Thursday, June 16, 2011

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The Structure of The Wars

The time sequence in this novel varies in that it tends to jump from one persons opinion of Roberts situation to another. Otherwise the novel would be much too depressing to read. The author switches from a war scene to a lighter subject in order to grasp the readers attention and keep the novel interesting. It is not a story of orderly sequenced events but a story of action. It discusses what is happening as it happens.

The pieces of the puzzle come from the different characters opinions of a particular situation. The story is continuous but each character explains the particular event from his/her point of view.

The novel begins in the same manner as it ends. However, the ending is more detailed. As the characters give their personal view of Robert, more is learned about him. For example Juliette explains her feelings towards Roberts temper His temper, you know, was terrible. Once when he thought he was alone and unobserved I saw him firing his gun in the woods at a young tree. It was a sight Id rather not have seen. He destroyed it absolutely. We feel the author does this in order to keep the novel interesting to the reader. His technique works well in keeping the novel pleasing to the reader.

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Art, Literature & Music in The Wars

PAGE Reference to literature, etc. Description

1 & 164-5 Keep Your Head Down Fritzey Boy Song Fritzey Boy refers to a German soldier.

1 Tea-Dance partners do the Castlewalk to orchestras of brass cornets and silver saxophones A Dance most popular in the early 100s.

Clifford also knew an obscene version of Oh, Susannah!, which he sang in a high, clear tenor with exactly the same pitch of intensity hed just applied to the Old kml;Hundredth. Oh, Susannah! is a song sung by young children.

7 On the outskirts of town there was an asylum for the mad- (Van Gogh had been one of its patients). Van Gogh painted many impressionistic pieces, which included many natural settings, flowers, and portraits.

86 It contained a panel of stained glass. These fragments were from a church, and were mainly religious pieces.

Findleys research included reading letters from his uncle who was in the war. His uncle mentions a dugout with a stain glass door.

45 Taffler had long since gone and the rumour was hed been returned to France, although his picture appeared in the Canadian Illustrated... Canadian Illustrated was a Canadian magazine

5 Clifford sang. Bring me, oh bring me a cup of cold water, and cool my temple... This is a song

56 Any storms that troubled it got there by way of Joseph Conrad and the Boys Own Annual. Joseph Conrad

Jòzef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowsi(1857-14). A Polish writer who joined the British Merchant Navy in 1886.

57 ...four blond men stood up and sang and thumped the entire score from Pinafore.

Opera that opened in the late 1800s. Written by Gilbert and Sullivan.

65 ...he remembered that somewhere in Chums-as a boy-hed see a picture of a cowboy shooting his horse behind the ear. This painting represents the only horror Robert has ever actually faced. It shows his inexperience.

6 He read her Huckleberry Finn. Huckleberry Finn was a classic, and was read often during those times.

8-0 quoting Clausewitz as follows Clausewitz says the true basis of combat is man to man. He says for that reason an absurdity... The horror of combat is being pushed to the background by Clausewitz, as man to man combat is truly a horrific thing.

That way, he says, the whole war can be carried out as a serious, formal minuet... The description of war as a thing of beauty is a common method of glorifying the horror.

141 Oh! I had bits of Montervedi-Mozart-Bach all jumbled up. Montervedi, Claudio Giovanni Antonio (1567-164) Italian Composer.

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1) Austrian composer.

Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-88) German Composer.

155 ...said it sounded like the chorus from the Trojan Women. A musical written by Michalis Cacoyannis.

16- A gramophone began to wobble out a song. Lil-Lil- Picadilly Lil-sitting on the hill-spooning with her honey-on a bright and sunny afternoon... A gramophone was used to listen to recorded music before the invention of CDs.

Findleys The Wars is full of references to art and literature. By doing this, Findley has contrasted the beauty of art with the brutality of war.

Theme of Fire in The Wars

The theme of fire in the novel The Wars, by Timothy Findley, conveys a feeling of pain and emotional distress. Here are several examples which support this theory (quotations are from the Penguin edition of The Wars [18])

1. Page 18...Robert looked to one side from under the peak of his cap, hoping that no one had seen him flinch from the steam or stepping back from the fire. He was wishing that they would leave. His shoulders hurt. His arm was sore. There were bruises on his back. He ached. He wanted all the others who had got off the train to depart the station before him. This simply conveys the physical and mental pain which Robert experiences.

