Independence, something we all desire. From our time in teenage-hood towards the dawn of maturity, we all look forward to it. The concept of independence brings with it a sense of freedom and thrill. While independence is seen as a necessity, it goes hand in hand with maintaining a meaningful relationship. Too much can be detrimental whereas too little can also cause conflict. Where does one draw the line? It’s a complex world we live in, in which everything we do needs a balance. Our sense of independence is the peanut butter and jelly to the bread of relationships with others. The key to all this is mutual understanding. Where there is understanding, there is a sense of trust, and where there is trust there is an opportunity for an individual to obtain their personal sense of independence. Enclosure under circumstances in which maintaining a relationship or a bond, can really limit an individual’s sense of independence, and leave their life in a spiral of conflict and confusion. Due to this, all an individual longs to obtain is a sense of freedom and independence. This is seen in “The Wars” by Timothy Findley as he portrays how mutual relationship plays a significant role in the lives of many, and how they address issues when given their independence.
Timothy Findley explores this idea of “mutual relationship” through characters such as Robert and his older Sister Rowena. The relationship between these two is one of understanding and comfort. When Robert was young, he mistook his sister as his mum because he often “saw her smiling into his crib”. To Robert, Rowena was his guardian, but later on, he considered himself hers. After the tragedy of Rowena’s death, Robert found himself lost in sadness and despair. The sense of independence, more so loneliness was too much for Robert to grip. It was as though he could no longer deal with life and the serious matters it threw at him with a clear mindset. This is seen as one of the main factors that pushed Robert to join the army and attempt to nourish his lost sense of independence. Robert felt like he was the one to blame as he had not been with Rowena that day she tragically fell to her death. This was one major event Robert constantly reflected on in “The Wars”.
Yes, Rowena?
Will you stay with me forever?
Yes Rowena.
Can the rabbits stay forever, too?
Yes Rowena.
This was forever. Now the rabbits had to be killed.
This conversation was one that was engraved into Robert’s mind as he broke his promise of not being by his sister’s side at all times. This caused a drastic change in Robert’s view of life and his assigned role. He no longer appeared to be the once sensitive Robert he used to be. He was numb from the inside. This could also be the reason he enrolled himself in the war. Perhaps to get away, and everyone in his family would both forget about what he did, and be content at his bravery of joining the war. In a way, a huge part of Robert died the day he stood at his sister’s funeral. Findley suggests in the concluding part of “The Wars” that Robert was becoming mentally and physically imbalanced. At times he could no longer function as a soldier or as a normal human being. It is quite ironic that after Rowena’s death, Robert wanted to link himself with the army, where death befriended too many. Due his lost mutual understanding with his sister, Robert without thinking things out properly chose to pursue his desired independence through enlisting in war, which proved to be more than what he had asked for and was the worst way to run from all his haunting problems.
Another side of independence and a balance of relationship is seen through Mrs. Ross and her bond with Robert’s. Mrs. Ross is portrayed as an obstinate women in the beginning of “The Wars”, yet as the story progresses, her stubbornness seems to be broken by the various tragedies that take place. Robert’s relationship with his mother prior to the death of his sister Rowena seems for the most part normal in the sense that Mrs. Ross shows her motherly concern for her son. For example when Robert collapsed after running around the block 25 times and Mrs. Ross was there to tend for his needs. Robert shows his mother her how much he respects her. However, it is in the face of unforeseen circumstances that Mrs. Ross’ relationship with her son takes a drastic turn into a frantic brawl on her behalf for what used to be a predictable and revitalising bond. After the death of Rowena, the Ross family seemed to have collapsed. Things seemed to be taking turns for the worst. Family members questioned whose liability it was. Robert had been the closest to Rowena, and for this reason Mrs. Ross decided that he would be the one who would eradicate her beloved rabbits. Mrs. Ross’ decision to burden Robert with her actions, and his failure to do so lead to the most revealing monologue appropriate to their rapport: “You think that Rowena belonged to you. Well I’m here to tell you, Robert, no one belongs to anyone. We’re all strangers. You here that? Strangers. I know what you want to do. I know that you’re going to go away and be a soldier. Well – you can go to hell. I’m not responsible. I’m just another stranger. Birth I can give you – but life I cannot. I can’t keep anyone alive. Not anymore.” Due to the conflict he endured with his mother Robert also seeked to pursue his part in joining the war. His sense of mutual understanding with that of his mother’s was perished and due to that Robert’s desires (as a young man) were out of anger and lead him to great desires for his independence. He almost saw this as a way to avoid “the music”.
It is very crucial to obtain a balance to things. It can prove difficult for an individual to control their desire for independence, especially when there isn’t a mutual understanding in a relationship with others. Having both ends of a relationship meet, entirely benefits each individual involved. This way there is a chance for trust to bloom, and with that trust there is always a gateway present for obtaining ones desired independence.