Man and the Environment in David Malouf’s Novel, An Imaginary Life

1952 Words 8 Pages
In David Malouf’s novel An Imaginary Life, one of the most prevalent influences on the characters’ lives is the particular environment in which they are placed. Malouf explores the issues of the interrelationship between man and his natural environment, and the impact that changes in environment have on human personality. Through the characterisation of Ovid and the Boy, the effects of setting and physical surroundings are fully explored, and consequently issues such as isolation, conformity to society and the development of culture, including education and language, are discussed.

The main character, Ovid, is a vivid example of how lives can be periodically changed according to alterations in the surrounding environment. At the start
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This is again reflected in one of his later descriptions, which states:

It [the landscape] is a place of utter desolation, the beginning. I know it

like the inside of my head.

This bleak, pessimistic description is then contrasted to a joyful, beautiful description of a new life: a scarlet poppy. This contrast provides insight into the importance of changes in the natural environment, as the poet is changed from being troubled by the desolate emptiness of the earth, to being ‘drunk with joy’ at the new creation of colour, life and vitality. While in this ecstatic state of mind, Ovid questions what his friends back in the modern Roman society would think of his frivolous behavior, showing that being in unity with the natural landscape lessens the bond between man and the constraints of society. Ovid’s identity is constructed by the environment he is in, as while hunting with the head horseman, he adapts and conforms to the patterns of the rural men. This is portrayed as a positive thing, as the landscape is seen as a mentally healing agent, as Ovid described:

It was as it some fear went out of my breath and left my spirit clear

Following this description is a flashback to Ovid’s childhood, where he is finally able to become reconciled with his past and become aware of problems within the family unit. Changes and challenges within the environment

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