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    An Imaginary Life – Commentary Essay

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    This passage from An Imaginary Life by David Malouf focuses on the returning of The Child to his ‘normal’ environment. It is in this prose that one of the prevalent themes is explored – the interrelationship between Man and his environment and the impact changes in the environment have on one’s personality. The effects of setting and physical surroundings are largely depicted and consequently issues such as education, isolation and the irony of the metamorphoses are highlighted. This is due to the description diction and imagery seen throughout the passage, helping portray Ovid’s adaptation to his new environment and the relationship he has with The Child.

    This final passage of novel portrays the end result of Ovid’s metamorphoses. Initially he describes the environment as bleak and has an extremely pessimistic to his surroundings. However as he learns more about speech and culture of Tomis he learns the true meaning of transformation – learning life through invaluable lessons and interactions with the environment. And this is what is so evident in this prose. He comes to understand that you cannot change someone to suit your needs, in this instance it is The Child. He completes his learning cycles, becoming part of the boy’s world. He does this by rejecting the society of Tomis and living in a state completely dependent on the environment. From this once can see that Ovid undertook a life changing spiritual and physical journey – an idea most evident in this passage.

    In the opening lines of the passage Malouf highlights the openness and vastness of the land which once scared Ovid – “And so we come to it, the place”. This ambiguous statement further characterizes not only Ovid but The Child. It portrays the freedom and satisfaction of the environment and the natural animalistic instincts The Child has, “as he (The Child) moves way as usual to forage for our evening meal”. This also depicts the boundaries and edges continually referred to throughout the novel. It relates to the fear the Ovid has and the freedom The Child now has.

    It can be said that the natural environment that the Child is so used to, influence the poet to the extent that age and elements of the human mind are no longer significant, but rather the existence of life is everlasting, “I ascend … grain by grain, into the hands of the Gods … it’s the pint on the earth’s surface where I disappear”.

    The Child is another crucial character whose personality is changed and influenced through variations in his environment, similar to Ovid. The Child, in a sense, represents how societal restraints can harm ones identity, and how non-conformity can fabricate outside conflict, yet personal pleasure.

    In the beginning, The Child is perceived as a mystical, perplexing character who is scarcely even human, and without doubt not a member of any civilization. He is a wild boy. However he is seen through the eyes of Ovid in a different manner. He is astounded at the Boy’s existence and at times obsessed about bringing him into modern, yet primitive society. As Ovid develops his relationship with The Child, two boundaries of surviving in a certain environment become clear, and both consider existence in the ‘other’ world to be unthinkable. The Child is a noteworthy paradigm of how humans and the landscape are entwined, and grow to be almost one.

    It is in this final passage which highlights this idea. This is extremely evident through the descriptive imagery of The Child by the stream, “stooping, kneeling, starting off again with his spring-heeled gait as he gathers small snails amongst the weeds”. It is through these present participles, “stooping”, and animalistic adjectives, “spring-heeled” that portrays to the reader how humans and the environment can grow to be almost one.

    Ovid makes every effort for a sensation of belonging and harmony with all the elements, despite at first he attempts to discipline the Child, he constantly seems more captivated than concerned by the Boy’s unique skill to mirror several characteristics of the natural world. Like Ovid, the Boy is influenced by changes in environment. This is illustrated when he remarks “it is not at all as I had imagined. There are no wolves. It is clear sunlight”. Thus depicting Ovid’s fear of the unknown but also referring back to the idea of imagination, a concept prevalent throughout the whole novel, hence the title.

    This concept of imagination is further alluded to in the prose. It highlights that Ovid is finally coming to terms with not only the environment and his surroundings, but also his body. He has had a physically and metal journey. He refers back to Rome, “Its strange to look back on the enormous landscape … across my life in Rome”, and the his “childhood”. Portraying the Ovid has finally accepted his punishment for “the footprints lead to this place and not other” and that The Child does not belong in a human civilization but rather his own civilization with nature.

    It is this metaphor that leads onto his reflection of his childhood. This must be examined for it shows that despite how far he has come, he still thinks of his youth – its shows the idea of imagination t again through his dreams and thoughts. This allusion of his childhood on his farm concludes with the paradoxical statement, “It is spring. It is summer. I am three years old. I am sixty”. The short stagmatic sentences of “it is spring … I am three years old” refers t his dream, whereas “It is summer … I am sixty” refers to the present tense. Thus illustrating that despite his mental journey he is still in two minds, but everyday is finding it easier to identify with the culture – a completely different culture to Rome.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    An Imaginary Life – Commentary Essay. (2017, Nov 21). Retrieved from

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