The Use of Animal Imagery in "The Wars" by Timothy Findley.

1498 Words Feb 19th, 2004 6 Pages
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
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The rabbits reminded him of Rowena because she shares the same characteristics as her rabbits such as fragility and innocence. Therefore he risks "a blow on [his] head...to help the helpless [animals]" (Quenneville 1). He even helps a rat, an animal associated with disease and death, escape a muddy grave. His conduct greatly contrasts that of the soldiers who kill and torture cats and vermin. This only further exemplifies his compassion for the lives of even of the smallest of creatures.

Among other animal imagery, birds appear frequently throughout the story in times of crisis. The birds often foreshadow dangers that lie ahead. For instance, when Robert's team takes a wrong turn, "the fog is full of noises"(80) of birds. Then the birds fly out of the ditch and disappear. Robert and Poole know that "[there] 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 and "one of the birds [flies] up 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 men are close to enemy lines. The bird "[sings] over their heads" (136) causing
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