The Wars

The Wars

by

Timothy Findley

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The Wars: Part 5, Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
According to the narration, the mythology of the events after this point is “muddled.” Some say that Robert galloped through La Chodrelle like a “raving cowboy” with the horses and deliberately trampled a cordon of soldiers. This account does not match up with Robert’s court martial transcript.
The differing accounts of Robert’s actions suggests that the blame he receives for his actions may not be fully warranted and shows the subjectivity of individuals’ judgments. Whereas Robert is seemingly motivated by a sense of justice for Devlin and the animals, others view his actions as antithetical to a soldier’s duty to obey orders.
Themes
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
A more likely version of events is that Robert and the horses made a detour around the woods near La Chodrelle and woke the troops of Major Mickle, whose bivouac was nearby. Witnesses claim that a soldier named Private Cassles went out unarmed to prevent Robert from passing and that Robert shot and killed him. Ultimately, it is uncertain what happened up until the point that Mickle sent word to Bailleul that a C.F.A. officer had killed one of his men and made off with a large number of horses toward Magdalene Wood.
Again, Findley intentionally obscures the truth of Robert’s actions, preventing the reader from being able to make a clear judgment of his morality. The reader’s experience of this parallels the blurring of moral lines that soldiers experience while at war, as they are often forced to commit terrible acts for what is deemed to be the greater good.
Themes
Trauma and War Theme Icon
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon
Honor, Duty, and Heroism Theme Icon
Due to the chaos in Bailleul, it takes some time for them to discover that the horses are indeed missing and that no one had been given permission to remove them. Mickle is assigned to capture Robert, and within a few hours he and forty men set off to pursue him on foot.
Having taken on the role of moral arbiter in shooting Captain Leather, Robert is now on the receiving end of justice. The reader already knows that Robert will not get away with his actions (given that he is eventually arrested and court martialed), a reality which suggests that enacting revenge in the context of war is futile, and will only come back to haunt the individual.
Themes
Blame, Revenge, and Justice Theme Icon