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The Use Of Animal Imagery In "The Wars" By Timothy Findley.

1501 words - 6 pages

The Use of Animal Imagery in The WarsTimothy Findley's The Wars describes the history of Robert Ross, a Second Lieutenant in the Canadian Army, during World War 1. The story of Robert Ross is a candid recollection of a young man coming of age in the midst of horror and confusion associated with the "war to end all wars". Presented in the form of an archivist trying to piece together the past from pictures and letters, the narrative account is full of rich imagery and deep meaning. The abundant animal imagery in the novel is used to parallel and reveal the character of Robert Ross, foreshadow the situations he finds himself in, and symbolize hope amidst war.Robert's connections with the animals such as coyotes, horses and rabbits illustrate his character. In the process of becoming a soldier, Robert's run with the coyote is significant in his understanding of himself. As one critic stated: "The Coyote in Indian legend is a hunter...that admits his mistakes and learns from experience, making him a wise guide for the soul" (Quaid 406). Therefore For Robert to be a soldier, it is important for him to see the point of view of a hunter. Robert follows the coyote and watches as it passes two gophers and does not even "pause to scuffle the burrows or even sniff at them. It just [goes] right on trotting-forward towards its goal" (26). He learns from the coyote that a hunter, like soldier, must choose its targets carefully and must always stay focused on the goal. This has a significant impact on Robert because he "wanted a model ...someone to teach him" (24). So, "...in a world where human insanity was the norm" (Quaid 404) Findley characterizes Robert with the animal world. This is also illustrated throughout the novel in his relationship with horses. Physically, Robert has many characteristic connotations associated with horses, such as being strong, athletic, and handsome. During the ship ride, the horses become a metaphor for soldiers like Robert since they all share sub-human treatment. "Privacy is unheard of.... [there is] tremendous heat...everyone suffers from headaches" (58) and some people, like Harris, become sick. The animal hold, which is "... one of horror...alive with flies"(60), parallels that of the soldiers, forming a connection between the two. This connection can be seen later in the novel when the soldiers like Robert are forced to become "very much like animals" (Quenneville1). That is, Robert has to disregard civility and humanity in order do whatever it takes to survive in the trenches. Furthermore, the soldiers are sent into war like animals about to be slaughtered. Like the horses in the war, the men are sent to meaningless deaths, sometimes reaching in the tens of thousands, "and not even an inch of ground [is] won" (120). Robert's close union with animals is acknowledged by Rodwell when he draws Robert in his sketchbook as "the only human form"(155) among sketches of animals. When Robert compares the drawings of the animals to...

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