By Timothy Findley (1977)
Robert Ross, a sensitive nineteen-year-old Canadian officer, went to war — The War to End All Wars. He found himself in the nightmare world of trench warfare, of mud and smoke, of chlorine gas and rotting corpses. In this world gone mad, Robert Ross performed a last desperate act to declare his commitment to life in the midst of death.
The novel won the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction in 1977.
2011— The parent of an Ontario high school student complained to the Bluewater District School Board about the use of this novel in Grade 12 English literature classes.
Objection — Speaking on behalf of a small delegation of parents, the parent objected to depictions of sex and violence in the novel. She especially objected to a character’s visit to a whorehouse and depictions of a homosexual gang rape. She said the novel was “inappropriate to be presented to a class of young people,” worried about the book’s effect on the minds of students and asked the board to review the novel. The parent denied that she was asking for censorship.
Update — Students and other people in the community defended the novel’s literary value and argued for the book’s continued use in English classes. The school board referred theissue to a textbook review committee which consisted of secondary school teachers, student senators and other staff. Later in the year, the committee recommended that The Wars be kept in the secondary school curriculum.
1991 — In Lambton County (ON), a high school student asked that the novel be removed from the English curriculum.
Objection — A passage describes the rape of a Canadian soldier by his fellow officers during World War I. The book was said to pressure students to accept homosexuality.
Update — The school board upheld use of the book at the OAC (formerly Grade 13) level.
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