. Page 6...For a moment she stood there, holding her hands in tight against her body as if for some reason Robert might take these possessions away from her. The glass and the cigarette were perhaps some sort of tangible evidence she was alive. Of course, the reference to fire was in the form of the cigarette. This emotional distress shown by Roberts mother is a result of her finding out that Rowena was dead, and that she did not know how to cope effectively with the situation.

. Page 46...and he stood and he stared as he passed the fires of his fathers factories, every furnace blasting red in the night...What were all these fires - and where did his father and his mother sleep beneath the pall of smoke reflecting orange and yellow flames? This reflects Roberts distress about the immense destruction that occurred during World War I..

4. Page 65...The air in front of him was filled with little fires but the horse was not dead. This shows the intense emotional distress that Robert experienced when he had to slaughter the horse but did not want to.

5. Page 66...Shall I light us a lantern, sir? Said Regis. No, said Robert. Not for a moment anyway. This exchange over the lantern occurs just after Robert kills the horse, and he does not want to observe the deed that he has just committed.

6) page 108...At exactly 4 am on the morning of the 8th, the Germans set off a string of land mines ranged along the St. Eloi Salient. One of these blew up the trenches five hundred yards directly in front of the stained glass dugout. The blowing of the mines was a signal for the artillery to start firing and the whole countryside seemed to jump into flames...In it, 0,000 men would die and not an inch of ground would be won. This quotation illustrates the power that the opposition had, and how it would try anything to win the war, even if it meant taking the lives of those they were fighting and those that they were not actually in combat with. It also illustrates the desperation to win the war, even if it meant inch by inch, little by little. This is also illustrated on page 1 - Fire storms raged along the front. Men were exploded where they stood - blown apart by the combustion. As well, page 17 - There was so much screaming and so much roaring of fires that Robert couldnt hear the planes when they returned or the next string of bombs when they fell. Finally, pages 185-186 The roof...went up in seconds like a tinder box. Within less than a minute of the fire being set, the rear portion of the roof fell into the barn...onto the backs of horses...Robert began shouting I cant! I cant! I cant! and by the time Mickle realised that this meant I cant open the doors, it was too late....There were flames all around them and his (Roberts) clothes were on fire....The dog was never found. This symbolises that Robert was more interested in life than death and would help someone/something if he could, but he had to learn this by serving in the war, living in a life with deadly risks and few second chances.

The following additional material was submitted by Candace Robicheau who was unable to attend all of the group meetings. In the class discussion of this topic, it emerged that Ms Robicheau had views that were somewhat different from those of others in the group. For this reason, some of her suggestions are recorded separately below

• in my opinion, the theme of fire has to do with devastation , both mental and physical. There are numerous examples of this in the novel (Candace Robicheau).


pg. 8- After a long silence Mrs. Ross dropped the cigarette and used her toe to squash it out- grinding and twisting it until it was just a mess of juice and paper, torn beyond recognition.

In this quotation the cigarette that Roberts mother is butting out seems to represent the tragedy of death that will occur later on in the novel when Robert joins the army and witnesses the dismembered bodies of his fellow troops that were blown up in the battle field.

pg. 45-6- ..., frozen fingers of nameless rivers, heralded by steam and whirling snow, the train returned him to his heritage of farms...

The steam from the train could signify the anger that was built up inside of the soldiers after witnessing the death of some of their fellow troops and then having to leave their corpses unburied, while they moved on in hopes of winning the war.

pg. 46- ...- and he (Robert) stood and he stared as he passed the fires of his fathers factories, every furnace blasting red in the night...- and where did his father and his mother sleep beneath the pall of smoke reflecting orange and yellow flames?

This quotation refers to the destruction of buildings and homes while the Great War was happening and how thousands of innocent lives were taken by the opposition. It is also in reference to the worries that the soldiers had, such as whether or not they would return home alive and whether or not their families and friends were safe and well.

pg. 54- She (Roberts mother) treated the cigarette like something shed found and looked at it much to day whatever made me think that this was mine?- and threw it away.

This quote seems to illustrate the emotional problems that Mrs. Ross faced when Robert left for the army- she feared for his safety and well-being and so, she seemed to be ill-at-ease because instead of losing one child, the future may hold that she would in fact lose two- Rowena and Robert, whose chances for surviving the war are slim.

pg. 55- She treated the cigarette like something shed found and looked at it much to say whatever made me think that this was mine?- and threw it away.

