Fly Away Peter

by

David Malouf

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Fly Away Peter can help.

Miss Imogen Harcourt Character Analysis

A middle-aged woman from Norfolk, England who came to Australia six years ago because her brother wanted to get into the gold-mining business. After her brother failed to get rich and returned to England, Miss Harcourt decided to stay, though she often wonders why. Now she lives in a small and somewhat dilapidated cottage and sells photographs to a nature magazine in London. She sees Jim one day while he’s lying in the grass—he’s looking through his binoculars at a sandpiper, which Miss Harcourt herself is photographing. Later, when Jim appears in her cottage to introduce himself, she shows him the picture she took, in which he lies blurred and obscured in the long grass, the sandpiper fixed in tight focus at the portrait’s center. Both she and Jim love this photograph and establish a close bond, one that doesn’t require them to talk very much when they go birdwatching together. After receiving news of Jim’s death, Miss Harcourt goes to the beach and watches a surfer for the first time in her life, feeling both sad and exhilarated by the fact that life marches on into the future despite all the travesties of the past.

Miss Imogen Harcourt Quotes in Fly Away Peter

The Fly Away Peter quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Imogen Harcourt or refer to Miss Imogen Harcourt. 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 3 Quotes

“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 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 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:
Get the entire Fly Away Peter LitChart as a printable PDF.
Fly Away Peter PDF

Miss Imogen Harcourt Character Timeline in Fly Away Peter

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Imogen Harcourt appears in Fly Away Peter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Boundaries and Perspective Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
While working as a birdwatcher for Ashley one day, Jim spots Miss Harcourt . This happens when he’s watching a sandpiper, a bird from “Northern Asia or Scandanavia.”... (full context)
Language and Naming Theme Icon
...local bar for a drink and learns that the middle-aged woman he saw is named Miss Imogen Harcourt . Having found out where she lives, he pays her a visit in her run-down... (full context)
Language and Naming Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
When Miss Harcourt finally appears, Jim says, “I’ve come about that sandpiper. I seen you taking a picture... (full context)
Boundaries and Perspective Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
Miss Harcourt takes Jim into her darkroom, saying that she works “here and out there. The light,... (full context)
Language and Naming Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
Jim loves Miss Harcourt ’s photograph of the sandpiper, finding it appropriate that his body has been obscured by... (full context)
Chapter 5
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
...he will get used to it. The next morning, he returns to the swampland, where Miss Harcourt asks if anything remarkable is “going on in Brisbane.” “Well,” he replies, “you know. The... (full context)
Chapter 6
Language and Naming Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
As August fades 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... (full context)
Chapter 7
Boundaries and Perspective Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
...Ashley and Julia’s wedding, Jim encounters a bird he’s never seen before. Excited, he brings Miss Harcourt the following day to the place where he spotted the mysterious new arrival. After waiting... (full context)
Boundaries and Perspective Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
...does it come from?” Jim asks, still looking at the Dunlin through binoculars. “Sweden,” replies Miss Harcourt . “The Baltic. Iceland. Looks like another refugee.” By this point, Jim has learned the... (full context)
Chapter 8
Boundaries and Perspective Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
...it goes without saying that Jim’s job will be waiting for him when he returns. Miss Harcourt , on the other hand, seems hurt and angry. Nevertheless, she’s the one who ends... (full context)
Chapter 14
Boundaries and Perspective Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
...sees that the man’s actually planting a garden. For a moment, he is reminded of Miss Harcourt , as something about “the old man’s movements” seems to reflect a “refusal to accept... (full context)
Chapter 18
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
Miss Imogen Harcourt walks to the beach with her camera equipment on a nice day in October. She... (full context)
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
After watching the waves’ rhythmic patterns, Miss Harcourt is about to leave when she sees somebody surfing in the wake. She has never... (full context)