The Wars

The Wars

by

Timothy Findley

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The Wars: Part 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narration switches to another interview with Lady Juliet d’Orsey in the present day, in which she shares memories from her childhood diaries from World War I. Flashing back to this period of time, the d’Orsey family owns an abbey called St. Aubyn’s in the idyllic English village of Stourbridge. Juliet’s father, the Marquis of St. Aubyn’s, despises his family and reluctantly allows his wife, Lady Emmeline, to convert their abbey into a convalescence hospital for soldiers. Around March of 1916, Robert returns from the Battle of St. Eloi and receives an invitation (bearing Captain Taffler’s forged signature) to go stay at St. Aubyn’s.
Because the casualties of World War I were greatly underestimated, it was common for private homes and other buildings to be converted into hospitals for wounded and mentally ill soldiers. The willingness of citizens to open their homes to the troops suggests that the public generally venerated soldiers as heroes and were sympathetic to the trauma they experienced at war—a sentiment that was not as common in the Vietnam War era, when Findley published The Wars.
Themes
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
Twelve-year-old Juliet is a curious, precocious child whose only playmate is her five-year-old sister Temple. She takes an immediate liking to Robert and admires his physical appearance. The two chat about their families, and Juliet tells Robert that his room at St. Aubyn’s is haunted by a ghost named Lady Sorrel, instructing him to blow out the candles in the room if the ghost lights them. Robert inquires about Taffler several times, and when he is finally taken to Taffler’s room he is shocked to discover that his acquaintance has lost both of his arms in battle.
Juliet’s intelligent, observant nature is similar to Robert’s, a parallel that highlights how the war has caused him to stray away from the innocent child he used to be. Seeing Taffler’s terrible wounds reinforces this reality, as Robert has gone from an inexperienced adolescent who admired Taffler’s heroism to a soldier who has experienced the traumas of war firsthand.
Themes
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
Juliet’s sister Barbara, who is interested in another soldier at the abbey named Major Terry, is also drawn to Robert. Juliet sees Barbara leaving Major Terry’s room one night, and hears her sister call him a “jackass.” Juliet decides to slip a Pin the Tail on the Donkey game under Major Terry’s door as a prank; he assumes that it is from Barbara and leaves St. Aubyn’s soon after.
Juliet’s mischievous practical joke further highlights her innocence and serves as a contrast to the chaos around her. Despite the violence, trauma, and death that is rampant in the war, she is one of few characters in the novel who is able to retain her whimsical spirit.
Themes
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Juliet and Barbara’s brother Clive arrives at St. Aubyn’s with a large group of friends, all of whom are pacifists. Their other brother, Michael, hates these friends and fights with Clive because he believes they are hurting the morale of the war effort.
Clive’s friends are yet another example of the varied reactions that the trauma of the war brought about for civilians—whereas some were driven to madness (like Mrs. Ross) and some were patriotic and supported the war effort (like Miss Davenport), others opposed the war and refused to support the troops. This reality shows that war is a nuanced experience that has diverse effects on the general population as well as soldiers.
Themes
Trauma and War Theme Icon
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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 room to give him the flowers and finds him kneeling on the floor with his bandages unraveled and blood spurting from the stumps where his arms were amputated. The walls are streaked with blood where he had rubbed his wounds to harm himself. Juliet calls for help and Taffler is taken to have an operation. Juliet, knowing that Taffler did not want to live, feels both guilty and glad that she saved him from bleeding to death.
Seeing Taffler in this state is an example of the metaphorical wars being fought by both soldiers and civilians during World War I. Although Juliet does not experience combat directly, she is traumatized by the effects she witnesses through Taffler’s injuries and mental illness. Her actions are undeniably heroic, yet, like Robert’s dilemmas during the war (such as saving the trapped rat and shooting the German soldier), her decision to save Taffler is morally complex. Although Juliet knows that saving him will doom him to a life that he does not want to live, she also has an inherent respect for life that prevents her from letting him die. Her lingering guilt after the incident shows how traumatic events can cause individuals to blame themselves.
Themes
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
Barbara’s attraction to Robert quickly develops into an affair. Juliet is jealous of her sister because she, too, is in love with him. She notices that Robert has a bad temper in private and has “a great deal of violence inside him.”  Robert goes to have an operation for the knee injuries he sustained during the Battle of St. Eloi and returns to St. Aubyn’s for two weeks of convalescence.
Both Robert’s relationship with Barbara and his newly-developed tendency for violent outbursts suggests that the horrors he has witnessed at war have forced him to mature and abandon the sexual and moral innocence he had as a new soldier.
Themes
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
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Juliet reflects that everything she has learned has been a consequence of 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 dressing up as the ghost of Lady Sorrel and sneaking into Robert’s room to scare them. Opening the door to the room, Juliet is shocked to see Robert and Barbara having violent sex. To Juliet, it looks like Robert hates Barbara and is trying to kill her. She runs away and feels traumatized, reflecting that “I know things now I didn’t want to know.”
The fact that Juliet’s innocence is disrupted by Robert and Barbara having violent sex is tragically ironic, given that Robert was similarly disturbed when he witnessed Taffler roleplaying as a horse and a rider with another man in Part 1, Chapter 17. Having gone from the one losing his innocence to the one who causes another person to lose their innocence, this passage shows that Robert’s sobering experiences at war have changed him from an inexperienced boy who was terrified of sex into a man with violent sexual impulses.
Themes
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
The next day, Juliet feels terribly guilty and cannot 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 healing from his surgery, Robert departs from St. Aubyn’s, leaving Rodwell’s sketchbooks behind for Juliet. As a gesture of apology for intruding on him and Barbara, Juliet gives Robert a package with Lady Sorrel’s candles and a box of matches.
Again, Juliet’s guilt demonstrates the tendency for traumatized individuals to blame themselves for what they have witnessed. Her question to Clive suggests that despite her innocence, she is wise beyond her years, since she has clearly reflected since the night before and come to believe that Robert and Barbara’s intense relationship stems from fear rather than hatred. This significant incident likely informed the opinions Juliet holds as in adult, such as in Part 2, Chapter 12, when she states her belief that the war stripped down people’s propriety and brought them closer together.
Themes
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence Theme Icon
Finishing up her story, Juliet reflects that Clive did not think the Great War generation would ever be forgiven for their actions, but he hoped people would at least remember them as human beings. The narration shifts away from this interview with Juliet and states that the reader has read the deaths of 557,017 people thus far in the novel, including Monty Miles Raymond, Harris, and Rowena Ross.
Clive’s opinion about the war is another echo of Juliet’s sentiments in Part 2, Chapter 12. Rather than harboring blame, denial, or resentment, Clive is honest about the atrocities of the war and believes that people’s actions are merely reactions to their particular circumstances.
Themes
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
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