The cigarette refers to Rowena who is now dead and Robert who is fighting in the war and may not return home safely. It also refers to Mrs. Rosss sadness towards the death of her daughter and the fact that she dislikes Robert being in the army.

pg. 7- Houses, trees and fields of flax once flourished here. Summers had been blue with flowers. Now it was a shallow sea of stinking gray from end to end. And this is where you fought the war.

This symbolizes, again, how thousands of innocent lives were taken, and how areas were forced to meet the fate of destruction, due to the war, and had as yet been unable to fix things back to what they were. The destruction of the buildings seems also to be in reference to the sadness and disturbed thoughts that people have when family and friends are in battle for the rights of their homeland.

pg. 8- On the far side he could see that the men and the wagons and the rest of the convoy were drawn up near fires and he just kept thinking warm, I am going to be warm.

This seems to refer to the desperation that Robert and the rest of the troops have in order to remain alive.

pg. 178- The barns were a heap of burning rubble. So was the Signals Office. In the center of the yard, there was just a smoking hole.

The smoking hole may be a symbol of the thousands of people that were killed during the war. This quotation also refers to the destruction which occurred and how the enemy was ruthless enough to destroy any of its opposition, let alone anything that stood in its path, so that they could take over the country. This is also illustrated on pg. 180- The earth had baked beneath their feet....

The Mythology of Fire in The Wars

In addition to playing an important role to the plot of The Wars, fire contributes on a metaphoric level. The Wars is often given credit for being a novel, not only of war, but of mythology. The storys protagonist, Robert Ross, is occasionally referred to as a knight in shining armour, and his experiences during the war are often considered as his journey. In The Wars, fire is an essential part of Robert Ross journey, and along with the other three elements, gives mythological references a sound base.

Earth and Air and Fire and Water is the inscription found on the grave stone of Robert Ross (page 10). As the novel ends with Robert Ross passing on, these words attempt to sum up his life. This inscription not only signifies the protagonist resting place, but also gives a final clue to the hidden myth. Not only are these the four basic elements, but also the four stages in the trials of a hero. In order to earn his status as a hero along with the admiration and attention of others, Robert had to ascend these hurdles. After passing his final and toughest ordeal, with fire, he will forever hold this status.

Traditionally in a myth of this nature, Earth and Air would be considered mans natural elements, whereas fire and water would be would constitute hurdles. In the case of Robert Ross, however, he must face all the elements in order to succeed. It begins with Robert almost drowning in the marshes, then almost being buried in a collapsing dugout, followed by his near escape of a gas attack (his trial by air), and finally he is fatally wounded by fire. Even before he faces it, it is clear from the early stages of the novel that fire is his element of the most consequence. The use of fire through the whole novel makes this fact indisputable.

Fire is also commonly used as a symbol of Hell, which in the novel is represented by the wartime setting. For Robert Ross final hurdle, he must pass the test of fire. Although fire ultimately brings about his death, it can also be said that it makes a hero out of him. The world of fire can be a destructive world of malignant demons....but it can also be a cleansing purgatorial fire. Although in the novel there are many scenes that depict this destructive nature, in the end Roberts ordeal with fire brings about a somewhat peaceful end to his life. It is as though Robert Ross, having overcome the elements can truly rest in peace.

The Theme of Fire in The Wars

In The Wars, fire represents many things, both good and evil. For many of soldiers of the Great War, the element of fire made life a living hell, and we see this as the story evolves. The invention of the flame thrower, as mentioned in the book, brings a great deal of fear to the soldiers. A fear which they cannot escape no matter how much they want to. None of them know what this new invention is or what it is capable of doing, therefore they fear it. Many soldiers doubted that man would even think of creating such a monstrous machine, let alone being technologically advanced enough to make it a reality. A Men would not do such things and, B they could not. Then they did. The fear of the fire that these men, including Robert Ross, experience is that of helplessness. Having to stand their ground shooting aimlessly as their friends were blown apart where they stood - blown apart by the combustion. The fire transformed the young men mentally and emotionally from the young men they already were into helpless children.

The fear is not only in the weapons of war, but also in the war itself. After fighting the same war for years and many are now mentally scarred and physically battered. The soldiers become forced to fight another war, not a physical war with guns and bombs, but rather a war within themselves. The mental pain caused by years of witnessing disgusting sights and actions. They also passed a German who had lain out in no mans land or four days without food. He was staring at the sky lying on a stretcher. This can also be seen as symbolising fire because of the way it negatively affected the soldiers.

