Fly Away Peter

by

David Malouf

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Jim Saddler Character Analysis

A thoughtful twenty-year-old Australian with a passion for identifying birds. When he was fifteen, Jim saw his younger brother get killed by the blades of some farming equipment. Since then, he’s found it impossible to express the horror of this experience. This is perhaps why he enjoys naming birds, as the hobby enables him to concretely describe something beautiful in the world. While he’s watching a bird one day, a man named Ashley Crowther comes upon him and asks what he’s doing. The property, Jim knows, belongs to Ashley. The men form a fast friendship, and Ashley invites Jim to work for him. Accepting this offer, Jim makes a comprehensive list of all the birds he sees flying through Ashley’s “sanctuary.” While on the job one day, he meets Miss Imogen Harcourt, a photographer who also enjoys observing birds. Together, they marvel at the wildlife on Ashley’s property. Unfortunately, Jim’s life changes drastically when he joins the military and goes to Europe to fight in World War I, where he makes friends with a number of fellow Australians in his infantry. Although he survives longer than the majority of his companions, Jim eventually dies in a bloody battle in which Ashley Crowther is also wounded.

Jim Saddler Quotes in Fly Away Peter

The Fly Away Peter quotes below are all either spoken by Jim Saddler or refer to Jim Saddler. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Language and Naming Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Fly Away Peter published in 1982.
Chapter 1 Quotes

It was a new presence here and it made Jim Saddler uneasy. He watched it out of the corner of his eye and resented its bulk, the lack of purpose in its appearance and disappearance at the tree line, the lack of pattern in its lumbering passes, and the noise it made, which was also a disturbance and new.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Ashley Crowther, Bert
Related Symbols: Bert’s Biplane
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

He had a map of all this clearly in his head, as if in every moment of lying here flat on his belly watching some patch of it for a change of shape or colour that would be a small body betraying itself, he were also seeing it from high up, like the hawk, or that fellow in his flying-machine. He moved always on these two levels, through these two worlds: the flat world of individual grassblades, seen so close up that they blurred, where the ground-feeders darted about striking at worms, and the long view in which all this part of the country was laid out like a relief-map in the Shire Office—surf, beach, swampland, wet paddocks, dry, forested hill-slopes, jagged blue peaks. Each section of it supported its own birdlife; the territorial borders of each kind were laid out there, invisible but clear, which the birds were free to cross but didn’t; they stayed for the most part within strict limits. They stayed.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Ashley Crowther, Bert
Related Symbols: Birds, Bert’s Biplane
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Ashley was too incoherent to have explained and Jim would have been embarrassed to hear it, but he understood. All this water, all these boughs and leaves and little clumps of tussocky grass that were such good nesting-places and feeding grounds belonged inviolably to the birds. The rights that could be granted to a man by the Crown, either for ninety-nine years or in perpetuity, were of another order and didn’t quite mean what they said.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Ashley Crowther
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

His voice was husky and the accent broad; he drawled. The facts he gave were unnecessary and might have been pedantic. But when he named the bird, and again when he named the island, he made them sound, Ashley thought, extraordinary. He endowed them with some romantic quality that was really in himself. An odd interest revealed itself, the fire of an individual passion.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Ashley Crowther
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

It amazed him, this. That he could be watching, on a warm day in November, with the sun scorching his back, the earth pricking below and the whole landscape dazzling and shrilling, a creature that only weeks ago had been on the other side of the earth and had found its way here across all the cities of Asia, across lakes, deserts, valleys between high mountain ranges, across oceans without a single guiding mark, to light on just this bank and enter the round frame of his binoculars; completely contained there in its small life […] and completely containing, somewhere invisibly within, that blank white world of the northern ice-cap and the knowledge, laid down deep in the tiny brain, of the air-routes and courses that had brought it here.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

“So this is it,” he said admiringly. […] “Where you work.”

“Yes,” she said, “here and out there.”

As he was to discover, she often made these distinctions, putting things clearer, moving them into a sharper focus.

“The light, and then the dark.”

