Fly Away Peter

by

David Malouf

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The Old Man and His Garden Symbol Analysis

The Old Man and His Garden Symbol Icon

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

The Fly Away Peter quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Old Man and His Garden. 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 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:
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The Old Man and His Garden Symbol Timeline in Fly Away Peter

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Old Man and His Garden appears in Fly Away Peter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 14
Boundaries and Perspective Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
...land made into a “vast rag and bone shop.” Looking for firewood, he finds an old man digging in these desolate woods with a hoe. Jim thinks the man must be digging... (full context)
Chapter 15
Boundaries and Perspective Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
...ago on their journey, they passed through a group of “blasted farms,” where Ashley saw an old man fixing a hoe . Ashley had wondered if the man thought “the coming battle was the end and... (full context)
Chapter 17
Boundaries and Perspective Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
...he realizes that he has been here before—this is the place where he saw the old man digging in the garden. The “blasted” trees, he observes, seem to have “renewed themselves with... (full context)