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Robert Ross – Tragic Hero (“The Wars”)

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Since man has walked on earth, he had always been in conflict with himself and other human beings. For thousands of years, there have been many furious battles fought among rival groups over different issues that seemed big at that time. The end results of each of the conflicts were always pretty much the same: the mass deaths and destruction of civilizations, and horrible physical and emotional impacts of the individuals left to live with the horrors they had faced.

After each war, different heroes were proclaimed, while ordinary soldiers who gave their lives away for their countries and were killed during the battles were forgotten. “The Wars” by Timothy Findley describes the place of ordinary men in a situation which magnify their actions until they seem either heroic or insane, or both. “The Wars” does not describe the deeds of the extraordinary men, instead, it deals with a man who is flawed, as we all are, and whose flaws widen as war goes on. By traditional definition, hero is someone who is larger than life, someone who possesses great strength and courage. Was Robert Ross, the protagonist of “The Wars”, a hero? First answer that comes to mind is “no”, but the more one thinks about it, the more he starts to believe that Robert indeed was a hero, though not a traditional one. Although Robert Ross does not blindly follow orders of his commanders, Robert Ross is a hero because he is a courageous man who always helps those who are in need, a man who cares about his family, and a man who believes in life above everything.

In every battle, ordinary people show heroism and a lot of courage, which either go unnoticed or are forgotten after a short period of time. During one of the German gas attacks, Robert Ross is able to save his troops from poisonous gas by telling them how to prevent the gas from entering their lungs. When he realizes that he is the only one in the group with a gas mask and he sees that one of his troops is injured, Robert decides to give away his gas this soldier. A majority of people would panic in situations like this and therefore would not be able to do anything. Robert Ross, however never showed his fear, even when it seemed like he had no choice but to give up. On the battlefield Robert shows good leadership skills and a lot of courage.

Even though the relationships in the Ross’ family were uneasy, Robert has always cared deeply about his family members. Although neither Robert nor Mrs. Ross expressed their feelings towards each other, it is clear to the readers that the Robert has always loved his mother. Unlike the previous example, from the very beginning of the story, Findley demonstrates the strong father-son bond between Robert and his father, Tom. Robert loved and respected his father very much, and always thought of him as of his role model. Another example of Robert’s love to his family members is demonstrated his love to Rowena. He always took care of her and even considered himself to be her guardian. After she died, he felt as if it was his fault because he had not been there that day looking out for her as he usually did. He felt this guilt eating him inside for the rest of his life from that day forward. The fact that Robert cared so much about his family is another quality that makes him a hero.

During the first parts of the novel Robert Ross is characterized as a proud, stable and successful Canadian serviceman, yet as the novel progresses, the effect that war had on individuals is witnessed in Robert’s actions. Because of his age, it was difficult for him to deal with the constant attacks from the enemy, along with watching the death of his fellow soldiers. Robert was so troubled that he turned against his own people. By the end of the novel, Robert has become aware that human beings are responsible not only for their own misery and suffering, but also for that of innocent animals. Robert’s decision to kill Captain Leather in order to save the horses might seem insane to anyone who has never been to the war. However, Robert acts on the instinct that the war provided him. Robert believed that humans are no better and no worse than any other creature on our planet. He couldn’t save people, but he could save the horses. By saving horses he was in fact, saving life. Robert Ross did the thing that no one else would ever dare to think of doing: he died for life in which he believed above everything.

Robert is a character that was misunderstood for his actions, which proceeded from his goodwill. He was an ordinary man who put himself into an extraordinary situation, which magnified his actions until they became heroic. In my opinion, Robert Ross is a hero.

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