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Miss Imogen Harcourt
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

The sandpiper was in sharp focus against a blur of earth and grass-stems, as if two sets of binoculars had been brought to bear on the same spot, and he knew that if the second pair could now be shifted so that the landscape came up as clear as the bird, he too might be visible, lying there with a pair of glasses screwed into his head. He was there but invisible; only he and Miss Harcourt might ever know that he too had been in the frame, hidden among those soft rods of light that were grass-stems and the softer sunbursts that were grass-heads or tiny flowers. To the unenlightened eye there was just the central image of the sandpiper with its head attentively cocked. And that was as it should be. It was the sandpiper’s picture.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Miss Imogen Harcourt
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

[T]hey moved with their little lives, if they moved at all, so transiently across his lands—even when they were natives and spent their whole lives there—and knew nothing of Ashley Crowther. They shocked him each time he came here with the otherness of their being. He could never quite accept that they were, he and these creatures, of the same world. It was as if he had inherited a piece of the next world, or some previous one. That was why he felt such awe when Jim so confidently offered himself as an intermediary and named them: ‘Look, the Sacred Kingfisher. From Borneo.’”

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Ashley Crowther
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Using his best copybook hand, including all the swirls and hooks and tails on the capital letters that you left off when you were simply jotting things down, he entered them up, four or five to a page. This sort of writing was serious. It was giving the creature, through its name, a permanent place in the world, as Miss Harcourt did through pictures. The names were magical. They had behind them, each one, in a way that still seemed mysterious to him, as it had when he first learned to say them over in his head, both the real bird he had sighted, with its peculiar markings and its individual cry, and the species with all its characteristics of diet, habits, preference for this or that habitat, kind of nest, number of eggs etc.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

But it was there just the same, moving easily about and quite unconscious that it had broken some barrier that might have been laid down a million years ago, in the Pleiocene, when the ice came and the birds found ways out and since then had kept to the same ways. Only this bird hadn’t.

“Where does it come from?”

“Sweden. The Baltic. Iceland. Looks like another refugee.”

He knew the word now. Just a few months after he first heard it, it was common, you saw it in the papers every day.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Miss Imogen Harcourt
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

It seemed odd to her that it should be so extraordinary, though it was of course, this common little visitor to the shores of her childhood, with its grating cry that in summers back there she would, before it was gone, grow weary of, which here was so exotic, and to him so precious.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Miss Imogen Harcourt
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

Jim regarded it in a spirit of superstitious dread; and in fact these machines too, in the last months, had entered a new dimension. After just a few seasons of gliding over the hills casting unusual shadows and occasionally clipping the tops of trees, new toys of a boyish but innocent adventuring, they had changed their nature and become weapons. Already they were being used to drop bombs and had been organized, in Europe, into a new fighting arm.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Ashley Crowther, Bert
Related Symbols: Bert’s Biplane
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

If he didn’t go, he had decided, he would never understand, when it was over, why his life and everything he had known were so changed, and nobody would be able to tell him. He would spend his whole life wondering what had happened to him and looking into the eyes of others to find out.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

But more reassuring than all this—the places, the stories of a life that was continuous elsewhere—a kind of private reassurance for himself alone, was the presence of the birds, that allowed Jim to make a map in his head of how the parts of his life were connected, there and here, and to find his way back at times to a natural cycle of things that the birds still followed undisturbed.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Bobby Cleese
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

[Bob Cleese] was a bee-keeper back home. That was all Jim knew of him. A thin, quiet fellow from Buderim, and it occurred to him as they lay there that they might understand one another pretty well if there was a time after this when they could talk. Everything here happened so quickly. Men presented themselves abruptly in the light of friends or enemies and before you knew what had happened they were gone.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Bobby Cleese
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

It was a great wonder, and Jim stared along with the rest. A mammoth, thousands of years old. Thousands of years dead. It went back to the beginning, and was here, this giant beast that had fallen to his knees so long ago, among the recent dead, with the sharp little flints laid out beside it which were also a beginning. Looking at them made time seem meaningless.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Bobby Cleese
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

It was like living through whole generations. Even the names they had given to positions they had held a month before had been changed by the time they came back, as they had changed some names and inherited others from the men who went before. In rapid succession, generation after generation, they passed over the landscape.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

Jim had run a half mile through the swath he had cut in the standing grain with the image in his head of the child caught there among the smashed stalks and bloodied ears of wheat, and been unable when he arrived at the McLaren’s door to get the image, it so filled him, into words. There were no words for it, then or ever, and the ones that came said nothing of the sound the metal had made striking the child’s skull, or the shocking whiteness he had seen of stripped bone, and would never be fitted in any language to the inhuman shriek—he had thought it was some new and unknown bird entering the field—of the boy’s first cry. It had gone down, that sound, to become part of what was unspoken between them at every meal so long as his mother was still living and they retained some notion of being a family.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

There were so many worlds. They were all continuous with one another and went on simultaneously: that man’s world, intent on his ancient business with the hoe; his own world, committed to bringing these men up to a battle; their worlds, each one, about which he could only guess.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Ashley Crowther
Related Symbols: The Old Man and His Garden
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

