Wars And Stones Everyone is faced with struggles in life, whether physical or emotional. These struggles inevitably shape an individuals personality and outlook on life. Timothy Findleys novels, The Wars and Stones, suggest that the consequences of struggles in life result in a journey of self- discovery. War exists in the characters physical and psychological accounts of the horror of life. In the novel The Wars, Robert Ross actually goes to war and fights in World War I . In the novel Stones, Minna Joyce encounters a war in her life as a child, trying to survive on the streets.
These physical encounters with war lead to a psychological change in the characters and their perception of living. Robert and Minnas experiences make them want to escape and help others overcome the terrible war, in their own lives. Furthermore, experiencing these struggles leads to the characters ultimate realization and self-discovery of life and of themselves. The horrors of war which Robert endures are instrumental in his psychological change. Minnas experiences in life, in death and her internal struggles, lead her on a journey of self-discovery.
In the novel The Wars, Robert Ross is a sensitive nineteen year old boy who experiences first-hand the horrors of battle as a Canadian Soldier in the First World War. Being named a Lieutenant shortly after arriving in Europe, Robert is thrust into combat. While advancing to the front with his troops Robert witnesses his first images of the brutality of war: He was taking his troops to the front and they were walking along a road that had been shelled and there was a soldier lying dead by the road whose head had been smashed. It was an awful shock. The first dead man hed seen.
(The Wars 99) Robert has not yet experienced anything that could prepare him for the conditions he faces. In 2 this instance, Robert experiences brutality for the first time, in the form of a dead body which has been gruesomely wounded. The shock of seeing a dead body can be very disturbing to any individual, and not even an experienced veteran could be prepared for the horrific sight Robert endures here. Minna Joyce, a writer in the novel Stones, also experiences and reacts to the horrors of life. Minnas war is not like the World War in which Robert participates, but is a struggle with everyday life in the large city of Toronto.
Minna witnesses horrific sights on Queen Street: .. with all its resident rubbies and gentle crazies, dressed in all weathers in their summer coats … … and their eyes as crafty and innocent all at once as the eyes of bears… (Stones 11) Minna Joyce experiences the harsh reality of individuals who have nothing, and are forced to live on the streets of downtown Toronto. Minna was brought up in an area of the city inhabited by many homeless people, orartistsas she calls them, a little less horrifying. The thought of having to watch the people suffer is horrifying to her.
The war of life is apparent in the challenges that both Minna and Robert are faced with in their lives. One of the most notable events which Robert faces is trench warfare during the First World War. After being sent away with a small battalion to begin the digging of another trench, Robert comes back to the front to find the trench destroyed and his comrades dead. When they made their way back through the trench there was nothing left alive. They had all been gassed or had frozen to death. Those who lay in water were profiled in ice. Everything was green: their faces and their fingers and their buttons and the snow. (The Wars 146) 3 In this situation, Robert witnesses many of the horrific ways in which soldiers were killed during the First World War.
Snow and the bitterly cold weather attributed to many Canadian soldiers deaths during World War One, and nearly one thousand men died from frost bite alone. The sight of his friends frozen dead in the water is terrifying, and to look down and see another soldier in the ice with his entire body green is a gruesome image. One of the most popular and deadly tactics used by the Germans during World War One was chlorine gas, which Robert was lucky to survive. He is subjected to the poison when it was sent up into the atmosphere which produced huge masses of chlorine gas clouds. These clouds made their way across no mans land, to the trenches, killing all in sight including Roberts comrades. Minnas experiences in life are not to the same degree comparable to Roberts, but can be related to everyday life.
Robert struggles in World War One, experiencing brutality and death at its worst. Minna struggles on the streets of Toronto. Both characters struggle for survival in life. Roberts experiences are quite extreme and the average person may not be able to relate to them. Even though Minnas experiences are common, they are nonetheless frightening. Minnas experiences with the homeless became more terrifying when she had to live on the streets. .. a life of inherited privilege mixed with deliberate squalor. (Stones 11) She spent some nights on the streets because she could not find work.
She was subjected to the horror that people believe it will never happen to them. Queen Street and, in fact, the whole of Parkdale offered a world of unwanted people.. (Stones 51) Minna was a part of a war that is lasting longer than World War One. Although the books are set in different time periods, both Minna and Robert struggle to survive day to day. Their situations are different but the goals are the same; survival. Roberts physical accounts of trench warfare and Minnas physical accounts with the homeless 4 displays to the reader the fact that war exists in a physical state.
The consequences of the war with life allow the two characters to justify who they are, and help them to become mentally stronger. The psychological change in the characters dispositions and their increasing awareness of the importance of life is evident throughout the novels The Wars and Stones. Through Roberts experiences with the utter brutality of war, he experiences a psychological change in character. After being saved a day earlier on the battlefield by one of his comrades, Robert experiences difficulty trying to get to sleep. All he wanted was a dream. Escape.
But nobody dreams on a Battlefield. There isnt any sleep that long. Dreams and distance are the same. (The Wars 102) At the young age of nineteen, dreams are common. The impact of the war has begun to affect Robert, as he has difficulty even dreaming. Sleep and the night are very important to soldiers. The ability to dream allows them to leave the horror of war on earth and enter into a fantasy where they can forget.
Roberts inability to dream is based on the fact that his mind is filled with the horrors of war which prevent him from entering this dreamworld. Minna also experiences a psychological change in her perceptions of living. She, too, wanted to escape. (Stones 43) Minna and her husband both want to depart …