In Blogger’s opinion, this goes without saying, really; that “Enemies, like friends, told you who you were”, regardless of the context, this is written in. Ostensibly, this phrase is born out of tension and a near-fight, between Jim Saddler and fellow recruit in the army, Wizzer Green. Hitherto, it has transpired that Mr Saddler has seemingly gone through life with a sense of being an agreeable sort of character (both as a literal character, in the novel; and as a personality character, if based on someone in real life). All of a sudden, he appears to find himself in this aggressive-like situation – presumably, like he has never been involved in, or even felt before.
More so telling, than the phrase in question, is that “…Jim was surprise by the black anger he was possessed by”; as well as “… he came closer to his father’s nature at that moment than he had ever thought possible”. Here, Blogger surmises that, up until now, Mr Saddler was, or had a likeable personality – especially in regards to his relationship with Ashley Crowther. It is sensed, that Mr Saddler almost had a coming-of-age, as it were, under Mr Crowther’s influence (possibly also to do with the latter’s easy wealth) and therefore had confidence to expand his wings – in an almost literal sense, maybe by enlisting to fight in an overseas-based war – and horizons, generally. In this subjective opinion, Mr Saddler can also at times, appear to go through ‘Fly Away Peter’, as almost a submissive individual – even, if at the influence of his harder father.
Unfortunately, all of a sudden, he came to know about being the brunt of a bully, in the form of Mr Green; and that “… something in him offended Wizzer…”. So, in that sense, Mr Saddler – who had always been agreeable and very personable and friendly with individuals he could trust (namely friends, like Mr Crowther, or Imogen Harcourt – now is the mere brunt of another character, who takes a dislike to him. Therefore, one can surmise that in coming close to his own father’s nature, he needed to become aggressive and somewhat brutal, in order to survive the harsh world of the military he was now experiencing.
Of course therefore, only these two extremes – the confidence of friends and those who present themselves as critics, bullies and enemies – can only teach one about the vicissitudes of life experiences! One would also like to include here, or leave here with a very similar idea, or aspect, from another Australian novel, from another era, to that of ‘Fly Away Peter’ – i.e. ‘Looking for Alibrandi’, by Melina Marchetta:
Between protagonist Josephine Alibrandi and good friend, Lee –
“Your problems are out there… But they’re small. They only grow out of proportion when they climb inside your head. They grow because of insignificant people like Carly and Poison Ivy and Sera who feed on them because they know how you feel.”