Choose a novel or play in which a central character leaves home yet finds that home remains significant. Write a well-developed essay in which you analyze the importance of “home” to this character and the reasons for its continuing influence. Explain how the character’s idea of home illuminates the larger meaning of the world.
“The spaces between the perceiver and the thing perceived cam…be closed with a shout of recognition. One from of a shout is a shot. Nothing so completely verifies our perception of a thing as our killing of it.”
Home can never be defined as a place, for it is only a memory of comfort, innocence, and ordinarity carried out throughout one’s life. An individual may even declare it as history due to how far removed it is from the present, and in doing so, one is only able to experience “home” through recollections triggered by people or events representative of emotions associated to one’s home. As developing creatures, humans are constantly changing and moving, therefore, straying further from one’s true origin; however, through the distance between past and present, one will become attached to remnants reminding them of the comfort, innocence, and the ordinarity home supplied. This connection between home and circumstance is exemplified in The Wars, as Timothy Findley demonstrates the impact the idea of home has on an ingenuous individual as he is removed from the presence of custom, and thrust into the extraordinary, unstable world; it is then he discovers solace in people, animals, and instances of humanity, but only truly acknowledges them after they cease to exist. Findley’s protagonist, Robert Ross exhibits this for he only truly defines home in cases when he is reminded of his beloved sister, Rowena- who is the epitome of virtue, despite the fragility of her condition.
As one develops their sense of “home” through the sheltered conventions of their lifestyle, they will begin to depend on the illusion of stability presented by their circumstances – causing them to be vulnerable to drastic change. Surrounded by family, animals, wealth, and freedom, Robert Ross associates these aspects of his life with home, yet only truly realizes their value after he must desert them following the death of Rowena. At this point in the novel, Robert has never experienced an occasion where he was left dejected, therefore, he is ignorant to life and the reality of the war occurring outside of his literal home, as well as the figurative home represented by his disabled sister, Rowena, “…She was the first human being he remembered seeing…When she smiled, he thought she was his mother. Later, when he came to realize she couldn’t walk and never left the chair, he became her guardian. (pg. 10)” In his infantry, Rowena symbolized a mother figure for Robert up until the moment he recognized he must preserve her purity and good-hearted nature; moreover, he relates her kindness with humankind, establishing a motif throughout the rest of the novel.However, Robert only discovers how foundational Rowena’s existence was to his explication of home after her sudden death. Thus, once one has become accustomed to a certain way of life, the thought of losing this security is unimaginable; nevertheless, when one’s home is destroyed unexpectedly, an individual will become desperate and propel themselves into parlous situations, such as war, whilst harbouring their acquired definition of home. With these intentions set out, one will be compelled by symbols and figures who exemplify these characteristics contrary to their dreary atmosphere. Robert Ross now manifests the innocence Rowena represents into an internal compass: guiding him towards sanctity symbolized by horses and individuals parallel to her, as he separates himself from his literal home.
Now in an environment opposite to one’s encapsulation of home, an individual, with a firm constitution defining their idea of sanctuary, will find themselves attracted to those who remind them of comfort amidst the chaos of their circumstances. This is due to the overwhelming need in humans to foster memories and associations as protection against outside forces prone to stripping them of aspects of home. After having lost his sense of home, in regards to his birthplace, he sets off to fight in the war- sailing in a ship full of men, illness, and horses,“He became intrigued with this world of horses, rats and bilge that had been consigned to his care. (pg.56).” Robert, unlike the others on the ship, finds peace, order, and a sense of comfort among the horses who are merely used as an asset to war, much like how Robert and other soldiers are considered disposable. His attitude towards horses is reflective of his love for and devotion to Rowena, reinforcing the presence of home he adapted from Rowena’s benevolent nature. When instructed to kill a horse with a broken leg, Robert’s “brain beg(ins) to stammer (pg 57), and he is confused to discover no one willing to stop him from killing the creature. Universally, horses represent travel, movement, and desire; therefore, when one identifies home within horses it remains within them throughout the course of their life, unless they are exterminated. Through creating connections between Robert and horses, Findley exhibits the humanity within animals in contrast to the lack of humanity demonstrated by people in war; overall,, this demonstrates the descend from innocence individuals separated from their ideals of home experience. By killing the horse, Robert has strayed further from his idea of home; ultimately, causing him to lose hope in humanity and himself- until he is met with an unexpected instance of abnormal kindness amongst the cruelty of war.
After one repeatedly observes the demise of their emotional and moral home, an individual will become accustomed to the lack of compassion and innocence missing from their circumstance; therefore, when an occasion of humanity occurs- one will only recognize it after it is destroyed. Be that as it may, the erosion of these principles affects one’s sense of self and one’s perception of the world in comparison to their perception of home. For instance, Robert has now witnessed the unconventional horrors of war and expects nothing more than brutality from his fellow officers. However, when challenged by the unnaturally peaceful presence of a German soldier, Robert acts on instinct developed by the reckless, aggressive behaviors instilled by the army; hence, Robert murders the German out of compulsion. Yet, Robert does not realize the German officer’s considerate intentions until after he has killed him. “He could have killed them(us) all. Surely that had been his intention. But he relented…Robert rose and walked away. The sound of it(a bird singing) would haunt him to the day he died. (pg. 131). Robert’s understanding of the German soldier’s benign intent, revealed only after Robert had destroyed it, correlates to the despair Robert experiences as he suffers the loss of his sense of home. Findley’s incorporation of the bird’s song, in relation to the murder of the German, conveys a final farewell to Robert’s initial components of home. He is abandoning all resistance against maintaining these values on account of the dissipation of home within himself through his reactions. He is unable to fathom a cohesion between his wholesome idea of home and the corrupt manners of war; as a result, Robert Ross becomes blind to the differences between home and circumstance. Henceforth, a scarred individual, previously definite in their conception of home- will exemplify an imbalance between home and circumstance-recognizing their beliefs in others solely after they reflect the lamented and hopeless atmosphere of their reality.
No matter how much an individual may attempt to defy progression, the course of life will not allow for the past to linger in the present. Even if one strives to preserve the essence of their comforts by maintaining memories of home- they will soon be obscured by the contrasting intensity of present circumstances. As demonstrated in Timothy Findley’s The Wars, the impact of home on an ingenuous individual manifests within him as he is removed from the presence of custom, and thrust into the extraordinary, unstable world; it is then he discovers solace in people, animals, and instances of humanity, but only truly acknowledges them after they cease to exist. Regardless, Robert will always identify home through acts of innocence, kindness, and humanity- yet can only comprehend these aspects after they are demolished. Consequently, he sees his ideals of home diminish before his eyes and reality conquer any control he strives to have over his perception of home: defined by his late sister (Rowena), horses, and unforeseen acts of kindness. Thus, soldiers in action, distanced from security, rely on their remembrances and morals acquired from childhood and to guide them along the perils of war. Due to the extreme polarities one experiences through their transition from comfort to chaos, one arrives to the conclusion: there is no return from the deterioration of a past sense of security, and there is simply no place like home.
feature image: Equineflo. “Equineflo.” Equine Flo, 18 Nov. 2015, equineflo.tumblr.com/post/133427186290.