Everyone is faced with struggles in life, whether physical or emotional. These strugglesinevitably shape an individuals personality and outlook on life. Timothy Findleys novels, TheWars 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 oflife.
In the novel The Wars, Robert Ross actually goes to war and fights in World War I . In thenovel 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 theirperception of living. Robert and Minnas experiences make them want to escape and helpothers overcome the terrible war, in their own lives. Furthermore, experiencing these strugglesleads to the characters ultimate realization and self-discovery of life and of themselves.Order now
Thehorrors of war which Robert endures are instrumental in his psychological change. Minnasexperiences 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 experiencesfirst-hand the horrors of battle as a Canadian Soldier in the First World War. Being named aLieutenant shortly after arriving in Europe, Robert is thrust into combat. While advancing to thefront 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 2this instance, Robert experiences brutality for the first time, in the form of a dead body whichhas been gruesomely wounded. The shock of seeing a dead body can be very disturbing to anyindividual, and not even an experienced veteran could be prepared for the horrific sight Robertendures here.
Minna Joyce, a writer in the novel Stones, also experiences and reacts to thehorrors of life. Minnas war is not like the World War in which Robert participates, but is astruggle with everyday life in the large city of Toronto. Minna witnesses horrific sights on . . .
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. . . . (Stones11)Minna Joyce experiences the harsh reality of individuals who have nothing, and are forced tolive on the streets of downtown Toronto.
Minna was brought up in an area of the city inhabitedby 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 thechallenges that both Minna and Robert are faced with in their lives. One of the most notableevents which Robert faces is trench warfare during the First World War. After being sent awaywith a small battalion to begin the digging of another trench, Robert comes back to the front tofind 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 Wars146) 3In this situation, Robert witnesses many of the horrific ways in which soldiers were killed duringthe First World War. Snow and the bitterly cold weather attributed to many Canadian soldiersdeaths during World War One, and nearly one thousand men died from frost bite alone. Thesight of his friends frozen dead in the water is terrifying, and to look down and see anothersoldier in the ice with his entire body green is a gruesome image.
One of the most popular anddeadly tactics used by the Germans during World War One was chlorine gas, which Robert waslucky to survive. He is subjected to the poison when it was sent up into the atmosphere whichproduced huge masses of chlorine gas clouds. These clouds made their way across no mansland, to the trenches, killing all in sight including Roberts comrades. Minnas experiences inlife 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.
Minnastruggles on the streets of Toronto. Both characters struggle for survival in life. Robertsexperiences are quite extreme and the average person may not be able to relate to them. Eventhough Minnas experiences are common, they are nonetheless frightening. Minnasexperiences with the homeless became more terrifying when she had to live on the streets.
. . . alife of inherited privilege mixed with deliberate squalor. (Stones11) She spent some nightson the streets because she could not find work. She was subjected to the horror that peoplebelieve it will never happen to them.
Queen Street and, in fact, the whole of Parkdale offered aworld of unwanted people. . . (Stones51) Minna was a part of a war that is lasting longer thanWorld War One. Although the books are set in different time periods, both Minna and Robertstruggle 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 4displays to the reader the fact that war exists in a physical state. The consequences of the warwith life allow the two characters to justify who they are, and help them to become mentallyThe psychological change in the characters dispositions and their increasing awareness of the importance of life is evident throughout the novels The Wars and Stones. ThroughRoberts experiences with the utter brutality of war, he experiences a psychological change incharacter. After being saved a day earlier on the battlefield by one of his comrades, Robertexperiences difficulty trying to get to sleep. All he wanted was a dream.
Escape. But nobodydreams on a Battlefield. There isnt any sleep that long. Dreams and distance are the same.
(The Wars102) At the young age of nineteen, dreams are common. The impact of the war hasbegun to affect Robert, as he has difficulty even dreaming. Sleep and the night are veryimportant to soldiers. The ability to dream allows them to leave the horror of war on earth andenter into a fantasy where they can forget. Roberts inability to dream is based on the fact thathis 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, wantedto escape. (Stones43)Minna and her husband both want to depart the reality of their life inParkdale. She wanted trees and grass in their backyard, which is not conceivable when living ina small apartment. Minna, like Robert, wants to escape the reality of life as she knows it, and bein a place where everything is splendid.
Minna wanted even once a week to make her waydown the and into the street without the ever-present threat of someone elses panic waiting tograb her sleeve. (Stones44) Minna seems to enjoy working with the homeless, but shewould just like to get away once in a while to have more peace and security. Minna and Robert 5both want deliverance from the horror in their lives. In the novel Heart of Darkness Kurtzs finalwords are, The horror, the horror (Conrad 118).
These words are Kurtzs final judgement ofwhat he succumbed to in both the Congo and in his psychological journey into his own heart ofdarkness. The horrors that Robert and Minna face are reality and must not be forgotten. Thedifference between Kurtz and Robert and Minna is that Kurtz succumbs to his inner demons andgoes mad, whereas Robert and Minna do not. Robert has experienced every aspect of the brutality of war. His psychological change isevident through his outlook on life: Robert struck a match and caught the rat by his tail. It squealed as he lifted it over the edge and set it free.
