Between the ages of six and thirteen, Rob Coram passes through the stages of life experienced by any young boy. His rite of passage is not extraordinary, but its evocation by Randolph Stow is richer than many similar fictional accounts. Particularly fully depicted is the intellectual development of the child during the course of a friendship with his much older cousin Rick.
Rick strongly influences Rob’s identity, as does Rob’s evacuation to the country. The influence of Rick is opposed, however, by that of Rob’s family and schooling. During and after the war, he is forced to choose between Rick’s skeptical frame of mind and the ethnocentricity and violence that he learns when, for example, he hunts and practices warfare with his friends. Farm life makes Rob an amalgam of “bush kid” and “town kid,” a mixed blessing. When he returns to town, he is at odds with his schoolmates.
Before the war, Rick was a rugged, bronzed, blue-eyed outdoorsman, sportsman, and eminently likable young man. An egalitarian by nature, he treated Rob as a peer despite the fourteen-year difference in their ages. Rob, in return, determines at a young age to emulate Rick in every way he can, and does so, much to his mother’s consternation, when Rick returns from the war, embittered, disillusioned, and disoriented.
The friendship is based on faith, a quality that Rick, ironically, largely loses during captivity. Their bond has been sealed, it...
(The entire section is 575 words.)