The significance of the rape scene in Timothy Findley’s The Wars Ryan Moore Robert Ross, the protagonist of Timothy Findley’s novel The Wars undergoes a disturbing violation when his fellow soldiers rape him; this is a significant turning point for Robert’s character and a section of the book Findley uses to address many themes. Throughout the book we witness Robert maturing and experiencing many hardships that will help create the man he becomes. The most significant of these trials is the scene at the insane asylum because it is where Robert looses the last connection to his innocence and his faith in humanity’s virtuousness.
Findley also uses this scene to address the topic of homophobia in that era, and the substantially detrimental effect the First World War had on the fighting men of Robert’s generation. Findley employs creative diction in the beginning of section five, chapter five of the novel, in order to symbolize the fragmentation of Robert’s character. Robert pieces together what has just happened as he stands “in the center of the room” (175). Robert’s thoughts are exposed from the following lines; “He wanted a clean shirt” “He wanted his pistol” (175).
The author’s short, choppy sentences are representations of Robert’s thought pattern. He is in a state of shock, and his character is splintering as he tries to comprehend the violation that has just transpired. Findley creates emphasis in Robert’s thoughts and actions by double spacing this part and starting each sentence with “he” followed by a verb: “He wanted”, “He looked”, “He pulled”. As a reader, this writing technique makes us feel as if we are able to see into Robert’s thoughts and be a part of the moment.
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This creates powerful imagery of Robert’s damaged state of mind and draws attention to this section, which makes the reader consider that it is a very important event that also makes connections to other issues and themes. A notable observation of the scene where Robert wants to hug his friend Poole, but he knows that he must not because it would be inappropriate, is the issue of Homophobia that is touched on. This was very prevalent issue at this time and Findley uses this scene in tandem with the rape scene to create irony. “Robert wished with all his heart that men could embrace” (177).
After what he has experienced “he knew now they couldn’t. Mustn’t” (177). The irony is that Robert doesn’t want to be thought of as unusual; while he is in fact more normal than most people in the asylum, especially including his assailants, who are in fact very unusual. A potential reason the author draws attention to this topic of homophobia is because it could have been an issue for him growing up as a gay man in the early 1900’s, and he may have thought it needed to be addressed. The scene when Taffler and the Swede have “panic” in their eyes on page 40 also lends strength to the theme of homophobia.
Robert’s turning point begins when he burns his photograph of Rowena; he has lost faith in humankind and does not want his memory of her to remain in such a perverse and painful world. The narrator describes Robert’s violation as “ . . . being rolled and dumped face down on the stones” (175). Robert discovers something important about his attackers when he realizes that “his assailants . . . had been his fellow soldiers. Maybe even his brother officers” (175). Findley gives us some insight into Robert’s thoughts when he describes him burning the photo, “This was not an act of anger-but an act of charity” (178).
His assailants treat Robert like a piece of trash once they are through with him and leave him “face down on the stones”. The atrocious defilement Robert endures changes his opinion of humanity and after witnessing the hellish events of war, and realizing his attackers “had been his fellow soldiers”, Robert looses trust in mankind’s goodness (175). When he receives his belongings and sees the photograph of his sister, Robert realizes that he doesn’t her memory to exist in a place that has treated him so harshly and that her innocence does not belong in this world any longer.
Robert decides to burn the picture to free Rowena’s memory from the slightest association with the depravation mankind has sunk to in his eyes, and with it he is destroying the last link to his innocence. The rape scene is also very important because of the real life symbolism it represents. Findley uses the rape scene to acknowledge that the war has “raped” Robert’s generation of men who were affiliated with it. As Robert is assaulted his thoughts lead to “Why? Robert kept thinking. Why? ” (174). The author hints at this theme in the following line: “ . . . four hundred thousand possibilities- all of those lives that would never be” (169).
Robert’s thoughts of “why” reflect the thoughts of many North American men and women who had lost love ones during the war. Findley believes that “the war, and those who made it, raped Robert’s entire generation of men” and left damaged scared victims and grieving relatives in their wake (gradesaver). Findley cleverly emphasizes the subtle metaphor of “four hundred thousand possibilities” by writing it at the end of the chapter (169). This figure of speech is used to touch on one of the main themes of the book, which is the repercussion of war for humanity and the lives it wastes.
In conclusion the significance of the rape scene serves many purposes. Primarily it establishes the dramatic turning point for the protagonist, Robert Ross. He is required to rapidly mature in order to fight his way through the war, and this event forces him to let go of his innocent past self and his memories of Rowena. Findley’s character interactions that follow this scene and also occur in other parts of the book allude to the controversy of homophobia during this time, which may have been a subject of contempt for him.
The author also uses this scene to address the real life topic of World War One and how he believes that the war mongers of the era have “raped” Robert Ross’s generation of men by conscripting them to a ruthless and prolonged war. References Findley. Timothy. The Wars. Toronto: Penguin, 1977. Print. “The Wars Study Guide? : Summary and Analysis of Part Five and Epilogue | GradeSaver. ” Gradesaver, November 12, 2012. http://www. gradesaver. com/the-wars/study-guide/section6/.
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