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Fly Away Peter Essay, Research Paper

?…a kind of savagery that Jim kept at arm?s length…because he didn?t want to be infected?. How successfully does Jim avoid infection by ?savagery??Jim?s insight into his father?s nature reflects his naive and innocent outlook in the first half of the novel. However, through his life experiences he is exposed to ?savagery? on many levels and on a much greater scale in the chaos of war. His preference to keep a considerable distance between himself and any acknowledgment of the darker side of human nature and the world is undermined by the challenges he is faced with throughout the novel. While in Queensland, Jim does not allow his father?s cynicism to intrude upon his untainted existence, and during the war his detachment is a means by which he can effectively avoid infection by ?savagery?. But the ?catastroph[ic]? inhumanity of war and his experiences with Wizzer force Jim to acknowledge the brutality in the world.

Jim ?resent[s] the cowardly acceptance of defeat? that characterises his father, and purposefully distances himself from the violence he sees in him. Jim perceives violence as a sickness in individual men, not an innate characteristic of man. Although he does not understand such ?savagery? early in the novel, Jim blames his father for not overcoming the mistreatment he suffered in his youth, and instead imposing it upon Jim. He sees ?nothing in common between his father and himself?, and indeed the optimism and enduring fascination at the natural world that epitomizes Jim contrasts markedly with his father?s bitter, disillusioned and limited view of the world. His father forecasts for Jim ?a life as flat, save for the occasional down-turn, as his own?. However, Jim?s need to deepen his understanding of the world and his place in it inevitably leads him to France, and his father?s sentimental and envious farewell makes Jim realise that his decision to go to war marks a defining moment in his life, ?as if a line had been drawn between the past and what was to come, the two parts of his life?. Indeed his departure from Australia marks a turning point in the novel, and heralds Jim?s ?fall from innocence?.

Jim?s existence in the unspoilt security of the sanctuary is juxtaposed against the ?madness? of war to illustrate the way in which ?savagery? is increasingly imposing itself upon Jim and forcing him to broaden his outlook. During the war Jim?s newfound friends are senselessly killed or injured, and when visiting Eric, Jim is torn between sympathy for the young victim and his unease at being around him. Jim dislikes facing such a harsh reality, but becomes increasingly immune to the brutality of war as the novel progresses. This is evident in the development of Jim?s discussion of his surroundings and their impact upon him. In chapter twelve he conveys at length graphic images of war, whereas in chapter thirteen we become aware that he is no longer afraid of the dead, digging into the earth amongst the corpses. Soon after this we are shown Jim?s awareness of the annihilating character of war and violence. Although he is still repelled by such brutality, and has a nightmarish fear that war ?would go on forever?, he has now realised that ?he had been living?in a state of dangerous innocence…he had been blind?. Stimulated by the way in which violence has become extraordinary, Jim informs us of the death of his younger brother, suggesting his increasing immunity to ?savagery?. However, the forced imposition of the reality of war upon Jim also causes him to greatly expand his world view. This is not limited merely to his surroundings, for it is his encounters with Wizzer that further enhance his understanding of self.

Wizzer is significant because of what he reveals to Jim of his own character. Jim becomes aware of his own capacity for ?black anger?, and initially admits that he does not wish ?to be confronted with some depth in himself…that frightened him and that he didn?t understand?. He hates seeing in himself the violence that he associates with his father. However ?enemies, like friends, told you who you were?, and Wizzer serves as an exposing element on Jim?s journey to the dark nature of man. Jim is shaken by Wizzer?s assumption that they are ?two of a kind?, and manages to overcome his cowardice in the face of Wizzer?s savagery. ?Some sense of shame…held him back? from succumbing to it, and instead his acknowledgment of his dark side but conscious rejection of it cause him to feel ?delivered into his own hands again, clean and whole?. On an internal level, Jim is successful in avoiding ?infect[ion]?, but it is his surroundings and experiences with others and with the events of war that he must deal with in order to face ?savagery? on an external level.

The brutality of war has a great impact upon Jim, but he continually attempts to keep this ?at arm?s length? by detaching himself from reality. Jim?s detachment is evident throughout his time at war, and is highlighted by the juxtaposition of he and Clancy. The contrast between the womanising larrikan and the retiring, retrospective Jim brings out the way in which Jim exists ?in a world of his own, not exactly withdrawn but impenetrably private?. His efforts to avoid the brutality of war are again underlined in his hiding in a shell-hole during an artillery barrage, ?from which, he decided, he would not come out?. Jim detaches himself and is temporarily ?broken? by the ?sense of being alone? in the terrifying face of war, and it is only his confrontation with Wizzer that forces him to continue. Over time Jim?s detachment comes to dominate his entire outlook, and nearing his death he is ?almost out of himself? as ?centuries pass?. Indeed the horror of war has become entirely too much for Jim to deal with, and his death is more like a merging with his detachment, allowing it to take over, and for a time we are unsure what is real and what is not.

Through his experiences, Jim?s perception is immensely expanded. He becomes aware of multiple perspectives, the enduring power of nature, and a darker side to humanity and the world. Although his opinion of ?savagery? never alters significantly, his method in avoidance of it is forced to change, and indeed comes to dominate all else. In Queensland, Jim?s father is an isolated source of disruption, and Jim is able to retreat into the peaceful sanctuary in blissful ignorance. But in the hellish world of war, brutality becomes a way of life, and avoidance of ?savagery? becomes more difficult. However, Jim adapts to this, and his detachment becomes a means by which he is able to escape reality and retreat into the fastness of his own mind. In this way he is successful in avoiding savagery, for though he comes to acknowledge it in the world and in himself, he overcomes his dark side and is able to effectively keep external brutality ?at arm?s length? by detaching himself from reality.

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