The Wars: Four Elements It was the ancient Greek philosopher, Empedocles, who first established the four elements: earth, water, air and fire. He also stated that everything in the world is structured by and rooted in these four elements. However during times of conflict and violence, humans begin to disturb this harmony. When this happens, the elements stop representing life and start representing a form of destruction. Throughout Robert Ross’s journey in The Wars, Timothy Findley exemplifies this theory by displaying the four elements in two diverse ways: benevolent and harmful. Earth is said to be the feminine element. It is perceived to be nurturing, stable, and full of endurance. The planet itself is a ball of life in which one is
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When one thinks of air, the concept of life almost instantly comes to mind. One of the very last lines in the novel is discussing a picture of Robert and Rowena with Meg, the pony. On the back of the picture was written “’Look! You can see our breath!’ And you can.” (Findley 218) This highlights the significance of the element as it accurately represents life in its purest form. However, the element did not consistently represent life throughout the entire novel; rather, it had also been a symbol of death. “It tumbled over the edge and began to spread out over their heads- drifting on a layer of cold, dank air rising from the pool below them.” (Finley 137) At this point, the air the soldiers were breathing had no other meaning than death. They were bombarded with a chlorine gas attack that was essentially conducted to kill.
The four elements are the basic building blocks of life. In The Wars, Timothy Findley manipulates each of the elements with the intention of having them displayed in two different ways. At the end of Robert’s life, Juliet d’Orsey inscribed the words “Earth and Air and Fire and Water” on his gravestone implying that at death, one is at peace with all of the elements as there is no more interference with their harmony. Robert Ross was finally at