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The Wars novel by Timothy Findley published in 1977 portrays Robert Ross as Canadian Soldier fighting an internal war of self-condemnation after his sister Rowena’s death and the movie All Quiet on the Western Front directed by Delbert Mann (1979) based on the novel of the same name written by Erich Maria Remarque depicts the dark reality of the war as experienced by the soldiers in the warzone fighting to survive. Paul Baumer, main character of the film along with his school friends’ leave for the front soon after the war begins, to fight for the honor of his fatherland. These young adults were persuaded to go to the war by their teacher in the name of the glory of their country and German culture without realizing the awfulness of war. In this regard both sources are war drama, one commencing with fight against guilt and grief and other with notion of pride and honor which leads them to war, eventually breaking all the notions and ending into death. The wars and All Quiet on the Western Front set forth destructiveness of war on humanity, innocence, mental and physical health and give powerful visualization of terrible living conditions of soldiers in war.
Transformation in characters could be seen in both sources as they step into the war. Robert Ross is presented as a sensitive, caring person who is enriched with morals and values, loved animals and thought war as insane. “He’s old enough to go to war. He hasn’t gone. He doubts the validity in all this martialling of men but the doubt is inarticulate”. This sentence in itself tells that if Rowena didn’t die then Robert would have never went to war. But after his sister’s death for which he blames himself to be the reason, thought war as an escape from it and joined army. He was so timid that he could not even kill the rabbits he was asked for after his sister’s death. He cannot think himself as a killer or who could ever shoot anyone so he seeks a model who could teach him this skill. Eventually, war itself turned out to be the teacher and Robert ends up killing the German soldier in his defense and a horse to free him from misery of pain. Shooting of the horse was accompanied by these thoughts “Somewhere, afterwards, someone in an adjutant’s office would write all this down in book. ‘Lieutenant Ross did this and that and the other’… “God Save the King”. Likewise, Paul Baumer and his six classmates were soulful adults with numerous dreams before they were amid the war. War dried their all dreams, all they could see was death. Transition of film from one event to another show them turning into cold hearted soldiers whose sole motive is survival on the sake of oppositions life. Same like Robert, Paul kills a French soldier in act of guarding himself. Which he regrets when he see him dying and says “I didn’t want to kill you…I just saw your rifle, your bayonet, grenades. If we threw all this away, we could be brothers. We have both have father, mother; both suffering same fear and pain. Forgive me comrade”. Analysis of above events illustrates how effective war is in changing someone, characters are infested with brutality due to war.
War also had a great toll on soldiers both physical and mental health which made them take fallacious decision or they may involve in some inappropriate act. Timothy Findley tries to put forward the mental health of soldiers who have been for long in trenches, he portrays them as madmen. This is evident from the scene where soldiers not relieved from bombshells and constant gun fires, exterminate rats and burnt them alive. They became so heartless that on stopping by Rodwell, they made him see this whole cruelty which forced Rodwell to suicide as he loved those creatures a lot and seeing them viciously killed was unbearable. All Quiet on the Western Front concentrates on mental health of physically disabled soldiers, even if they survive shots, they try to kill themselves in hospitals. This shows how war weakens the soldiers internally, making them hollow lifeless bodies. Paul finds blind soldier killing himself with fork. Physical loss and mental disturbance make them go crazy and life becomes worth for nothing for them. This is why killing of animals and even self was merciless for them.
Endless war furthermore seemed to change soldiers’ definition of home as well. They no more felt any affection for their birth place and people they left there. Robert when asked by Clifford to send love for his sister. He just wrote a letter with photograph in it, describing his father about his comrades, who are still amateur trying to improve just like him. When they all manage to shape themselves they are separated and sent to different locations, where he again finds amateurs. He tells about one of his Irish sergeants who ran away with horse. Then he asks for a leave describing the ringing bells and whistles blowing and how cheerful soldiers are while leaving, even though they know they would never return. While ending the letter he bids goodbye and ask all to read it. With his name at closing. Robert Ross. Your son’. No love could be seen in this letter, neither any family attachment. It seems like his memories and relations have all faded and all he knows is that he is a soldier and war is all that’s left in his life. Similar feelings of affection deprivation are also seen in All Quiet on the Western Front, when Paul could not feel anything when he returned home. He describes Front to be his home and his comrades as his family in his last letter for his mother which he tears later. He shows his desire to return back to his family.
In conclusion, war is not romantic and glorious as it is portrayed but a death pit which consumes all humanity, innocence, one’s mental and physical wellbeing leaving behind ashes. Timothy Findley give nice support to this idea as shown in above paragraphs and even film begins with sole lines of the novel “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war”. Focus of the book gets clear from these beginning lines as war is described as horrific, whose effect last even if its ends and here death is not adventurous or filled of honor or pride but dreadful.
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