While the first half of the novel had several different settings that were focused upon, the remainder of The Wars takes place in France. During this time Robert Ross is now 19 years old, and has just been shipped off the Ypres France to lead his battalion into WWI.
Lady Juliet d’Orsey: A 12-year-old girl who first meets Robert as a soldier. Much of the novel is told through her perspective as she grows up. She explains her thoughts of Robert and in detail records his relationship with her sister.
Devlin: A soldier that Robert meets while in Ypres France, while their time on the front lines. Devlin helps Robert free the horses from the burning barn, but is later killed due to his duties.
Harris: While on their way to England, Robert meets Harris, a friendly man whose duty was to care for the horses on board the ship. After dying from an illness Robert is given Harris’ duty, thanks to the two of them becoming such close friends.
Willie Poole: A good friend to Robert who served in the same squad throughout their time spent on the front lines of duty.
After showering, Robert leaves for his room wrapped in only a towel. While entering the room the door slams shut, quickly locking, realizing that the lights won’t turn on. Robert realizes that he is not alone in the room, but surrounded but numerous men. After this Robert is then raped. This causes conflict as Robert attempts to figure out who he was the victim too, and why it had happened. Not only does this emotionally drain Robert, but it also makes him feel unsafe and in need for help at the worst possible time.
- “His assailants, who he’d thought were crazies, had been his fellow soldiers. Maybe even his brother officers. He’d never know. He never saw their faces.” (p. 193)
While Captain Leather attempts to save the horses that Levitt had been releasing, Leather shoots Levitt, causing much controversy between Robert and Captain Leather ultimately leading to Robert killing all of the mules and horses in an act of power and control.
- “Captain Leather shoots Levitt as he attempts to save the horses.” (p. 202)
- “Robert’s anger rose to such a pitch that he feared he was going to go over into madness.” (p. 203)
Before reading this novel it wasn’t clear to me the state that these soldiers were forced to live in and endure throughout their time in warfare. Though after reading this novel and further research on the topic of WWI it became clear just how terrible and disgusting the conditions really were. Whether it was the fact that they were forced to live with rats, lice, fleas, or the sight of dead bodies all day long, these people who managed to endure these terrible states of living are heroes. Further research allowed me to understand what type of people they were, and allowed me to gain extreme respect for every single person involved in the war.
Throughout the second half of “The Wars” the theme seems to have shifted direction a little, through the sense that it became a lot darker and gloomy. As the novel progressed Timothy Findley began to focus more on the war, and the details of what had been happening throughout their everyday lives. As this happens it allows the reader to be aware of the type of situations that these people were faced with along with following the common theme of death throughout the second half of the novel.
- “I still maintain that an ordinary human being has a right to be horrified by a mangled body seen on an afternoon walk. So what it was we were denied was to be ordinary. All our ordinary credos and expectations vanished.” (p. 114)
- “In another hole there was a rat that was alive but trapped because of the waterlogged condition of the earth that kept collapsing every time it tried to ascend the walls. Robert struck a match and caught the rat by the tail. It squealed as he lifted it over the edge and set it free. Robert wondered afterwards if setting the rat free had been a favour-but in the moment that he did it he was thinking: here is someone still alive. And the word alive was amazing.” (p.127)
- “The dark was pitted with holes and he kept falling down. He fell down once and put his hand in someone’s face. He apologized – even thought he knew the man was dead.” (p. 127)
“The men grappling for the gas mask.” (p. 138)
-This shows the theme of survival of the fittest. A free for all battle, fighting for their lives.