Fly Away Peter


David Malouf

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Themes and Colors
Language and Naming Theme Icon
Boundaries and Perspective Theme Icon
Time, Change, and Impermanence Theme Icon
Friendship and Human Connection Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Fly Away Peter, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Language and Naming

In Fly Away Peter, a novel about finding meaning in the face of death and war, language imposes a sense of order upon an otherwise chaotic world. Unfortunately, though, it’s not always possible to use words to make sense of life, which is often full of incomprehensible forms of horror and tragedy. For instance, when his brother falls into the blades of a grain harvester, the novel’s protagonist Jim Saddler is unable to express…

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Boundaries and Perspective

There are many boundaries in Fly Away Peter, such as the perimeter of Ashley Crowther’s property, the borders between countries at war, and the edges of Miss Imogen Harcourt’s photographs. However, Malouf showcases these boundaries only so that he can demonstrate their relative meaninglessness. What matters most, he suggests, isn’t the actual presence of such borders, but the ways in which people perceive them. This often means disregarding arbitrary delineations altogether, as…

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Time, Change, and Impermanence

In Fly Away Peter, Malouf uses the passage of time to remind readers that everybody experiences change. This means that every single living being exists in an impermanent world that is constantly transforming. By highlighting the fact that nothing ever stays the same, Malouf brings the notion of mortality to the forefront of the novel, since the constant march of time inevitably leads to death. Because of this, people often want to dwell on…

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Friendship and Human Connection

The relationships that Jim Saddler establishes throughout Fly Away Peter exemplify the fact that friendship often arises when people share something in common. For instance, when Jim first gets to know Ashley Crowther, he appreciates the respect Ashley has for birds—a respect Jim shares. Once the two men discover this mutual fascination, their friendship is able to take form. A similar thing happens when Jim meets Miss Imogen Harcourt, who is a…

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Innocence and Maturity

At the center of Fly Away Peter is a young man who leaves behind a relatively idyllic life in Australia for the ghastly experience of war. As such, the story charts the loss of innocence, as Jim witnesses violent acts that blot out the blissful purity of his childhood. At the same time, though, Malouf’s representation of this process is complicated and nuanced, since Jim’s prewar life isn’t quite as innocent or inexperienced as it…

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