The Wars

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The Wars by Timothy Findley

“Prior to the writing of The Wars, it was unheard of for any writer who had not experienced it first hand to write about "The War to End All Wars". However, Findley, with his direct and shocking style, was able to surpass this barrier and create one of the most acclaimed novels about World War I.” (Acadia)

“The Wars remains Findley’s most-discussed book. Based partly on the wartime correspondence of his uncle, Thomas Irving Findley, and on family photos, he wrote the novel in guise of a researcher trying to reconstruct the story of Robert Ross, a soldier of the Great War.” (National Library of Canada)

Themes
Violence: the necessity of it; what it accomplishes
Isolation: the isolation of self and impact on identity
Animal rights: companionship; exploitation; hierarchy of life Identity: how can an individual survive and thrive in a world of madness Disillusionment: falsehood of romanticism; perception vs. reality Wars: both WWI and the internal dilemmas and conflicts

Symbolism
Dogs and Horses: Loyal companions who don’t judge
prologue
dog watching Robert at the train station (15)
Taffler accompanied by horse and dog
encounter dogs and horses on the way to whorehouse
horses on board the ship

Coyote: “Robert learns from this run, that a hunter kills when it has to survive, but is generous when it is not a hunter.” (Acadia) Water: life satisfies Robert’s thirst (27) Water as a plentiful source (Canadian). Seasons: Change and time

“And now, the leaves had fallen twice. It was not for nothing he’d stood beneath the wide marquee that summer day. It would fill and fall on everyone.” (47) Fire: the brutality of war.
“But only the letters mailed from France were worthy of this exchange. They had the smell of fire.” (74)

Chapter Notes

Never that which is shall die.” - EURIPIDES “
A suitable epigraph for the novel.
Provides the theme before reading to focus the reader on the proper points. Is one of Findley’s reoccurring themes
- Euripides killed by dogs – significance?

Chapter One

Prologue: Actually the Climax of the Novel
“A dog and a horse by the railroad tracks”(1) By beginning with this strange and unexplained set of circumstances the reader is left in suspense. What is happening in this scene? Why is it happening? “He had wandered for over a week.”

“Robert appeared to be the sole survivor.”
“It was as if both dog and horse had been waiting for Robert to come for them.” “This was when the moon rose – red.”
It is also at the root of the Robert Ross story and controversy. Something horrible has happened but is Robert the cause or recipient?

Style and Voice
Beginning at photo archives
Researcher trying to come to terms with the mysterious story of Robert Ross. The details and descriptions of this story are vague yet appear important Memory has to be preserved and hidden from those who seek to exploit it. “The occupants of memory have to be protected from strangers.” differences of opinion about Robert – obviously did something bad that polarized opinions about him Mystery to be decoded; whole created by the parts (like the novel); no one wants the story to be revealed. “Sometimes, someone will forget himself and say too much or else the corner of a picture will reveal the whole.” Told in second person = impersonal.

Sets atmosphere: as though reader is unearthing a past that has long remained dormant “Spread over table tops, a whole age lies in fragments underneath the lamp.”

Society
Description of people very shy and unassuming at first - “1915. The year itself looks sepia and soiled – muddied like its pictures.” (4) Pictures alter as war goes on – people are waving at camera (5) Changing seasons reflect changing times. “The melting snow began to turn to mist and the mist was filled with rabbits and Rowena and his father and his mother and the whole of his past life – birth and death and childhood. He could breathe them in and breathe them out.”...
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