In the life of Robert Ross the element of fire is an obstacle. On his tombstone is the phrase Earth and Air and Fire and Water. Robert came to be, in a sense, from the earth and air, all that is good. Throughout the book we see him face many obstacles that threaten his life. There were two major obstacles, one that almost claimed his life, and one that in the end did take his life. His first obstacle was water, or the mud where he got stuck and went in all the way to his waist he thought he was going to drown. The last obstacle Robert would face, one which would eventually take his life, of course being the fire in the barn. This scene in the book symbolises the good of fire. The fire cleanses Robert of all the evil he has seen and taken part in. It rescues him from a life of mental suffering and the wars being fought within himself, that cannot be won. It takes him from his personal hell and delivers him to a world of peace where his mind can be at ease.

The Theme of Fire in The Wars

The theme of fire in the novel The Wars is important when discussing the character of Robert Ross. In the novel there are references to fire from different characters. For example Marian Turner said, know their is nothing worse than fire (page 16). She is referring to the war and the use of fire in the war. She was also a friend of Robert Rosss and she witnessed the scars that Robert was left with after being in a fire.

During the novel their are many descriptions of fire used as torture as well as a way to kill people or animals without using up ammunition. Ammunition was something that couldnt be wasted. Drums and tanks of gasoline spilled to the stones and spread through the town in rivers of fire. Men, machines and houses went up like torches. It became a holocaust (page 181). This was torture, however so was the war. Men in the war were uncertain of life or if their lives would last through the war. They all thought of the possibility of death and a quick painless death was ideal. Being burnt alive would be one of the worst ways to die possible. Robert is burnt in The Wars, however he dose not die until a few years later. The damage that Robert goes through is unthinkable according to the medical testimony, their was virtually no hope that he would be able to walk or see or be capable of judgement again (page 18). Robert was burned in a barn full of horses. He was trying to save the horses from death. In the novel he also tries to save his sisters rabbits after she dies. When he is in the barn Mickel another officer is trying to coax Robert into leaving the barn and the horses. Robert was rebelling against his orders, and Mickel used fire to make Robert leave. He did not realize that the horses and Robert were also going to catch on fire. In the end the horses didnt make it out alive and it was said that Robert was consumed by fire (page ).

Robert Ross relationship with his mother, Mrs. Ross

To best understand Roberts relationship with his mother Mrs. Ross, one must look at their relationship from the perspective of Mrs. Ross. It is her interpretations and ensuing reactions to the tragic events of the novel that reveal the most to the reader about Roberts relationship with her.

Mrs. Ross is portrayed as an adamant women in the beginning of Timothy Findleys The Wars, yet as the story progresses, her firmness is broken by various tragedies. Roberts relationship with his mother prior to the death of his sister Rowena seems normal in the sense that Mrs. Ross shows her motherly concern for Robert when needed (fainting after running around the block 5 times), and Robert shows his mother her due respect. It is in the face of unforeseen circumstances that Mrs. Ross relationship with her son turns into a desperate struggle on her behalf for what was once a predictable and enlivening relationship.

After the death of Roberts sister Rowena, the Ross family seems to be broken. Family members question whose fault it was that she fell and who should ultimately be held responsible. Robert had been closest to Rowena, and for this reason Mrs. Ross decided that he was to be the one who would take responsibility of killing her rabbits. Mrs Ross decision to burden Robert with this inhuman act, and his failure to do so lead to the most revealing monologue relevant to their relationship

You think that Rowena belonged to you. Well Im here to tell you, Robert, no one belongs to anyone. Were all strangers. You here that? Strangers. I know what you want to do. I know that youre going to go away and be a soldier. Well - you can go to hell. Im not responsible. Im just another stranger. Birth I can give you - but life I cannot. I cant keep anyone alive. Not any more. (pg. 8)

The pessimistic tone of Mrs. Ross monologue can be attributed to the fact that Rowena just died and that Robert has chosen to condemn himself to death, however it reveals much about her and Roberts relationship. Robert decision to enlist is not met with approval by Mrs. Ross. Her reaction is one of denial and failure as a parent. Her words, can go to hell.., in reality show her true love and care for Robert, yet in a vulgar way. She cares so much for him that she cant bear the thought of him leaving (cant physically say goodbye), hence she directs her anger at him. Mrs. Ross poor management of anger occurs throughout the novel, and each instance reflects directly on Roberts decision to enlist in the war.

