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Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Piercy's prose has been typed by critic Jane O'Reilly as "relentlessly accurate," with "familiar figures earnest even about their jokes" revealing inner lives that "run to obsessive list-making". Fly Away Home fits that type. The narrative unfolds from a third-person, limited omniscient point of view — Daria's — and while it incorporates much dialogue, the singular perspective is never truly augmented. Some critics contend this viewpoint inhibits complete characterization for all but Daria, and they cite its very "limitation" as a flaw. Others believe it preserves suspense. As Daria sleuths to solve riddles, so do readers.

Daria wonders, questions for herself frequently in this novel, which then becomes a device for furthering the plot, detective-style. Her transformations cohere in metaphoric dualities: ashes and rebirth, parking lots and gardens, fire and earth. Hence, while the subject matter of Fly Away Home is dire, the mood, overall, is "translucent and affirmative" (Sweet). Ultimately, Susan Mernit says, this "rich and entertaining book asks us to consider ourselves as part of a social network beyond the isolated nuclear family." And, she adds: "Piercy's zeal to tell us how we should live our lives strains her prose; her determination to tell us something specific about our society interferes with the spontaneity of the story. A keen observer, she is capable of dazzling and sensual descriptions; yet, on occasion, her conversations between characters seem trumped-up. As fine as her feeling for language is, here it operates in fits and starts."

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

No doubt this author is acquainted with prototypic, strong, female protagonists who forge identities socially beyond maternal and marital bonds. Fly Away Home recalls Kate Chopin's The Awakening (1899) and Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own (1929); parallels, however, are perhaps nowhere clearer than between Piercy's Daria, and Ibsen's Nora in A Doll's House (1879). Like Nora, Daria is demeaned and patronized by a husband who keeps her "in the dark"; like Nora, she learns of his unscrupulous, contemptuous...

(The entire section is 489 words.)