The Need to Commit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

A critical/analytic essay on "The Wars" by Timothy Findley on the human need to make a commitment or renounce a course of action.

Read it here at: http://kelsey-nealon.com/The_Wars_Essay.html

 

Purpose: To discuss the human need to make a commitment or renounce a course of action.

 

Critical Response to Text: The Wars by Timothy Findley

 

The Need to Commit

 

By Kelsey Nealon

 

The death of someone close can be shattering for some, leading to depression and, perhaps, even a sense of guilt. However, it is important not to force one’s self not to do something they are against in order to escape this misery. And that committing to one’s values is a necessity when trying to overcome a situation such as this. In the novel The Wars by Timothy Findley, we are shown that when an individual is faced with the misery caused by the loss of a loved one, and tries to do what goes against his values in order to escape this loss, he will inevitably wind up back where he needs to be, committed to his values, in order to overcome the suffering associated with such a loss. With a more in-depth analysis of Timothy Findley’s character, Robert Ross, and his trials and tribulations at trying to overcome his beloved sister’s loss, we can unfold the theme evident in The Wars.

 

Robert Ross, up to the age of 19, has been the guardian to his older sister Rowena until she dies tragically when Robert is not there to protect her, creating misery and guilt in Robert’s life. Robert, after Rowena’s death, is ordered by his Mother to kill her rabbits. The rabbits are a symbol of Rowena’s fragility and innocence, and because he was her guardian, he refuses as he believes that he cannot bring himself to kill something that innocent ever again. Robert is faced with even more misery after Rowena’s rabbits are killed by a hired factory worker. “All he knew is that his hands felt empty. In his mind they kept reaching out for the back of Rowena’s chair.” This quote takes place at Rowena’s funeral and shows how Robert feels as though he has lost a part of himself, as his hands feel empty. The fact that his hands keep reaching out for Rowena’s chair are a strong indicator of the deep connection he had with her, and how her life was a massive part of his life. Therefore, the loss of Rowena is largely significant to Robert both emotionally and physically. Furthermore, the loss is causing him misery as seen through the emptiness in which his hands feel. The emotional and physical effects are so painful to Robert, which is why he begins to seek a way to overcome her loss.

 

Robert Ross tries to escape the suffering and pain of Rowena’s death by joining the army, an act that strongly goes against his values and beliefs. “I know what you want to do. i know you’re going to go away and be a soldier. Well-you can go to hell.” This quote is told from Mrs. Ross (Robert’s mother), and shows that she is very upset with Robert’s decision because she knows that Roberts values are not aligned with that of a soldier’s. Robert Ross is sensitive and a protector of innocence, which will likely do him harm if he is to join the Army. That is Robert Ross’ way to deal with Rowena’s death-to join a war he knows will kill him. Mrs. Ross knows this, and having just lost one of her children (Rowena), she knows that his choice will likely be the death of him. Having two losses in such a short period of time is devastating for her, and that is why she is surly with him. “... He’d never enjoyed being an officer there.. It offended him to raise his voice. Telling other people what to do made him angry.” This quote enforces the values that Robert Ross has and how they go against his decision to join the army. Joining the army, as unenjoyable as it is for him, is much more comfortable than having to live with the guilt and misery of knowing his sister is dead. Robert knows that joining the army was possibly one of the worst decisions he could make due to his incompatibility with war, yet he cannot think of a better solution as the pain of his sister is too great and therefore overwhelms his decision making process. Despite the overwhelming pain that forced him into joining a war with little chances of survival, his innate needs to commit to his values begin to prevail as he continues to fight as a soldier in the war.

 

Robert Ross winds up committing to his values through the attempt at, once more, being a protector of the innocent; a final stand to reconcile the solemnity of Rowena’s death. “‘If an animal had done this-we would call it mad and shoot it,’ … Robert shot him between the eyes.” This excerpt from the novel describes Robert, having seen so many of the horrors of war and death to the innocent, no longer being able to take the injustices in the war. Captain Leather has nearly gone mad, not letting Robert free the horses from a bomb attack as it would “look cowardly”, attempts to kill Robert in order to prevent Robert from protecting the fragile horses. It is here we see Robert’s inevitable commitment to his values through shooting captain Leather; he breaks himself away from the army through ripping off his lapels and reverts back to protecting the innocent by killing his own Captain. “There is a photograph of Robert and Juliet taken about a year before his death… He is holding Juliet’s hand. And he is smiling.” This quote reinforces the need to commit to one’s values through his final act of finding someone to love. We are shown through this photograph that Robert is a lover and not a fighter. The final stand at attempting to save the horses by quitting the army, shooting his captain, and nearly burning alive in a barn proves to reconcile the depression caused by the death of Rowena, as he is now smiling and his hands are no longer “empty”. This shows that humans need to commit to values in order to overcome pain in life, such as the loss of a loved one, and when we try to escape these pains by doing something that goes against our values, we are likely to get burned (metaphorically speaking).

 

The necessity to commit to Robert’s values shows that in order to deal with the misery caused by the death of Rowena, doing something that did not adhere to his value system was no use to alleviate his depression, but doing something that he values gave him the strength needed to overcome his suffering and ultimately find internal fulfillment. Furthermore, when an individual is brought to misery through the death of someone close, trying to do what his values are against in order to escape this misery will inevitably lead him back to a place where he can remain committed to his values, which is needed to overcome the pain brought from this loss. In such a world where losing a loved one is an inevitable part of life, we must remember not to go against our values in order to find an easy way out. The solution is there, we just need to commit to finding it.



 


Submitted: December 14, 2014

© Copyright 2021 KelseyN. All rights reserved.

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