War is a dangerous game, many people would likely agree to this, however, very few have ever seen a battlefront. The truth is that war, no matter how awful we can imagine it, is always exponentially worse. In Timothy Findley’s The Wars, Robert Ross, the protagonist, faces a situation that he finds difficult to come to terms with, and when faced with a similar situation later on in the novel, he must take drastic measures to reconcile the uncertainties of the past situation. Timothy Findley suggests, through the life of Robert Ross, that one’s need to reconcile the uncertainties of past experiences dominate our actions when such situations come up again in our lives. In the words of Hiram Johnson, a US Senator during the First World War, “The first casualty of war is truth.” Throughout the novel, Robert realizes that the ‘truth’ of war, the propaganda that encouraged him to enlist is all a lie, and that war is infinitely worse than he ever expected it to be. It is this awfulness of war, combined with one particularity dire situation, that cause Robert to take drastic measures to reconcile his uneasy past when confronted with a new situation.
Robert Ross, a young Canadian who enlisted in the army during the First World War, is presented at the outset as someone of high moral beliefs, and an overall intelligent, logical person. Robert’s logical nature shines through near the beginning of the novel, in a flashback to a situation with an old girlfriend of his at a party. His girlfriend insisted that Robert fight another man, as he had just confessed his love to her. Robert, on the other hand, “thought it was idiotic and said so.” Robert, thinking logically, found the suggestion that he fight another man solely because he claimed to ‘love’ his girlfriend, who didn’t even love him back absurd. Right from the beginning of the novel, Findley establishes Robert as a clear, logically thinking person who isn’t afraid to go against society’s status quo in favour of what he considers to be right.
Flash forward to a few months later, once Robert has been deployed overseas. Robert spends most of his time in trenches near the enemy line, and over time, has proven his leadership skills, being promoted to a second lieutenant, and put in charge of a group of men. After one particularly damning shelling by the Germans to the Canadian lines, Robert is tasked by his superior officer, Captain Leather, to move his men to an area inches away from the front line to setup defense artillery to retaliate on the Germans. Robert knows that the orders that he is being given by Captain Leather are particularity dangerous for his men, and voices his mind, telling Leather that putting troops in the area he wants means near-certain death for his men. Leather insists however, and Robert, following orders that go against his best judgment, moves his men just inches from the front line to set up artillery weapons. Miraculously, Robert’s men survive, but only just. Much as Robert expected, the Germans were expecting retaliation, and launched a gas attack on the area where the men were setting up the artillery. Even after the gas attack they so narrowly survived, Robert’s men escaped a second potentially dangerous situation while they were trying to retreat from the area, as Robert spotted a German soldier in the distance, who it turns out was armed, and spared the men solely out of his benevolence. Robert, when he thinks the German is reaching for his weapon, shoots the German soldier. He is distraught when he realizes that he was just reaching for his binoculars to watch a nearby bird.
Robert Ross is not your average soldier. He shows benevolence, when everyone else seems to be showing no mercy. No matter what he goes through in war, that is one thing that will never change in him. Benevolence. After taking a rest in Europe from war, he is raped on his way back to the front lines by his fellow soldiers. It is at this moment that Robert can be seen to...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document