The Wars

The Wars

by

Timothy Findley

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A young soldier from Sydney, Nova Scotia, whom Robert Ross meets on the S.S. Massanabie from Canada to England. Harris oversees the section detail that cares for the horses on board. He has a wistful, poetic soul and often gazes out of the ship’s porthole, hoping to see a whale. On the journey, Harris contracts pneumonia, and Robert is assigned to take over his job of overseeing the horses. After Robert injures his knees during a storm that rocks the ship, he and Harris are disembarked together and form a close friendship during their stay at the infirmary. Harris’s pneumonia worsens and Robert takes his leave in London so that he can continue to visit him, feeling inexplicably drawn to Harris in the same way that he was drawn to his sister Rowena. Juliet d’Orsey, in retrospect, believes that Robert was emotionally in love with him. After Harris succumbs to his illness and dies, Robert is unable to get in touch with his estranged family and, to his horror, Harris is cremated. Given Harris’s love of the ocean, Robert, Barbara d’Orsey, and Captain Taffler decide to scatter his ashes on the River Thames as a makeshift “burial at sea.”

Harris Quotes in The Wars

The The Wars quotes below are all either spoken by Harris or refer to Harris. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Trauma and War Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Australia edition of The Wars published in 1995.
Part 2, Chapter 9 Quotes

All he wanted was a dream. Escape. But nobody dreams on a battlefield. There isn’t any sleep that long. Dreams and distance are the same. If he could run away…like Longboat. Put on his canvas shoes and the old frayed shirt and tie the cardigan around his waist and take on the prairie…But he kept running into Taffler. Throwing stones. And Harris.

Related Characters: Robert Ross, Captain Eugene Taffler, Harris
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 12 Quotes

You live when you live. No one else can ever live your life and no one else will ever know what you know. Then was then. Unique. And how does one explain it? You had a war. Every generation has a war—except this one. But that’s beside the point. The thing is not to make excuses for the way you behaved—not to take refuge in tragedy—but to clarify who you are through your response to when you lived. If you can’t do that, then you haven’t made your contribution to the future. Think of any great man or woman. How can you separate them from the years in which they lived? You can’t. Their greatness lies in their response to that moment.

Related Characters: Lady Juliet d’Orsey (speaker), Robert Ross, Harris
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

And what I hate these days is the people who weren’t there and they look back and say we became inured. Your heart froze over—yes. But to say we got used to it! God—that makes me so angry! No. Everything was sharp. Immediate. Men and women like Robert and Barbara—Harris and Taffler…you met and you saw so clearly and cut so sharply into one another’s lives. So there wasn’t any rubbish. You lived without the rubbish of intrigue and the long drawn-out propriety of romance and you simply touched the other person with your life.

Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:
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Harris Character Timeline in The Wars

The timeline below shows where the character Harris appears in The Wars. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 21
Trauma and War Theme Icon
...is placed in a stateroom with Clifford Purchas, Captain Ord, and a young soldier named Harris. A storm appears to be brewing, and there is a commotion on deck when horses... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 23
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Harris, another one of Robert’s cabinmates, catches pneumonia and is sent to the infirmary. Ord, who... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 28
Trauma and War Theme Icon
...the surrounding rocks. Robert falls on the steps, badly bruising his legs, so he and Harris are disembarked together on stretchers. (full context)
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
From the quay, Robert and Harris watch the soldiers round up the horses and drive them toward the nearest street. The... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 9
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
...to escape into a dream or run away like Longboat, but thoughts of Taffler and Harris keep him awake.:” (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
...novel flashes back to January 1916. Arriving in England on the S.S. Massanabie, Robert and Harris are sent to an old country house where the C.F.A. keeps its reserve brigades. They... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
...day with Lady Juliet d’Orsey, she recalls that her sister Barbara met Robert because of Harris and Jamie Villiers, the bandaged man Barbara and Taffler visited in the hospital. Jamie was... (full context)
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
...the Somme Offensive on July 1, 1916. Juliet says that Robert was in love with Harris in the same way Jamie and Clive loved each other—not erotically, but emotionally. She believes... (full context)
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Harris, who had a poetic soul, loved to tell stories about men lost at sea and... (full context)
Part 4
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
...read the deaths of 557,017 people thus far in the novel, including Monty Miles Raymond, Harris, and Rowena Ross. (full context)