Drowning into Insanity


Findley’s unique style and excellent use of diction create an atmosphere which is intense and exciting. Through Robert’s struggle with the mud and internal conflict, Timothy Findley is able to emphasize the endeavours of war which is not talked about nor known about. Desperation expressed by Robert is done so with cleverly displayed syntax and organizational skills.


Findley’s diction heightens the anguish and panic experienced by Robert. A feeling of despair and distress is established by Robert’s attempt to free himself from the adamant and obstinate mud. The thought which runs through his mind immediately entering the mud is, “Dear Jesus – [I am] going to drown.” Through such passages, Findley introduces sort of a “hopeless struggle” which compounds enthusiasm of the scene. In addition, the tone is brought about by Robert’s contiguous thoughts “Don’t [die], he kept thinking; don’t.” When Robert helplessly attempts to cry out for help, but finds his voice is caught in his throat, the atmosphere becomes much like a deafened silence found in war movies; his surroundings become slow moving as the silence envelopes his awareness.


Now imagery. Timothy Findley successfully creates vivid images through the use of many descriptive words and sentence fragments to add effect and increase the reader’s awareness of what Robert is going through. “The mud spread wider over his thighs. It began to make a sucking noise at the back of his legs. The fog came down like a muffler over his face.” The fog and the mud are both obvious and yet the most brazen images of the passage; both images play a negative role in enervating Robert’s ability to see or move. Tone and attitude are established through the negative imagery; “The back of [Robert’s] head went all the way down and into the slush. In and out and in and out. With his buttocks clenched and his knees… He began to realize his knees were spreading wider and wider and his groin began to shudder. Warm.” Arguably, the imagery creates a sort of sexual energy or aura for the reader. However, the overall effect of the passage constructs a debilitated struggle experienced by Robert.


In essence, the limited omniscient point of view allows the reader to feel Robert’s panic and other emotions effectively. “[Robert] could see his knees. He began to pull at his legs with his hands. Nothing happened. Absolutely nothing.” The reader is able to feel Robert’s distress while still having a broad view of the entire scene. Both the reader and Robert experience a sudden sense of hope, followed by vulnerability. Failure. In addition, “[Robert’s] gloves were filled with mud and nothing would hold to them.” However, through his desperation, “he tore them off and locked his hands behind his right knee.” The reader encounters a jolt of hope, but at the same time, continues to feel Robert’s endless battle with the tormenting mud. The limited omniscient narration shows a chance of survival for Robert; a ray of hope. Ultimately, the reader, too, feels a sigh of relief as Robert slowly gains control of the mud.


Findley’s organization aids in demonstrating Robert’s torture in the mud. It carries the reader from Robert simply getting lost through to his reluctant escape. It begins with the setting and a vivid description of the harsh conditions in which soldiers must face daily. Later on, the climax is when Robert tries to forcefully “force his pelvis forward and up” out of the mud. A brief denouement is achieved when Robert’s knees “[spread] wider and wider and his groin began to shudder.” The passage allows for a short pause and settling of the plot to build suspense. Following is a second climax when “[Robert] tore [his gloves] off and locked his hands behind his right knee.” The resolution which proceeds adds a note of relief to the reader as “[Robert’s] leg began to move.” Slowly after that, he is able to free the rest of his body until “he was free.” The final moments of the passage while Robert gradually frees himself allow the reader to truly feel his desire to escape. His desperation.


Finally, to complete the circle of these literary devices, we have syntax. Findley employs his syntax in an able