.. na was a guardian, but eventually he considered himself her guardian. “When she smiled, he thought she was his mother. Later, when he came to realize she couldn’t walk and never felt the chair, he became her guardian. It was for her he learned to run” (Findley, 7).
Rowena depends on Robert to care for her, as she is unable to do so herself. This provides Robert with a sense of being wanted and a feeling that what he does is beneficial to Rowena. He enjoys being there for her. “The thing was- no one since Rowena had made Robert feel wanted to be with them all the time” (Findley, 104). After, Rowena’s death, Robert was lost within himself.
He no longer knew how to behave or what to feel anymore. It was as though he could no longer handle or deal with serious matters or even think clearly. Timothy Findley puts this forward as one of the main factors that initiates Robert to join the army; because he could never forgive himself for his sister’s death. Robert felt that is was his fault because he had not been there that day looking out for Rowena as he usually did. He felt this guilt eating him inside for the rest of his life from that day forward.
Robert reflects on specific moments they spent together through out The Wars. Robert? Yes, Rowena? Will you stay with me forever? Yes Rowena. Can the rabbit stay forever, too? Yes Rowena. This was forever. Now the rabbits had to be killed (Findley, 17) Robert is never able to forget this conversation because of the fact that he broke this promise by not being there when she fell. This changed Robert’s entire perspective on life and his assigned role.
He no longer appeared to have feelings anymore but no one knew how much remorse he felt inside. This could have been another reason for joining the war so that he could just go away and everyone would either forget about what he did and be proud of it in the end for being so brave. In a sense, a large part of Robert died that day along with his sister. While attending Rowena’s funeral, Robert saw a soldier standing there, he envied this man so much because after this day he could just walk away and leave all of this behind. This is what Robert wanted to do and it turned out to be the worst way to run away from all his problems. Rowena’s death constantly put stress on Robert, as we can see it hits him the hardest in the trenches or when he is in the battle field.
Everything reminded him of his sister. One example was when Robert looked under Rodwell’s bunk, “Robert looked. There was a whole row of cages. Rowena. Robert closed his eyes (Findley, 95). As one is able to identify Rowena was the first and only thing on his mind.
Even the color white would remind him of her because he could associate so many things since she was always dressed in white, her rabbits were white, and her coffin was white. All these memories haunted Robert more and more each day of his life. Findley suggest that in the latter part of The Wars that Robert is becoming mentally unstable. At times he can no longer function as a dedicated soldier or an average human being. It is quite ironic that after Rowena’s death, Robert wanted to join the army where death loomed on every horizon. If Rowena had still been alive Robert probably would not have ever enlisted in the army.
In the structure of Robert and Rowena’s relationship, the author is attempting to reveal that Robert, more than anyone else in the novel, is able to look past Rowena’s physical deformity and see her inner beauty. In Robert’s burning of Rowena’s portrait “not out of anger but as an act of charity” (Findley, 195), the author is revealing that Robert respects Rowena and does not want her to be subjected to the cruelty of war. It also suggests that the image of the person Robert was when he knew Rowena no longer fits into his lifestyle during the war. Findley uses Robert’s difficulty in dealing with his sister’s death to reveal his sensitivity and his feelings of guilt. This is also witnessed in Robert’s disappointment in the deaths of many animals as well as the German soldier in the novel. Robert Ross and his father, Tom Ross, carry out a healthy father-son relationship throughout the novel.
Robert is proud of his father and regards him as one of his role models in life. Tom is proud of his son and is loving towards him. Although their personalities do in some ways differ, there is still a strong male bond between Robert and his father. The personalities of both Robert and his father vary. Tom Ross is a strong and hard-nosed on the outside but only shows his sensitivity when needed and has control over his emotions, whereas Robert is strong but is more sensitive and can not control his emotions as well as his father. An example of Robert’s inability to control his emotions is after the death of Rowena.
Robert is asked to kill Rowena’s rabbits but cannot because of how much they meant to Rowena and him, so Tom hires Teddy Budge to do it. Robert ends up attacking Teddy and gets severely beaten. One example of Tom’s sensitivity and control is after they were notified that Robert was missing in action. Mrs. Ross was in a sense of disarray and Tom was able to comfort her, “Mr. Ross held her and rocked her from side to side.
The house began to darken. They sat there, silently singing. Finally, she slept” (Findley, 205). Although Robert and his father do have some personal characteristic differences, there are many instances in the novel that show not only how proud they are of each other but also some similarities between the two of them. One example of Tom’s commitment to his son was when Robert wished to run around the block twenty-six times, no one fully supported him except his father.
Robert failed and fainted on the 25th lap but his father was there to support him. Tom came up every evening after work and sat in Robert’s darkened room and talked to him and told him stories. None of the stories had to do with running. These were tales of voyages and ships and how to ride a horse. This was the binding of the father to the son (Findley, 48).
This bonding helped Tom remember his days of youth and how he had attempted something similar “the word spread out around him like a gift” (Findley, 48). The best example that Findley shows of the bond between Robert and his father is at the train yard in Montreal. Upon leaving for boot camp Robert though that he would not see his father until he had finished his tour of duty. When Robert saw his father it revealed his pride and love for him, “the sight of his farther had lifted his spirits immeasurably. And the feel of his father’s hand on his arm had brought back into a world he’d thought he’d lost” (Findley, 50).
Before this reencounter with his father, Robert had the mind of a soldier and had forgotten the enjoyment of his home and his family. What Timothy Findley is trying to reveal in the novel is that a father-son relationship is not only an important factor in family but also in life. There are many instances in the novel where both Robert and his father feel that they have lost touch with each other, but they always regain their contact. In war, it is often the letters and love from family and friends that keeps the soldier going. By exploring Robert Ross’ relationships with his family member one is able to understand and interpret Robert’s actions and emotions.
Thus, when trying to find the peices of the puzzle that links Robert’s family together, one finds the growth of Roberts’ personality. Furthermore, Timothy Findley enables the reader to examine the influential aspects of Mrs. Ross, Rowena and Mr. Ross towards the self development of Robert’s identity.