There’s an idea that there is something that touches the languageless place within us, outside of symbolic language and the imaginary, something known in psychoanalytic thought as ‘the real’. ‘The real’ cannot be spoken or written. It’s the neo-natal, primal place we have been forever severed from through our inescapable introduction to language, that cornerstone of ‘civilization’. The aboriginal boy represents that place for Mary and Peter [the protagonists of Walkabout], a place they have long since lost access to. Lacan’s statement ‘What does not come to light in the symbolic appears in the real’ is revealed in the brief moments between the three: laughter, eye contact, the embrace of another. These are moments when the ‘real’ cuts through the symbolic, moments of pure existence. Perhaps, even when we are lost in the wild, whether it be in nature or the endless wilderness of the psyche, when we encounter another, we can always speak with them, one way or another.
—from a review of James Vance Marshall’s Walkabout by Anisse Gross in The Rumpus. And if you want to delve even further into the complexities of this seemingly simple story, check out Nicholas Roeg’s classic film adaptation from 1971.