The Wars Essay, Research Paper
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” we say. From the eyes and mind of the archivist studying the pictures of Robert Ross’ experience with war, they are worth a lot more. The photographs in the epilogue of Timothy Findley’s “The Wars” play an important role in Findley establishing both a trust with the reader, and a sense of realism to his war story. This satisfies the need for realism in his tale. The result of this image that is brought forth through the medium of the photograph, is that we are forced to see the “before” and “after” of Roberts “experience” and figure out our way through what is deposited in between: the cause and effect.
The Two photographs conflict with one another exceedingly. The first picture is one of the “after” depiction of Robert, the other being one of the “before” depiction of himself. The second picture described in the epilogue is the one of Robert, Rowena and Meg; Rowena seated astride the pony, with Robert holding her in place (on the back of the picture it is written, “look, you can see our breath!” This picture is symbolic of Roberts Views and understanding of life before facing his “wars”. It represents what Robert was all about, His love for his disabled sister, Rowena, his definition of family and life. What is written on the back of the picture, “look, you can see our breath!” is as important as the picture itself. This statement defines what the picture itself has captured, his breath. The breath being the source of life, what keeps him and all things around him alive.
On the other hand, and in contrast to this photograph, is the “after” picture of Robert (after the wars). In this picture, life seems to have ceased. There are dead things all around, a dead man in the background with his hand dangling down, the short (dead) grass, and the skull of an animal which Robert has in his hand. Also, the narrator describes Robert as “staring straight into the camera with his lips slightly parted,” this is the look of a dead person who is no longer breathing.
The two pictures, both mentioned together at the end of the novel, but taken at different points of Robert’s life, display the extreme transformation that has taken place in his life. It makes you look back over all that has happened to Robert and determine what took place for him to have gone through such a change.
Another important aspect of the pictures, mainly the first one, is the extreme desensitisation Robert had gone through. In the pictures, Robert’s love for animals is shown, first with the horses and then somehow with the animals scull as he holds it gently like a crystal figurine. Something serious must have happened for him to go from the point he was. Wherein he loved the horses, rabbits (which he fed daily), and “trench pets” to the point where he killed a man (his officer) with less hesitation then it took for him to kill a lamed horse (on the boat).
The pictures make the you/me the reader realise how far Robert has gone compared to where he came from. They capture the beginning and end results of Roberts’s “wars”(not only the physical battles). Everything else in between is the rest of the book, which the author fills in with the slow stumbling of Robert. The photos serve as a medium through which the message of the desensitisation of Robert’s “wars” can be heard.