The Use of Animal Imagery in The Wars
Timothy Findley's The Wars describes the history of Robert Ross, a Second Lieutenant in the Canadian Army, during World War 1. The story of Robert Ross is a candid recollection of a young man coming of age in the midst of horror and confusion associated with the "war to end all wars". Presented in the form of an archivist trying to piece together the past from pictures and letters, the narrative account is full of rich imagery and deep meaning. The abundant animal imagery in the novel is used to parallel and reveal the character of Robert Ross, foreshadow the situations he finds himself in, and symbolize hope amidst war.
Robert's connections with the animals such as coyotes, horses and rabbits illustrate his character. In the process of becoming a soldier, Robert's run with the coyote is significant in his understanding of himself. As one critic stated: "The Coyote in Indian legend is a hunter...that admits his mistakes and learns from experience, making him a wise guide for the soul" (Quaid 406). Therefore For Robert to be a soldier, it is important for him to see the point of view of a hunter. Robert follows the coyote and watches as it passes two gophers and does not even "pause to scuffle the burrows or even sniff at them. It just [goes] right on trotting-forward towards its goal" (26). He learns from the coyote that a hunter, like soldier, must choose its targets carefully and must always stay focused on the goal. This has a significant impact on Robert because he "wanted a model ...someone to teach him" (24). So, "...in a world where human insanity was the norm" (Quaid 404) Findley characterizes Robert with the animal world. This is also illustrated throughout the novel in his relationship with horses. Physically, Robert has many characteristic connotations associated with horses, such as being strong, athletic, and handsome. During the ship ride, the horses become a metaphor for soldiers like Robert since they...
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