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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