[…] he was out of himself and floating, seeing the scene from high up as it might look from Bert’s bi-plane, remote and silent. Perhaps he had, in some part of himself, taken on the nature of a bird; though it was with a human eye that he saw, and his body, still entirely his own, was lumbering along below, clearly perceptible as it leapt over potholes and stumbled past clods, in a breathless dream of black hail striking all about him and bodies springing backward or falling slowly from his side. There were no changes.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler
Related Symbols: Birds, Bert’s Biplane
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

He saw it all, and himself a distant, slow-moving figure within it: […] the new and the old dead; his own life neither more nor less important than the rest, even in his own vision of the thing, but unique because it was his head that contained it and in his view that all these balanced lives for a moment existed: the men going about their strange business of killing and being killed, but also the rats, the woodlice under logs, a snail that might be climbing up a stalk, quite deaf to the sounds of battle, an odd bird or two […]

Related Characters: Jim Saddler
Related Symbols: Birds, Bert’s Biplane
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

Maybe she would go on from birds to waves. They were as various and as difficult to catch at their one moment.

That was it, the thought she had been reaching for. Her mind gathered and held it, on a breath, before the pull of the earth drew it apart and sent it rushing down with such energy into the flux of things.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Miss Imogen Harcourt
Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:

That is what life meant, a unique presence, and it was essential in every creature. To set anything above it, birth, position, talent even, was to deny to all but a few among the infinite millions what was common and real, and what was also, in the end, most moving. A life wasn’t for anything. It simply was.

Related Characters: Jim Saddler, Miss Imogen Harcourt
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
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Jim Saddler Character Timeline in Fly Away Peter

