“The Wars” by Timothy Findley Essay Sample
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“The Wars” by Timothy Findley Essay Sample
In the novel “The Wars”, Timothy Findly suggests that as a person is tested in life, there response to compelling circumstances show the nature of their character, the innocence or brutality with in them. Robert Ross, is the main character in the novel and goes through many character testing events throughout. war inherently changes people and Robert is no exception.
Rowena is Roberts handicapped older sister, she is a symbol of purity and innocence to Robert, and anchors him to kindness and compassion. Rowena is closely associated with the colour white, she is pictured with “white rabbits” and even at her funeral her “coffin [is] white” in a blanket of snow. Roberts love for Rowena keeps him pure and focused and this is why he cares for her, Without Rowena Roberts life would have little direction, When Rowena dies, Robert is heartbroken, he feels responsible even tho his younger brother was to be watching her at the time. “She fell.” Robert felt that if he wasn’t “making love to his pillows” he would have been there to stop this and his sister, the only person he ever loved, would still be alive. After her death Robert is confused and feels he must join the army to fight in Europe in an attempt to help the world regain the innocence it lost with Rowenas death.
The response to death tests the character of Robert throughout the novel; no more so than when he is the one who must kill. Robert is an innately kind person despite the fact he has had very few normal relationships. Everyone he has ever loved either can not return the sentiment or dies and leaves him alone in the world yet again. His first experience of lose is when his sister dies and he deals with this by going to war, and find what it is to be a man. This reaction is not unreasonable it just shows Robert is striving to be an outstanding citizen and deal with his loss. When Robert is on the boat to Europe, he is ordered to shoot a horse injured during a storm at sea. Robert is deeply conflicted, as an animal and nature lover, destroying something he cared for and attended to left him deeply torn.
Roberts innocence is shown when he questions, “what ever it [is] you kill in wars,” buy having to redder to “Chums” and an image of “a cowboy shooting a horse behind the ear” when it came time to kill the injured animal. Robert has no idea how to kill another living thing and it pained him to do so. Having to shoot the horse left him not only emotionally damaged, but physically as well, Robert injured his legs and had to be moved to the sick bay along with his good friend Harris. The already strong relationship between Harris and Robert only strengthened when they spent time in the Royal free Hospital. As Robert recovered Harris’ only worsened, Robert continued to visit Harris, and began to love him like a brother, but Harris worsened and eventually passed, Robert grieved by spreading Harris’ ashes in the water he spoke so fondly of. However, war changes Robert and he stops making level headed decisions, especially when he loses faith in the war he is fighting and the people who is fighting with.
Dehumanized, humiliated, and brutalized, Robert begins to realize how much the war changes people when he is raped by his fellow solders. Robert views the baths at Desole as a return top normality. His “thoughts of his chicken dinner” fill his head after his bath, but as he enters his room he realizes something us wrong. “Someone [is] in there with him.” Robert is not certain what is happening, fearing an attack. When Robert realizes what is happening he fights “with such impressive violence that all of his assailants fell upon him at once.” He struggles but is over powered but what must be about 4 men. “His brain went silent,” not being able to bear what is happening he loses consciousness. As his assailants left, they say something about leaving his money in order to avoid being caught, and these men who Robert thought to be “crazies” are more likely “his brother officers”. Devastated Robert stands in the middle of his room, naked, longing for clean clothes, and his pistol.
He tears apart his room in search for his gun, the only thing that would bring him comfort. “He wanted his gun.” Some time later Poole arrived at his door with Roberts kit bag, Robert is in a state of shock and cant seem to speak with Poole in the way he wanted to, making awkward jokes, with long awkward silences. He almost grabs his kit bag from Poole, and when Poole must leave, showing how much he needs the support of a friend, but knows that this is not the way a man acts and restrains him self. Robert searches his bag and finds Rowenas picture, “Robert [wishes] with all his heart that the two men could embrace””Robert [burns] it in the middle of the floor.” This was not in rage, “but an act of charity,” trying to shield Rowenas soul from the evils and brutality in the world, removing the last memory of her from the world. Robert is conflicted constantly between what he wants to do and what he should do and as he starts taking actions toward doing what he wants we see who he really is.
Robert views nature and animals as pure and innocent, he feels they have no place in the war and attempts to free a group of horses and rescue them from the war, not letting anyone get in his way. to make a Robert initially attempts a strategic retreat in order to save the horses, but Capt. Leather refuses, saying it would make them look weak. Robbert does not take this as a valid reason and consults with Devlin who concurs that the horses and mules must be saved when the artillery shell start making direct hits on the Head Quarters. As Robert reached the gates to free the animals, three shells exploded in succession and tossed Robbert and Leather away, all the horses were either dead or dieing, he stood “looking at the whole scene laid out before him and his anger rose to such a pitch that he feared he was going to go over into madness.” At this time Captain Leather began to regain his footing, “Robert shot him between the eyes.” this is the beginning of Robert’s turn to madness and brutality. The town of Bailleul was devastated by German artillery strikes, just as it reopened to ships from North America, this left men and animals alike stranded and in fear for their lives.
As Robert wanders, AWOL and a traitor to his country, he comes across a lone horse and a dog. Robert is animalistic now, “[sitting] on his haunches” watching the pair. Robert finds a train full of horses and begins to lead them to what he thinks is safety. On his way Robert encounters some other solders, and when a Private Cassles tries to stop him, “Robert [shoots] him in the face.” Robert eventually finds himself in a barn with all the horses and a company of solders outside who’s orders are to detain Robert and reclaim the horses. In an attempt to drive Robert from the barn they set the roof on fire, it quickly ignites and Robert is trapped, he can not open the door. The horses are trapped in the burning barn and all of them died. Roberts actions are very brutal, killing two of his own men, but he is trying to what he feels is right, freeing the horses, returning innocence to the world. His goal is lost it the army, they see him as a traitor and keep an MP at his side at all times, even on his death bed. He tried to make the world a better place, but in the end he saw nature that he loved, and all its elements turned into devises of death, “earth and air and fire and water”
Robert Ross was a young, naive, Canadian solider. He is dealing with situations far to extreme for most, yet he tries to handle all of them by keeping with his values. His life is full of love and loss, clarity and confusion, but he keeps close to thing things he loves and his actions portray that. Through Robert Ross and the events that occur around and to him and his subsequent actions Timothy Findly shows the ways in which a person reverts to the essence of their being and there is only one true way a person will behave.