

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A state of “Blissful ignorance” succeeds, followed by cognition and the dread of inevitable death, finally its acceptance, then death itself. Malouf’s succeeds in constructing a “good story” which made me think and accept the outlook, which in the words of Robert R. Diggs “We must accept, life is nothing more than animated death”, through the application of plot structure, metaphors and binary opposites. Fly away Peter plot structure is essentially the existential life cycle of Jim Saddler.

The story begins with Jim happily admiring the nature he is “blissfully ignorant” of any problems of the world, yet early on we see him becoming cognisant as he questions human essence. Demonstrated through his actions of questioning and resenting his own father’s essence “Except for the accidental link of blood he saw nothing in common between his father and himself and resented the cowardly acceptance of defeat”. This conveys how humans even with close relations share no similar instinct, each has their own perspective on the essence of existence.

This idea is capped just before Jim goes to war ““Why? ” he asked in a last moment of innocence. ” (Pg 36). In chapter nine, the first chapter to be set in Europe, Jim is compared to Clancy. Clancy is a man who has already realise the fait accompli, where Jim is the binary opposite, he is in a state of anxiety where every choice must be correct, “Jim wanted, in his cautious way, to put every step down firmly and in the right place. Clancy was just the opposite” (Pg 59). Finally Jim begins to accept death is imminent regardless of his life choices “Jim relented.

It was, after all, their last night and the immediate future was unpredictable. ” (Pg 72). In chapter 17 Jim with great ambiguity dies, and he realises his essence with his last single thought, “It might be Jim thought, what hands were intended for, this steady digging into the earth” (Pg 128). Meaning he was “designed” to “steadily” descend to death. Malouf has clearly constructed a plot to represent the existential life cycle, resulting to my realisation that humans have only one outcome, which is death. Malouf uses many metaphors to make the readers question the human nature.

One which sums up the entire book is that of a wave. “The waves, one after another, as they rose, gathered themselves stood poised a moment holding the sun at their crests, then toppled. There was a rhythm to it. Mathematics. It soothed, it allowed you, once you had perceived it, to breathe. ” (pg 131). This is a metaphor for the 5 principle of universal law; rhythm. Which states nothing can stop the entropy of the life, death and rebirth process and is forever continuing. The second part of the quote states once this principle is accepted it allows people to deal with the trepidation of our fait accompli.

Malouf’s application of this metaphor is effective in stimulating thought and the revaluation of outlooks on life, to possibly one where understanding death is unavoidable is soothing and eliminates anxiety as it did for myself. Humans are constantly contrasted to our binary opposite of animals in Fly Away Peter. Mainly the comparison of Jim and Birds is made; Malouf effectively demonstrates the main difference between Jim and the birds through the metaphor of maps. Maps are a human creation, tools for a journey, and are constructed from experience and not instinct.

Unlike the way the birds instinctively know where to migrate and how to get back to where they started. “Which allowed them to find their way – by landmarks, was it? – Halfway across the world. It was the wonder of that”. (pg 54). This comparison, demonstrates how humans are born with no essence they are a “blank canvas” unlike animals who are designed with purpose. The contrast made by Malouf clearly force a realisation of the way humans have no preconceived direction to be made in life, we pick our own destination to reach but regardless we have the same fait accompli

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