Elements of Destruction
In Ancient Greek philosophy it is believed that all matter is made up of four elements: earth, water, air and fire. According to David Osborn, the Greeks believed that our world exists in a simple balance of these four elements. If the delicate harmony of these powerful forces were to be disturbed by human interference, there would be a vast amount of turmoil and chaos on Earth (webpage). Within the novel The Wars the author, Timothy Findley, utilizes the elements of earth, water, air and fire to demonstrate the destruction that the war has on not only humans, but on the natural environment. It is seen through the life of Robert Ross that these elements, that are essential for human survival, have been turned into forces of death and destruction. While Robert is on the front lines, the earth and water elements change from being “givers of life to deprivers of life” (Kay lecture). Earth is used along with the addition of water to be a platform for sustaining life with plants and vegetation. It also sustains life as the soldiers dig trenches to keep themselves safe from incoming enemy attacks. However the war soon pollutes these elements and turns them into physical hazards. This is seen when Robert finds himself trapped on a collapsing dike and nearly drowns. Theses dikes that have been dug out of the ground have ruined the landscape and therefore collect mud and water which can cause a maelstrom for the soldiers. The mud is also contaminated from the poisonous gas released in the warfare, which Robert discovers after rubbing it on his face and becoming temporarily blind. He expected the mud to cleanse his face but instead it caused havoc as it rendered his vision. So these necessities that Robert relies on have been turned against him as a result of the war. Another instance whereby the earth changed from a place of safety to a hazard that causes death is when Robert’s trench dugout was shelled by enemy mortars. The dugout was a...
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