Kindness And Cruelty In Timothy Findley's 'The Wars'

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The very nature of war creates many contrasts. One such contrast, the opposing pair of kindness and cruelty, is demonstrated in many instances throughout Timothy Findley’s The Wars. There are three notable cases of the duality of these two opposing ideas: Robert and the horse with the injured leg, Robert in the gas attack, and Rodwell and his personality. War creates a contrast between kindness and cruelty.
Robert demonstrates kindness with an injured horse. Near the end of part one, Robert is ordered to shoot a horse with a broken leg. Its leg is in a horrible condition, “so badly smashed it showed bone” (66). It is physically unable to stand up, meaning it would be useless in the war. If it is released, it would only be a matter of time when
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Robert has a profound link animals which was shown beforehand in multiple instances. One particular example of his connection to them involves his late sister Rowena and her pet rabbits. He was forced by his mother, Mrs. Ross, to kill them after Rowena’s death to give him a sense of closure on his sister and move on. However, Robert refused to budge and hence clashed against the idea. This struggle reached a compromise made by Robert’s father, who hired a butcher to kill the rabbits. Unfortunately, this resolution did not make Mrs. Ross or Robert happy, as Mrs. Ross wanted him to kill them, while Robert simply wanted them to live. A second example is with Robert and a coyote. One day, during a break in his training for the Canadian army, Robert goes for a run, finds a coyote, and decides to run alongside the beast. The coyote acts somewhat as a mentor for Robert during the run. It did not care when it passed by potential prey, or in another word, food. Robert realizes that the coyote only kills when it needs to and, as such, he also adopts this ideology for the subsequent war. Thus, animals play a powerful role in his mind. When it came time to kill the horse, a dissonant turmoil is built within his mind. He attempts to pass the task onto another officer, yet none are available. Then he thought of sending the responsibility down the chain of command to his Battery Sergeant Major, but he needed to maintain his authority and as such could not pass the duty onto him. The task fell to Robert. He is mentally unprepared for the killing, and consequently botches the effort. When he fires his first bullet, “a chair fell over in his mind” (68), reminiscing on the way Rowena died and thus his connection to animals. He then realizes that he missed, sending the horse into painful agony. He fires many more times, only putting it into more anguish before its excruciating demise. Even

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