Tuesday, December 20, 2011

timothy findley

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imothy Findley pieced The Wars together much like a puzzle.


When piecing together a puzzle it is crucial to first find the


corner pieces. As when trying to understand the novel it is


necessary to realize what the most important aspects are.


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Each separate corner holds together and is linked to another


part. Therefore, to understand the pieces of the puzzle it is


vital to analyze Roberts relationship with his mother, his sister


and his father. Furthermore, an attempt will be made to reveal


the strengths and weaknesses in these relationships and the


meanings Timothy Findley is trying to proclaim. 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 woman in the beginning of The Wars, yet as the


story progresses, her firmness is broken by various tragedies.


Mrs. Ross found it hard to be intimate with people therefore,


she kept many things to herself. She felt that Being loved was


letting others feed from your resource-all you had in life was


put in jeopardy (Findley, 15). Mrs. Ross had mourned for


years over the sudden death of her brother and her father,


now she had lost a daughter and was going to lose a son. It is


also evident she kept a lot of things to herself. At Rowenas


funeral she stood apart from the rest of the family pretending


she did not 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. However, when


Robert left to join the army Mrs. Ross refused to have anything


to do with it. Mrs. Ross was an adamant lady. She was


adamant when it came to chocolate bars and she was


adamant when it came to her decision about Robert having to


kill Rowenas rabbits. 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. Mrs. Ross comes across as


being envious of her son and daughters relationship because


Robert and Rowena had a relationship where Robert was like a


parent (guardian) to Rowena. Robert also was very protective


of Rowena and always showed his concern for her, like Mrs.


Ross did for all her children but more so towards Robert.


Consequently, Robert being the closest to Rowena becomes


the reason Mrs. Ross decides he will to be the one who would


take the responsibility of killing the rabbits. Mrs. Ross decision


to burden Robert with this inhuman act and furthermore, his


failure to do so, leads to the most revealing monologue


relevant to their relationship. You think Rowena belonged to


you. Well Im here to tell you, Robert no on belongs to anyone.


Were all cut off at birth with a knife and left at the mercy of


strangers. You hear that? Strangers. I know what you want to


do. I know 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 anymore (Findley, ). 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, this also reveals much about her relationship


with Robert. In addition, Roberts decision to enlist in the war


is not approved by Mrs. Ross. Her reaction is one of denial and


a failure as a parent.. Her words, you 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 can not bear the thought


of him leaving, hence she directs her anger at him. Mrs. Ross


missed her son when he went to war. She started taking long


walks. She may have tried this to clear her mind. When Robert


started training he would go for long walks at night as well.


Perhaps both tried this method to clear their minds of the


problems they were facing. Although it may have not worked


for Mrs. Ross. She started walking in storms perhaps hoping


that the storm would distract her. Furthermore, she began to


drink heavily and had to hide herself by wearing large hats with


veils, and dark glasses. The novel occasionally breaks form and


lets the reader know how the war has affected Roberts family


primarily his mother. Mrs. Ross drove herself to insanity and


drunkenness with each day that Robert was gone. This is best


illustrated whenever Findley focuses on the issue of Mrs. Ross


and her empty glass. Some examples are Mrs. Ross stared at


her empty glass. How long had it been empty? Hours? Minutes?


Years? (Findley, ). Mrs. Ross stood on the landing of the


stairs. The bottle fell from her hand. It was empty and it rolled


to the bottom step. She gave a final agonizing cry (Findley,


04). Robert constantly wrote to his parents to tell them how


things were going. Mrs. Ross kept all these letters in a special


place and was found re-reading them often. The most


influential section regarding Mrs. Ross was when she and


Mister Ross went to see Robert in Montreal before he departed


overseas. Mister Ross had tracked his son down so his wife


could have one last look at her son. Nevertheless, when Mrs.


