The Inherent Evil of Humankind
Joseph Conrad once observed that “a belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” As a result of the violence that is necessary during wartime, soldiers are permitted to engage in savage behavior that is normally forbidden in society. In The Wars by Timothy Findley, however, soldiers act in violent ways even when they are not actively engaged in battle. The inherently savage nature of humankind is evident when Robert Ross kills the German soldier after the gas attack, when Robert is raped in the baths, and when Robert kills Captain Leather. These violent events that occur outside the direct action of the war demonstrate the evil inherent in humankind.
The innate violence of humankind is illustrated when Robert Ross kills the German soldier. After the gas attack, while Robert and his fellow soldiers are climbing out of the crater, Robert becomes aware of a German soldier who is apparently letting them escape the crater unharmed; when Robert is almost over the edge, “What happened next was all so jumbled and fast that Robert was never to sort it out. He fell. He turned. He saw the German reaching over the lip of the crater. Something exploded. The German gave a startled cry and was suddenly dead, with his arms dangling down” (Findley 145). Robert senses a sudden motion while getting out of the crater, and he instantly assumes that it is the movement of the German soldier reaching for a gun to kill them because Robert is extremely suspicious about the soldier’s behaviour. Even though the German soldier’s intention is not to kill them, but to let them go, Robert’s intrinsic human nature of savagery and mistrust causes Robert to shoot the German soldier for his own safety. He is horrified when he acknowledges the fact that the soldier has “only been reaching for his binoculars” (146). Since they are currently in a war, and Robert has just escaped from a dangerous...
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