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and vermin. This only further exemplifies his compassion for the lives of even of the smallest of creatures.Among other animal imagery, birds appear frequently throughout the story in times of crisis. The birds often foreshadow dangers that lie ahead. For instance, when Robert’s team takesa wrong turn, “the fog is full of noises”(80) of birds. Then the birds fly out of the ditch and disappear. Robert and Poole know that “[there] must be something terribly wrong…but neither one knew how to put it into words. The birds, being gone, had taken some mysterious presence with them. There was an awful sense of void–as if the world had been emptied” (81). The birds return and when Robert nears the collapsing dike and “one of the birds [flies] up cut[s] across Robert’s path” as if it is trying to prevent him from going any further. Robert does not heed the warning and almost dies in the sinking mud. Another ominous bird appears when Robert and his men are close to enemy lines. The bird “[sings] over their heads” (136) causing Robert to look upto see the deadly gas creeping towards his crew. He is able to react quickly and save most of his men. Soon after, the same bird sings again: “one long note descending; three that [waver]” (142).Then Robert sees the German soldier whom Robert ends up killing when he thinks that the man
Jayantharaj 4is reaching for a gun. Robert realizes that the German was only reaching for his binoculars, even though there is a sniper rifle sitting right beside him. He wonders why the man did not kill them all, and then he hears the bird sing once again, its song wavering “on the brink of sadness. That was why (146). The bird sings sorrowfully for the horror and tragedy of war, along with the unnecessary loss of life. This scene is also foreshadowed by Robert’s run with the coyote, where the coyote didn’t hunt all the badgers it saw. In Robert’s case, he is the prey and the sniper is the hunter who, like the coyote, didn’t kill unnecessarily. Impending danger is also shown by rabbits when Robert was on road with a convey set for St. Eloi. Right before a bomb exploded, Robert saw “a rabbit, beside the road,”(197) which then quickly disappeared. Towards the end of the novel, another threat is foreshadowed by another animal. Right before shells fall near Robert andDevlin, they are described as being “rolled [up] like hedgehogs” (201). This is similar to how Rodwell’s hedgehog is described before it gets killed by a gas attack.