The relationship between Robert and Mrs. Ross reaches it climax when Robert is reported missing in action. The news of Ross being missing sends Mrs. Ross into hysteria show by her ... a final agonizing cry.. (pg.17) followed by her ensuing emotional blindness. Mrs. Ross can no longer face elements of life without her son and this concludes their relationship.

Robert Ross relationship with his father, Thomas Ross

Then Robert fainted. Just at the end of the 5th lap. Fainted and was down with jaundice.

His father got him through it.

He came up every evening after work and sat in Roberts darkened room and talked to him and told him stories. None of the stories had to do with running. These were tales of voyages and ships and how to ride a horse. This was the binding of the father to the son. When the ordeal was over - Tom Ross took his boy upstairs and watched while Robert stood in front of the old dark mirror, slipping out of his pyjamas and seeing that his skin was different now (a sort of ochre yellow). Robert smiled and was silent. He went downstairs in his dark skin and stayed that way for another day. Tom Ross understood, it seemed. He too smiled and was silent. (pg 48-4,The Wars)

From the very beginning of the story, Findley demonstrates the strong father-son bond between Robert and his father, Tom. Robert loved and respected his father very much, ..his father got him through it..(pg.16).

Tom played an extremely important role in the life of his son. All the knowledge Robert had taken with him to war had come from his father. We realise how much Robert had missed his father during the War when his father shows up in Montreal to pass from hand to hand a revolver and a hamper of food to him , ....the sight of his father had lifted his spirits immeasurably(pg. 6).

Thomas Ross was both a mentor and a role model to Robert as he grew from boy to man. Robert trusted his fathers good judgement many times throughout the story, he chose to do as he thought his father would have done. Likewise, Tom loved and respected his son a great deal. It was Tom who had taken the initiative to find out when Robert would be in Montreal so he could see his son, as fate would have it, one last time. It was also Tom who had taken the time to tell Robert how to ride a horse, a skill that proved very necessary to Robert during the time of war.

In the end, it is only Tom who comes to see his sons burial, Mister Ross was the only member of his family who came to see him buried (pg. 10). It is only Tom who cares enough to see a loved one laid to rest. Without the influence of his father, perhaps Robert would not have been such a great leader of his squadron and such a human and dedicated individual.

Robert Ross relationship with his sister, Rowena

In developing the relationship between Robert and Rowena, Timothy Findley introduces Roberts humane and sensitive characteristics. When Robert was young, he mistook Rowena for his mother because he often saw her smiling face peering down into his crib. To Robert, Rowena was a guardian, but eventually he considered himself her guardian. After Rowenas death, Robert was lost within himself. He no longer knew how to behave or what to feel anymore. It was as though he could no longer handle or deal with serious matters or think clearly. Timothy Findley puts this forward as one of the main factors that push Robert to join the army because he could never forgive himself for his sisters death. He felt as if it was his fault because he had not been there that day looking out for her as he usually did. He felt this guilt eating him inside for the rest of his life from that day forward. Robert reflects on specific moments they spent together throughout The Wars.


Yes , Rowena?

Will you stay with me forever?

Yes Rowena.

Can the rabbits stay forever, too?

Yes Rowena.

This was forever. Now the rabbits had to be killed. (pg.)

Robert is never able to forget this conversation and the fact that he broke this promise by not being there to catch her when she fell. This changed Roberts whole perspective on life and his assigned role. He no longer appeared to have feelings anymore but no one knew how much remorse he felt inside. This could have been another reason for joining the war that he could just go away and everyone would either forget about what he did and be proud of in the end for being so brave. In a sense, a large part of Robert died that day along with his sister.

While attending Rowenas funeral, Robert saw a soldier standing there and he envied this man so much because after this day he could just walk away and leave all of this behind. This is what Robert wanted to do and it turned out to be the worst way to run away from all his problems.

Rowenas death constantly put stress on Robert, as we can see it hits him the hardest in the trenches or when he is on the battle field. Everything reminded him of his sister. One example was when Robert looked under Rodwells bunk, Robert looked. There was a whole row of cages. Rowena (pg.87). As you can see Rowena was the first and only thing on his mind. Even the colour white would remind him of her because he could associate so many things since she was always dressed in white, her rabbits were white and her coffin was white. All of these memories haunted Robert more and more each day of his life.

