The abundant animal imagery in Timothy Findley's book The Wars is used to develop characterization and theme. The protagonist, Robert Ross, has a deep connection with animals that reflects his personality and the situations that he faces. This link between Robert and the animals shows the reader that human nature is not much different than animal nature. .
The animals in this story are closely related to the characters, especially the character of Robert. Rodwell acknowledges Robert's close union with animals when he draws Robert in his sketchbook as "the only human form" among sketches of animals (155). When Robert sees the drawing, he notices that "the shading [is] not quite human"; it is a combination of animal and human qualities, like Robert's own personality (155). "Modified and mutated, he [is] one with the others" (155). Rodwell's sketchbook reveals the melding of Robert with the animal world. .
Robert's encounter with the coyote is a significant step in his understanding of animals and, in turn, this leads to a greater understanding of himself. For Robert to be a soldier, it is important for him to see the point of view of a hunter. He learns from the coyote that a hunter must be generous and kill only in order to survive ("Animals and Their Significance" 1). Robert follows the coyote and watches as it passes two gophers and does not even "pause to scuffle the burrows or even sniff at them. It just [goes] right on trotting--forward towards its goal" (26). The coyote seems to sense Robert's connection with animals and realizes that he is not a threat. This is why the coyote continues to let Robert follow behind when it knows he is there. They drink together at the river, enjoying a "special communion" (Pirie 73). Then the animal tries to communicate with Robert by barking at him, "telling Robert the valley [is] vacant: safe" and then barks another three times to announce its departure (28).