Poole makes chicken stew for the men in the dugout, which is well-furnished, “civilized,” and “proper” compared to most. Over dinner, Levitt insults Bonnycastle by quoting Clausewitz’s suggestion that the artillery is absurd. Rodwell defuses the tension by changing the subject to animals and bonding with Levitt over their shared love of horses. Rodwell, who illustrates children’s books, thinks of his toad as a companion and jokes that its military rank is Field Marshal.
Findley uses Levitt’s interest in Clausewitz’s military strategy to make a commentary about war’s absurdity. Though Levitt has previously exhibited dutiful self-sacrifice in saving Robert and Poole, he clearly views World War I (and modern warfare in general) as a senseless, needlessly violent conflict. This offends Bonnycastle, who, like many other men, finds meaning in his role as a soldier. Rodwell’s ease in diffusing this ideological conflict shows how eager the soldiers are to find an innocent escape from their troubles.