Animal Imagery in the Wars Essays

1848 Words Mar 14th, 2001 8 Pages
The abundant animal imagery in Timothy Findley's book The Wars is used to develop characterization and theme. The protagonist, Robert Ross, has a deep connection with animals that reflects his personality and the situations that he faces. This link between Robert and the animals shows the reader that human nature is not much different than animal nature.

The animals in this story are closely related to the characters, especially the character of Robert. Rodwell acknowledges Robert's close union with animals when he draws Robert in his sketchbook as "the only human form" among sketches of animals (155). When Robert sees the drawing, he notices that "the shading [is] not quite human"; it is a combination of animal and human qualities,
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Birds appear frequently throughout the story, especially in times of crisis. The birds often present themselves as omens for dangers that lie ahead. For instance, when Robert's team takes a wrong turn, "the fog is full of noises" of birds (80). Then the birds fly out of the ditch and disappear. Robert and Poole know that "[t]here must be something terribly wrong...but neither one knew how to put it into words. The birds, being gone, had taken some mysterious presence with them. There was an awful sense of void--as if the world had been emptied" (81). The birds return and when Robert nears the collapsing dike, "one of the birds [flies] up and cut[s] across Robert's path" as if it is trying to prevent him from going any further. Robert does not heed the warning and almost dies in the sinking mud.

Another ominous bird appears when Robert and his crew are close to enemy lines. A bird sings and Robert looks up to see the deadly gas easing towards them. He is able to react quickly and save most of his crew. Soon after, the same bird sings again, "one long note descending; three that [waver]" (142). Then Robert sees the German soldier whom he ends up killing when he thinks that the man is reaching for a gun. Robert realizes that the German was only reaching for his binoculars, even though there is a sniper rifle sitting right beside him. He wonders why the man did not kill them all, and then he hears the bird sing once again, its song wavering "on the
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