Findley suggests in the latter part of The Wars that Robert is becoming mentally unstable. At times he can no longer function as a dedicated soldier or as a average human being. It is quite ironic that after Rowenas death, Robert wanted to join the army where death loomed on every horizon . If Rowena had still been alive Robert probably would have never enlisted in the army and his life would of been quite good but he can not go back and change things or live in the past and this is what made his life even worse off.

Roberts Relationship with his Mother

Robert and his mother werent close. In fact the first person Robert remembers seeing and thinking was his mother when he was a baby, was his sister Rowena. This indicates to the reader that Mrs. Ross mustnt have played a large role in Roberts life when he was growing up.

Mrs. Ross found it hard to be intimate with people. She felt that Being loved was letting others feed from your resources- all you had in life was put in jeopardy (page 17). Mrs. Ross had mourned for years over the sudden death of her brother and father, now she had lost a daughter and was going to lose a son. She was mad at him the night of Rowenas funeral when she told Robert that she could give him birth but she couldnt give him life. She was drinking the night she told Robert this, Mrs. Ross way of handling problems was to drink. She came in to Roberts room where he was having his bath and told him she knew he was going off to war. She also told him that Rowena wasnt his. Her belief was once you were born, we were all strangers. She wanted him to know that no matter how hard you try you cant keep people alive.

Mrs Ross kept a lot of things to herself. At Rowenas funeral she stood apart from the rest of the family pretending she didnt need any help. Mrs Ross hid behind a large, black hat that day. Before Rowenas death and Robert leaving for the war Mrs Ross used to be out in the public, handing out chocolate bars to the soldiers going off to war. Robert was shy and felt his mother appeared too often in public. Mrs Ross was an adamant lady. She was adamant when it came to the chocolate bars and she was adamant when it came to her decision about Robert having to kill Rowenas rabbits. I think she felt that this would help Robert get over the loss of his sister.

Mrs Ross missed her son when he went to war. She started to take long walks. She may have tried this to clear her mind. When Robert started training he would go for long walks at night. I think they tried this method to clear their minds of the problems they were facing. Although I dont think it really worked for Mrs Ross. She started walking in storms, perhaps hoping that the storm would distract her. Mrs Ross began to drink more and had to hide herself by wearing large hats with veils and dark glasses.

When Mrs Ross had another chance to say goodbye to her son she blew it. She was too drunk to leave the Rosss private train in Montreal. She had tried to hide the fact that she couldnt see to fix her hat by wearing a large hat. Mrs Ross was terribly afraid of leaving the train for fear of being run over by a train losing the tracks so she waved goodbye to him from their private car.

Mrs Ross began to lose her mind. She catalogued and memorised all Roberts letters. She would write him every day but usually the letters were indecipherable. Her husband started to wish shed return to them, but she just sat staring, waiting for Roberts return. When the word came that Robert was missing in action Mrs Ross lost it. I think she had a nervous breakdown. She had refused help for so long that when she finally asked for it she had gone blind and her voice contained no emotion.

I think Roberts last attempt to do something right was when he tried to save the horses at the end of the book. He felt the horses would be killed if he didnt try to save them from being sent to the front lines . I think when he tried to save the horses it was exactly like how he had tried to save the rabbits.

What was Timothy Findley trying to reveal in this relationship?

I think that Timothy Findley was trying to show us how the war not only ruined the lives of the men that fought in it but how it destroyed families as well. Mrs Ross couldnt handle the loss of another loved one and Robert couldnt handle the horrific situations he had gone through. We are never given Mrs Ross first name. Perhaps this is to make us think that her craziness could happen to anyone who regretted not showing their love when they had the chance instead of pushing it away. I also think the lack of a first name kept her at a distance from us.

Roberts Relationship with his Sister

Robert Ross and his sister, Rowena, have a very close relationship in Timothy Findleys novel, The Wars. Rowena depends on Robert to care for her, as she is unable to do so herself. This provides Robert with a sense of being wanted and a feeling that what he does is beneficial to Rowena. He enjoys being there for her. The thing was - no one since Rowena had made Robert feel he wanted to be with them all the time (page171).