Ross had another chance to say goodbye to her son she blew


it. Instead of running out to hug her son and say goodbye she


was found in the train saloon getting drunk. [Mrs. Ross] went


into the salon and sat with her legs tucked beneath one of the


pullman chairs and drank a third of a bottle of scotch. When


Mister Ross came in and said it was time to go, Mrs. Ross


stood up- and fell down. I cant, she said (Findley, 7). All


she could do was wave at her son through the window. Mrs.


Ross began to lose her mind. She catalogued and memorized all


of Roberts letters. She would write him everyday but usually


the letters were indecipherable. Her husband started to wish


she would 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. It is easy to assume that she may


have 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. Nonetheless, it is possible to


assume Roberts last attempt to do something right was when


he tried to save the horses at the end of the novel. He felt the


horses would be killed if he did not try to save them from being


sent to the front lines. Therefore, to consider that when


Robert tried to save the horses it was exactly like how he had


tried to save the rabbits. Timothy Findley could be trying to


show the reader how the war not only ruined the lives of the


men that fought in the war but how it also destroyed families


as well. Mrs. Ross could not handle the loss of another loved


one and Robert could not handle the horrific situations he had


gone through. One was never given Mrs. Ross first name, and


in a sense this kept her at a distance with the reader. Perhaps


this is to make the reader believe that her craziness could


happen to anyone who regretted not showing their love when


they had the chance instead of pushing it away. 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 onto his


crib. To Robert, Rowena was a guardian, but eventually he


considered himself her guardian. When she smiled, he thought


she was his mother. Later, when he came to realize she


couldnt walk and never felt the chair, he became her guardian.


It was for her he learned to run (Findley, 7). 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 wanted to be with them all the time (Findley,


104). 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 even think clearly. Timothy Findley puts this


forward as one of the main factors that initiates Robert to join


the army; because he could never forgive himself for his


sisters death. Robert felt that is was his fault because he had


not been there that day looking out for Rowena 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 through out The Wars. Robert? Yes,


Rowena? Will you stay with me forever? Yes Rowena. Can the


rabbit stay forever, too? Yes Rowena. This was forever. Now


the rabbits had to be killed (Findley, 17) Robert is never able


to forget this conversation because of the fact that he broke


this promise by not being there when she fell. This changed


Roberts entire 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 so that he could just go away and


everyone would either forget about what he did and be proud


of it 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, 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 in 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. Robert closed his eyes (Findley, 5). As one is


able to identify Rowena was the first and only thing on his


mind. Even the color 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


these memories haunted Robert more and more each day of his


life. Findley suggest that 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 an 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 not have


ever enlisted in the army. 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 (Findley, 15), the author is revealing that


Robert respects Rowena and does not 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 during the war. Findley uses


Roberts difficulty in dealing with his sisters death to reveal his


sensitivity and his feelings of guilt. This is also witnessed in


Roberts disappointment in the deaths of many animals as well


as the German soldier in the novel.. 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 differ, there is still a strong male bond between


Robert and his father. The personalities of both Robert and his


father vary. Tom Ross is a 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


sensitive and can not control his emotions as well as his


father. An example of Roberts inability to control his emotions


is after the death of Rowena. Robert is asked to kill Rowenas


rabbits but cannot because of how much they meant to


Rowena and him, 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


(Findley, 05). 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. Tom


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 (Findley, 48). This bonding helped Tom


remember his days of youth and how he had attempted


something similar the word spread out around him like a gift


(Findley, 48). The best example that Findley shows of the


bond between Robert and his father is at the train yard in


Montreal. Upon leaving for boot camp Robert though 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 farther 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 (Findley, 50). Before this


reencounter with his father, Robert had the mind of a soldier


and had forgotten the enjoyment of his home and his family.


What Timothy 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. By exploring Robert Ross relationships with


his family member one is able to understand and interpret


Roberts actions and emotions. Thus, when trying to find the


peices of the puzzle that links Roberts family together, one


finds the growth of Roberts personality. Furthermore, Timothy


Findley enables the reader to examine the influential aspects of


Mrs. Ross, Rowena and Mr. Ross towards the self development


of Roberts identity.





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