The Wars

The Wars

by

Timothy Findley

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Lady Barbara d’Orsey Character Analysis

The third child of the Marquis and Marchioness of St. Aubyn’s, who own St. Aubyn’s abbey in London. She is the sister of Juliet, Clive, Michael, and Temple d’Orsey. Barbara first meets Robert Ross at the hospital in London where she and Captain Taffler are visiting Jamie Villiers and Robert is visiting Harris. Barbara is serially attracted to athletic, heroic men and jumps between romantic affairs with several different soldiers throughout the story. Before the war, she is envious of her brother Clive’s close friendship with Jamie, and eventually steals him away from another women when he comes home as a decorated hero. After Jamie returns to war and his entire body is burned in a fire, Barbara acts cold and disinterested in him during her hospital visits. She moves onto relationships with Taffler and Major Terry, and begins an affair with Robert when he comes to stay at St. Aubyn’s, which is converted into a convalescence hospital during World War I. As with Jamie, she ceases to care for Robert after he is disfigured by a fire.

Lady Barbara d’Orsey Quotes in The Wars

The The Wars quotes below are all either spoken by Lady Barbara d’Orsey or refer to Lady Barbara d’Orsey. 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 12 Quotes

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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Lady Barbara d’Orsey Character Timeline in The Wars

The timeline below shows where the character Lady Barbara d’Orsey appears in The Wars. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2, Chapter 10
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
One evening at the hospital, Robert runs into Taffler and a woman named Lady Barbara d’Orsey, who are there to visit a man encased in bandages. Taffler briefly says something... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
In the present day, Barbara’s sister, Lady Juliet d’Orsey (now in her seventies), still remembers Robert vividly. She is the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
...an interview from the present 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... (full context)
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
Juliet reflects that Jamie and Clive were in love and remembers that Barbara stole Jamie away from another woman when he returned from war as a decorated hero.... (full context)
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
...humanity’s raw vulnerability and foster deep connections. Juliet reflects that this reality is what made Barbara’s silence in Jamie’s presence at the hospital so cruel—she refused to give anything of herself... (full context)
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
...Harris was cremated instead, which horrified Robert. In lieu of a burial at sea, Robert, Barbara, and Taffler decided to scatter Harris’s ashes on the Thames River. (full context)
Part 4
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Juliet’s sister Barbara, who is interested in another soldier at the abbey named Major Terry, is also drawn... (full context)
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Juliet and Barbara’s brother Clive arrives at St. Aubyn’s with a large group of friends, all of whom... (full context)
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
One afternoon, Juliet picks daffodils to take to Captain Taffler. She sees Robert and Barbara come out of Taffler’s room and embrace. A short while later, Juliet goes into Taffler’s... (full context)
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Barbara’s attraction to Robert quickly develops into an affair. Juliet is jealous of her sister because... (full context)
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
...spying on people and “blundering” into places where she does not belong. When she sees Barbara go into Robert’s room one night, she decides to pull a prank on them by... (full context)
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
...stop crying. Clive comes to sit with her, and she asks him why Robert and Barbara are so afraid. Clive replies that it is because “everyone they’ve loved has died.”  After... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 15
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
...no hope” that he will ever be able to walk, see, or function normally again. Barbara d’Orsey only visits Robert once, but Juliet rarely leaves his side as he recovers from... (full context)