Robert thinks of Rowena as one of the only stable things in his life - she is always there. Rowena is the first person that Robert remembers seeing and this seems to make him feel very comfortable around her. When she smiled, he thought she was his mother. Later, when he came to realize she couldnt walk and never left the chair, he became her guardian. It was for her he learned to run (page 14). Even after she dies, Robert always kept a picture of Rowena with him. It comforts him in some way to still have her close by.

In being Rowenas guardian, Robert feels a great responsibility towards her safety. This makes him feel that her death was his fault, even though he wasnt the one who was supposed to be watching her at the time. He was devastated when she died and never seemed to forgive himself. Stuart was meant to be watching her and so it was Stuarts fault but no - it wasnt Stuarts fault. It was Roberts fault. Robert was her guardian and he was locked in his bedroom. Making love to his pillows (page 1).

Roberts sister is a central and unchanging figure in a life in which he sometimes strays from reality. Rowenas death had such an impact on him that he decided to leave home and go to war. It seems to Robert as though he doesnt have a purpose at home anymore. All he knew was that his hands felt empty. In his mind, they kept reaching out for the back of Rowenas chair (page 4). Mrs. Ross to Robert after his sister has died that you think Rowena belonged to you (page 8). If this is true, it could be part of the reason that Robert pays so much attention to her. He may have felt that if he took responsibility for her, she could be his property.

What is Timothy Findley trying to reveal in this relationship?

In the structure of Robert and Rowenas relationship, the author is attempting to reveal that Robert, more than anyone else in the novel, is able to look past Rowenas physical deformity and see her inner beauty. In Roberts burning of Rowenas portrait not out of anger but as an act of charity (p. 171-), the author is revealing that Robert respects Rowena and doesnt want her to be subjected to the cruelty of war. It also suggests that the image of the person Robert was when he knew Rowena no longer fits into his lifestyle at war. Findley uses Roberts difficulty in dealing with his sisters death to reveal his sensitivity and his feeling of guilt. This is also witnessed in Roberts disappointment in the deaths of many animals as well as the German soldier in the novel.

Roberts Relationship with His Father

Robert Ross and his father, Tom Ross, carry out a healthy father-son relationship throughout the novel. Robert is proud of his father and regards him as one of his role models in life. Tom is proud of his son and is loving towards him. Although their personalities do in some ways in the novel, there is a strong male bond between Robert and his father.

The personalities of both Robert and his father differ. Tom Ross is strong and hard-nosed on the outside but only shows his sensitivity when needed and has control over his emotions, whereas Robert is strong but is more sensitivity and cannot control his emotions as well as his father. An example of Roberts in ability to control his emotions is after the death of Rowena. Robert is asked to kill Rowenas rabbits but cannot because how much they meant to him and Rowena, so Tom hires Teddy Budge to do it. Robert ends up attacking Teddy and gets severely beaten. One example of Toms sensitivity and control is after they were notified that Robert was missing in action. Mrs. Ross was in a sense of disarray and Tom was able to comfort her, Mr. Ross held her and rocked her from side to side. The house began to darken. They sat there, silently singing. Finally, she slept (page 180).

Although Robert and his father do have some personal characteristic differences, there are many instances in the novel that show not only how proud they are of each other but also some similarities between the two of them. One example of Toms commitment to his son was when Robert wished to run around the block twenty-six times, no one fully supported him except his father. Robert failed and fainted on the 5th lap but his father was there to support him,

He came up every evening after work and sat in Roberts darkened room and talked to him and told him stories. None of the stories had to do with running. These were tales of voyages and ships and how to ride a horse. This was the binding of the father to the son (page 48). This bonding helped Tom remember his days of youth and how when he attempted something similar the world spread out around him like a gift(page 4). The best example that Findley shows of the bond between Robert is and his father is at the train yard in Montreal. Upon leaving for boot camp Robert thought that he would not see his father until he had finished his tour of duty. When Robert saw his father it revealed his pride and love for him, the sight of his father had lifted his spirits immeasurably. And the feel of his fathers hand on his arm had brought back into a world hed thought hed lost(page 50). Before this reencounter with his father, Robert had the mind of soldier and forgotten the enjoyment of home and his family.

What is Timothy Findley trying to reveal in this relationship?

What I think Findley is trying to reveal in the novel is that a father-son relationship is not only an important factor in family but also in life. There are many instances in the novel where both Robert and his father feel that they have lost touch with each other, but they always regain their contact. In war, it is often the letters and love from family and friends that keeps the soldier going.

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