Essay on Animal Imagery in the Wars

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Pages: 8

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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The sound of that bird haunts Robert to the day he dies (146). Robert associates birds with the perilous times at war that he can never forget.

Findley uses rabbits to represent Rowena and Rodwell, both characters of pureness and compassion. Rowena is very much like her rabbits in that she is defenseless, innocent and dependent on others. When Rowena dies, her rabbits are killed for the simple reason that "they were hers" (17) and Robert is expected to kill them "because he loved her" (19). These justifications seem rather weak to Robert, who wants his sister to still be alive in some form. If the rabbits were killed, it "would imply that Rowena would truly be dead" and Robert cannot accept this ("Animals and Their Significance" 1). He promised Rowena that he would stay with her forever and that the rabbits would stay forever, too. He wants at least one of these promises to be kept. Unfortunately, a soldier is hired to kill the rabbits, and Robert fights him, yelling, "what are soldiers for?" (20). It is ironic that he later becomes a soldier himself and he learns to kill as well. So Rowena's rabbits are killed, "[b]ecause a girl died, and her rabbits survived her" (20).

Instead of the arbitrary killing that takes place with Rowena's rabbits, Rodwell's animals are being constantly protected from the dangers of battle. For example, when the dugout is shaken by mines, Robert sees the rabbit turn "with its eyes