The events described in The Wars occurred during the First World War, a violent and traumatizing conflict of an unheard scale. Modern weapons have transformed both the psychological and physical aspects of combat, as these powerful weapons have separated and dehumanized hostile forces while causing enormous turmoil. This passive method of warfare had a negative impact on the spirit, mind, and body of the individuals and has been criticized in the novel. Apart from its direct impact on soldiers, World War I resets the belief system and perspectives established by humankind in the face of large-scale struggles that changed and challenged geopolitical, cultural, and personal boundaries. It had a significant impact on the entire civilization because it was difficult to handle. The author raised many issues that primarily influenced his attitude towards life. The issue of conformity and nonconformity could be analyzed in relation to the concerns mentioned in The Wars.
Throughout the novel, Robert Ross faces various sufferings, many of which cannot be reasonably attributed to individual force. In The Wars, Robert addresses his guilt about the horrors of the First World War, trying to instigate a false meaning of justice. Robert makes him act according to morality, seeking justice in a way that sacrifices his life and the lives of innocent people. However, such an intention to look for justice in the circumstances of war brings more challenges and losses instead. Through the sequence of the main character’s actions, decisions, and behaviors, the author demonstrates the reality of conformity and nonconformity and how they can co-exist in the given context. In addition, by using conformity and nonconformity, the novel displays the role of large groups in society and the position of individuals who do not fit into those communities.
Conformity in The Wars
Conformity is defined as the act of aligning one’s actions, attitudes, and views with like-minded people, political actions, or group norms. People in society prefer to follow existing rules, customs and beliefs rather than invent new ones. This can occur in large and small groups but often leads to unconscious social effects or social pressure. The demand for protection from groups of people with the same traits, for example, culture, leads to conformity, which also refers to groupthink. Fair assessments of other cultural and personal views are often overlooked as a result—failure to adapt to these social pressures risks being rejected. Conformity is determined by an individual’s aptitude and willingness to integrate into a culture or group.
The character whose behavior carries traits of conformity is Juliet and her attitude towards Robert Ross. Whenever someone has tried to compare her to Barbara, Juliet’s sister, the behavior associated with conformity appears. Juliet and Barbara represented different types of women in modern society. Barbara was portrayed as a woman with low responsibility for her actions and unserious views towards relationships. Juliet, in contrast, was a more responsible, calm, and reserved woman. However, when she has met Ross, she started to act differently by changing her dressings and behavior in front of him. I see this case as a representation of conformity as Juliet was conforming to the social pressure. She came up with a decision to join and adjust to the beliefs and type of behavior of the group of women in modern society.
Juliet’s changing behavior, as she started to age, could also represent a form of conformity. To be more specific, the changes demonstrate how nonconformity can switch to conformity. When Juliet begins to become older, she starts to realize that her actions might be inappropriate in some cases. She says that “I’ve blundered into everything I know. I’ve blundered into rooms and I’ve blundered into danger and I’ve blundered into other people’s lives” (Findley 154). Juliet understood that she has a responsibility for the consequences of her deeds, such as interfering with other people’s lives.
Nonconformity in The Wars
Deviations from standards, specifications or exceptions are called nonconformities. Misunderstandings and lack of motivation are two common causes of incompatibility. Incompatibility is commonplace in today’s society and is defined as refusing to adapt to social forces and committing to one’s beliefs. The novel The Wars contains various examples and cases of nonconformities. Another case of Juliet’s behavior represents her non-conformity at the beginning of the novel. She is used to be an innocent young woman whose beliefs and views upon life did not match those of the other adults, especially in war. She had decided to organize a mass for Robert Ross’s death. She said, “The poor dreaded man would never have forgiven me, of course, – but you have to understand what it means to be able to order a Mass and I knew I’d never have the opportunity again” (Findley 141). I think that this represents that Juliet had treated mass like a celebration rather than paying respect to the deceased person.
Next, I see the fact that Robert Ross has escaped from feeling guilty about his sister’s death is also related to non-conformity. Thus, there was no reason to refuse his orders; however, he did so. In addition, Ross did not accept treatment when he was injured and chose to “commit to life despite death” (Findley 2016). He had expressed a will to die painfully and slowly, which also indicates nonconformity in the novel. Finally, I see Ross’s opposition to the army as a form of nonconformity. Until a particular point, Ross obeyed all orders from his military superiors. However, he did not follow the instruction to burn the horse, and he killed his superior to save both the animal and himself. Ross’s love for animals is evident from the beginning of the novel. Despite the failure, his disobedience indicates a form of nonconformity.
To conclude, The Wars contains many examples representing conformity and nonconformity. Conformity is the process of changing values and views by accepting new ones to fit into the particular community. Pressure from the community or group is the main motivation for conformity. The story narrated by Robert Ross in The War shows both conformity and nonconformity. Ross’s decision to join the army in order not to feel guilty for his sister’s death is one of the examples of conformity in the novel. However, after joining the army and eliminating the feeling of guilt, he has changed his behavior to nonconformity. It was proved by the case when he refused to follow the superior’s order. Despite the fact that Ross has changed his behavior to nonconformity at the end of the story, it resulted in death for him. The message of such an ultimate sequence is that the bigger groups will still stay dominating, and they will expect everyone to adjust to their culture, rules, and beliefs. The issue of conformity and nonconformity finds its relation to the social concerns through the behavior and metamorphosis of the main characters, primarily Ross.
Findley, Timothy. The Wars. Penguin Books, 1996.