Robert wondered afterwards if setting the rat free had been a favour but in the moment that he did it he was thinking: here is someone still alive. And the word alive was amazing. (The Wars127)Robert has witnessed deaths by the thousands, and the difference between a human and animallife has escaped his mind. In this instance, Roberts act of setting the rat free is one that couldbe questioned because of the deaths that he has seen. However, because of the impact of war onhis mind, Robert recognizes the beauty of life in the midst of madness. Robert feels that hecontributed to the saving of a life, which allows him to feel better for that one instant until hegoes back out to fight again.
Minnas psychological change is evident when she makes thehomeless person feel wanted. Just to be seen and heard and acknowledged. Thats what theywanted. Witness. Not to be forgotten.
(Stones51)Minna likes to see the homeless happy,and feel better about themselves. Minna, like Robert, does not like the reality of thesurroundings. Minna tries her best to change that by bringing the poor woman, Elizabeth Doyle, 6home to let her sleep in a bed. Minna realizes that all that the people on the streets want is to benoticed and not to be forgotten. The trauma of the horrors of life on Robert and Minna leads thereader to believe that war does have psychological effects on the individual. The charactersphysical and psychological accounts of war lead the characters on their own personal journey of self-discovery.
The horrors of war which Robert endures are instrumental in his psychologicalchange. In Roberts final stand to declare the existence of life in the midst of death, he attemptsto save some horses from a burning barn: Robert couldnt stand it any longer and he said to Devlin: Im going to break ranks and save these animals. Will you come with me? Devlin wanted to and said so. But he was afraid of Captain Leather.
Leather is insane, said Robert flatly. It cannot be called disobedience to save these animals when theyll be needed, for Gods sake. The importance of life to Robert is evident here as he breaks ranks in order to save the horses. Disobeying an order in the army can lead to a Court Marshall, dishonorable discharge and evenworse the possibility of being accused of treason. However, these consequences pale incomparison to the thought of more deaths.
Throughout Roberts time as a soldier in the armyduring World War One he witnesses first hand the destruction of war. These horrors of war leadto his psychological transformation which inevitably leads to his journey of self-discovery,recognizing the importance of life in the midst of death. Minna comes to a conclusion along thesame lines as Robert. As Minna is dying of an inoperable cancer of the lung, she moves toAustralia. Her physical accounts of the horror in her life lead to the psychological change whichmade her change location.
She has a daughter now and does not want her to grow up with the 7same horror that surrounded Minna as a child. They say it is quite civilized . (Stones 19) Hermove to Australia lead to her journey of self-discovery. She realizes how important life I know why she wanted her ashes scattered there at Ku-Ring-Gai.
It was the joy and the liveliness the sense of endless celebration that clung to all figures in the rock. (Stones25)Minna realizes and wants others to realize that everyone, no matter of what the individual lookslike, should be able to enjoy happiness in life. Robert wantes the horses to have the freedom ashe does in life. Minna wants her daughter to have the freedom that she has in life. Minna wantsher daughter to also experience the joy of love and the sense of endless celebration. The figurecut in the stones at Ku-Ring-Gai was a child.
The child of the two stick figures rejoicing by its side beneath the moon. And the child had long, albino hair and one six-fingered hand stretched out for all the world to see forever. . . .
(Stones26)Minna concludes her life with the discovery with herself. The importance of life to Minna isapparent here, as she wants her daughter, who has six fingers on each hand, to be exposed tosociety. Hiding her from people would show how she does not respect what she created. Insteadshe wants to display her miracle which was created inside her, for everyone to behold. Throughout Minnas time in Toronto on Queens Street, she had witnessed first-hand thedestruction of life.
These horror lead to her psychological change which inevitably leads to herjourney of self-discovery. Minna, like Robert, comes to the conclusion of the importance oflife, and how it should be set free to live with others. In many ways, the war of life affects individuals, leading to physical and mental change. 8Through facing hardships in life, one can assess his/her experience and discover more aboutthemselves and the world around them. War does exist in Roberts and Minnas physicalaccounts of the horror of life.
Roberts experience is in World War One. Minnas experience islife on the streets of Toronto with the homeless. The psychological change in Robert andMinna can be attributed to their physical encounters of the war in life. Robert and Minna bothchange their view on life because of their struggles.
Furthermore, these two worlds lead Robertand Minna to acknowledge the importance of life. Thus, in the novels The Wars and Stones,Findley has demonstrated that the war does have an effect on the individual, leading to a journeyBibliography:?Works CitedConrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Markham: Penguin, 1981. Findley, Timothy. Stones.
Toronto: Penguin, 1988. Findley, Timothy. The Wars. Toronto: Penguin, 1977.