The timeline below shows where the character Jim Saddler appears in Fly Away Peter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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Jim Saddler eyes a biplane as it loops lazily above the Australian swampland in which he... (full context)
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Jim knows this swampland well. He even has a “map” of it “in his head,” as... (full context)
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...schooling in England. Having come back to take over his father’s property, he has hired Jim to catalog the birds that live in the swampland, wanting to know what creatures fly... (full context)
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When Jim had started working for Ashley, his father was skeptical. A defeated, pessimistic man, his father... (full context)
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Despite his father’s skepticism, Jim had accepted Ashley’s job offer. He feels a kinship with Ashley despite their disparate backgrounds,... (full context)
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...Ashley understand that his own land truly belongs to the birds, he also senses that Jim himself has certain “rights” over the area. These rights have to do with his “knowledge... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Ashley’s desire to acquaint himself with his property is what initially leads him to Jim. While riding through the swamp, he comes upon the young man lying in the grass... (full context)
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Ashley dismounts his horse and Jim hands him the binoculars, pointing out the Dollar bird. “I can see it!” Ashley says,... (full context)
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Ashley asks Jim if he would like to work for him “on a proper basis,” making lists of... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Later that day, Jim goes to a local bar for a drink and learns that the middle-aged woman he... (full context)
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When Miss Harcourt finally appears, Jim says, “I’ve come about that sandpiper. I seen you taking a picture of it.” He... (full context)
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Miss Harcourt takes Jim into her darkroom, saying that she works “here and out there. The light, and then... (full context)
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Jim loves Miss Harcourt’s photograph of the sandpiper, finding it appropriate that his body has been... (full context)
Chapter 4
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When Ashley has visitors, Jim takes them on tours of the property. Driving them around in a small boat, he... (full context)
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On trips through the swamps with Ashley’s guests, Jim listens to the visitors talk about Europe and decides that it “must be a mad... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Jim first hears about the beginning of the war in August while he’s in Brisbane to... (full context)
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Jim senses that the war will eventually claim everybody, “as if the ground before him, that... (full context)
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Just before Connie and Jim go into her house, a sound of breaking glass rises in the streets, where there’s... (full context)
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Later that night, Jim walks back into the streets feeling “pleased with himself” after having had sex with Connie.... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...into September, new birds arrive in the swamplands. “Refugees,” Miss Harcourt calls them, a word Jim has never heard. In his best handwriting, he records these new arrivals in a “serious”... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Not long before Ashley and Julia’s wedding, Jim encounters a bird he’s never seen before. Excited, he brings Miss Harcourt the following day... (full context)
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“Where does it come from?” Jim asks, still looking at the Dunlin through binoculars. “Sweden,” replies Miss Harcourt. “The Baltic. Iceland.... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Ashley arranges for Bert to take Jim up in the biplane, thinking it will delight him to be in the air amongst... (full context)
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When the biplane gets into the air, Jim looks down and sees that the aerial view of the swampland he often imagines is... (full context)
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...with a “new seriousness” brought about by their closeness to the increasing number of dead. Jim’s father suddenly starts talking about how he would gladly go to war if he were... (full context)
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Ashley doesn’t say much when Jim tells him he has signed up for the war, though it goes without saying that... (full context)
Chapter 9
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In the military, Jim is grouped with a number of Australians, including a man named Clancy Parkett who is... (full context)
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For some reason, a fellow soldier named Wizzer takes a disliking to Jim. Early on, Wizzer makes a point of tripping Jim, who finds himself suddenly wanting to... (full context)
Chapter 10
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After training in England, Jim’s company—along with many others—makes its way through France. This is a long haul, and the... (full context)
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As Jim and his infantry unit draw closer to the front, he notices a change in the... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Jim’s first station in the war is calm, since the town his company is assigned hasn’t... (full context)
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Jim agrees to accompany Clancy to the bar. As they set off, a boy named Eric... (full context)
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At the bar, Clancy drinks hard liquor while Jim and Eric drink white wine sweetened with syrup—a drink Clancy mocks. As Eric gets increasingly... (full context)
Chapter 12
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The “trench system” that leads to the frontlines, Jim discovers, is intricate and hidden. The trenches are so close to the farmers that you... (full context)
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Jim recognizes some of the soldiers who pass him on their way out of the trenches,... (full context)
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...of the trenches themselves. Water seeps out of the ground and into everything, rising above Jim’s boots and creating “cave-ins” in the walls, which bring “old horrors to light” because so... (full context)
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...of dead men and then run over the living soldiers’ faces at night. These creatures, Jim feels, stand in stark opposition to birds; he thinks, “To come to terms with the... (full context)
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In the support lines one day, Jim sits down and has some toast while he and his company unload boxes of ammunition,... (full context)
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Jim is sure the blood on him must belong to Eric, but the boy is too... (full context)
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Jim visits Eric in the hospital and finds it difficult to keep himself from staring at... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Sliding across the battlefield on his stomach, Jim tries to find his company, which has been separated in the black of night while... (full context)
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After struggling for several moments with this unknown antagonist in the dark trench, Jim realizes he knows the man. “Wizzer!” he shouts, “it’s me, you mad bugger. Jim. A... (full context)
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Jim tells Wizzer he’s leaving. Lifting himself toward the lip of the shell-hole, he looks back... (full context)
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After the officer dies, Jim and Bobby Cleese find cover in another shell-hole, and this is when they wind up... (full context)
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...with tear gas and phosgene, which takes several days to finish him. By this point, Jim’s company has returned to their old post in the support lines. On the day that... (full context)
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Looking at the mammoth and the flints used to “kill” or “cut it up,” Jim feels as if time is “meaningless.” When he finally enters the hospital tents, where the... (full context)
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“Half-crazy,” Jim and his fellow soldiers dig through the ground, their shovels scraping against corpses and bones.... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Jim realizes he’s been living, until now, “in a state of dangerous innocence.” At the same... (full context)
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Watching his brother die isn’t the only form of violence Jim has witnessed outside of the war. Once, when he was birdwatching, he found a kestrel... (full context)
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Feeling the “annihilating” sorrow of life, Jim walks into an area that has been “utterly blasted,” the land made into a “vast... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Having come up to the crowded frontlines in a massive battle, Jim and his fellow soldiers wait for the whistle that will tell them to move over... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Jim finds himself blinking up at the sky from the ground. He watches clouds pass, diaphanous... (full context)
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Jim blinks and finds himself staring at the top flap of a canvas tent. The tent... (full context)
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Jim closes his eyes and hears a voice calling his name. The voice, he knows, belongs... (full context)
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Back in the tent, Ashley asks Jim if he can hear him. When Jim confirms that he can, Ashley says they need... (full context)
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Jim lets go of Ashley’s arm and moves toward the garden, where a number of men... (full context)
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Clancy tells Jim that he and everybody else in the garden are “digging through to the other side.”... (full context)
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Jim digs with the rest of the men, feeling the “rich” earth, which is “warm” in... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...herself, “what those gulls are doing. Those oystercatchers. Those terns.” She has already heard of Jim’s death and has even run into Jim’s father, who said, “I lost my boy” in... (full context)
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...the waves, “an image she would hold in her mind.” Then, suddenly, she thinks of Jim and hugs herself. She begins to walk away, starting up the beach’s dune. At the... (full context)