The Wars: Four Elements
It was the ancient Greek philosopher, Empedocles, who first established the four elements: earth, water, air and fire. He also stated that everything in the world is structured by and rooted in these four elements. However during times of conflict and violence, humans begin to disturb this harmony. When this happens, the elements stop representing life and start representing a form of destruction. Throughout Robert Ross’s journey in The Wars, Timothy Findley exemplifies this theory by displaying the four elements in two diverse ways: benevolent and harmful.
Earth is said to be the feminine element. It is perceived to be nurturing, stable, and full of endurance. The planet itself is a ball of life in which one is able to see the circle of life take place: birth, life, death and even rebirth. Before the war, the element of earth plays a part in Robert’s mourning of his sister. It helps encourage a new life. “Rowena was buried in the morning. Under the trees in frozen earth they had to split with axes.” (Findley 18) It was Rowena’s burial beneath the earth that helped Robert gain perspective and come to the realization that he had a new life ahead of him, one without Rowena. During Robert’s time serving in the army, the element that once impelled him to move on with his life transitioned to become a symbol of death. One of the most evident examples of this representation is the moment Robert was stuck in the ground. “Suddenly, his right foot went down. All the way down to the knee through the earth. Dear Jesus- he was going to drown.” (Findley 85) The earth was now pulling Robert down, dragging him towards death.
Water is often related to the idea of being pure and therapeutic. This perception proves to be true when analyzing Robert’s bathtub scene. “That night Robert was lying in the bathtub, soothing his aches and bruises with water that was almost scalding hot.” (Findley 20) Here, Robert finds the water calming and uses it as a way...
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