After many months at war, Jim begins to lose his ability to find beauty in life. Fortunately, he stumbles upon an old man planting a garden in an otherwise desolate landscape, and this experience renews his optimism. The old man’s presence in the novel symbolizes hope and emotional resilience, two things that help Jim stay in touch with his sensitivity to beauty in the midst of a violent war. Although the land surrounding the old man has been torn up by violence—the trees devastated and stripped—he still works at planting his garden. “There was something in the old man’s movements as he stooped and pushed his thumbs into the earth, something in his refusal to accept the limiting nature of conditions,” Malouf writes, explaining why the man has such an influence on Jim’s happiness. The man’s “refusal to accept the limiting nature of conditions” shows Jim that it’s worth striving to recognize or create beauty even in the most dismal circumstances. During Jim’s out of body experience in the moment of his death, he notably imagines returning to the site of the garden and beginning to dig alongside Clancy, who was also killed in the war. They attempt to dig to the “other side,” a symbolic reference to passing from the realm of the living to that of the dead. In a sense, though, they are also becoming one with the earth, which carries the possibility of renewal; even in death there is hope for beauty to grow again.
The Old Man and His Garden Quotes in Fly Away Peter
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.