The sound of it would haunt him to the day he died 131 Robert is haunted by

The sound of it would haunt him to the day he died

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and sang and sang, till Robert rose and walked away. The sound of it would haunt him to the day he died. (131) Robert is haunted by this act because of the innocence of the eighteen year-old boy he kills. The bird above crying out in sorrow echoes the sadness of both this killing of an innocent and a loss of Robert’s own innocence. Robert’s process of dehumanization also comes from the belonging he finds with animals and likewise the associations of animals with the people he belongs with. Whenever Robert is with animals, he feels comfortable and at home. We first see this in his encounter with the coyote. Robert has no worry whatsoever that the animal will attack him, or that he will get lost in following it. He follows until they reach their destination, which is, as Findley puts it simply, “safe” (27). Later on in the novel, we get to see where Robert goes in his mind when he dreams of home: “when he fell on his bed, fully clothed, he fell through a clouded countryside of small white barns and cows in yards and he slept to the sound of the water lapping his father’s feet and of nightingales in an unnamed wood” (167). Robert’s “happy place” is filled with cows and birds and excludes human creatures. In conclusion, animals shape Robert Ross’s identity by providing his moral standards, whereas humans in war lack any sense of morality. This leads him to value dehumanization and reject faith in humanity. The essence of this statement lies in the moment just before Robert shoots Captain Leather and takes off with the horses. Robert has a sort-of epiphany regarding the
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relationship man has to animals: “if an animal had done this—we would call it mad and shoot it” (184). As humans, we see ourselves so superior to animals, and yet had they committed the acts of violence done during The War, we would consider them monstrous creatures. So that begs the question—what kind of creature are we?
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  • Fall '16
  • JANE SMITH

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