Adversity in “The Wars” by Timothy Findley
The claim that adversity is the most important factor in shaping character is addressed in The Wars at different levels. In particular, on the one hand, it relates to the shaping of the character of the protagonist, Robert Ross. On the other hand, it shapes the characters of readers who face the adversities through the lens of literature and train their characters through insights and catharsis. In the novel by Findley (2014), the suffering caused by the military conflict is an inevitable part of the plot and the development of the characters. However, the adversities that Robert Ross experiences are far-reaching and entail the worldview shifts that lead to character-forming. The main character’s perception of war and the order in the military system deteriorates his beliefs in the ultimate purpose of war. He notices how the system disrupts when it is viewed from within. The war does not seem as heroic when soldiers risk their lives and abide by orders. As Taffler, one of the novel’s characters, says, “all you get in this war,’ he said, ‘is one little David against another … Just a bunch of stone-throwers” (Findley, 2014, p. 35). This quote demonstrates that adversities that soldiers faced during war shaped their characters in a way that helped them see the pure and non-idealized side of life in a military conflict. Moreover, as stated by Branach-Kallas (2019), “Robert’s ultimate desertion, as well as his radical shift of loyalties, undermines any attempts to give war a coherent meaning (p. 53). It demonstrates that the traumatizing experiences expose the truth to the traumatized, thus showing them who they are and how the world functions. Thus, adversity shapes character by eliminating vagueness and idealization but rather cultivates cynicism, objectivity, and truthfulness.
Branach-Kallas, A. (2019). Trauma plots: Reading contemporary Canadian first world war fiction in a comparative perspective. Canadian Literature, 238, 47-182.
Findley, T. (2014). The wars. Penguin.