The Agency and Recognition of Animals in the First World War and Its Aftermath in Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse and Megan Rix’s A Soldier’s Friend
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This thesis aims to discuss the contribution of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse (1982) and Megan Rix’s A Soldier’s Friend (2014), both portraying animal characters in leading roles, towards the recognition of the actions of animals in warfare and the agency ascribed to animals in these novels. In this study the concept of agency is introduced from different perspectives ranging from the classical approaches focusing only on the willful actions of humans, to the more encompassing ones focusing on the effect of the actions. This approach makes it possible that animals also could be regarded as active agents in certain conditions, particularly in warfare. The presence of different species of animals in the wars throughout history shows that their capabilities and actions have a significant importance to humans in war. Certain research efforts began in the 1990s attempt to understand the factors that affect the dynamics of warfare in a different light by not only analyzing tactics, weapons and terrain but also animals and their roles in the fighting. While these studies based on facts enable contributions of animals to the war efforts to be officially recognized, the fictional works reach wider audiences affecting public opinion and bring about a change towards an encompassing attitude. In this thesis the focus is to illustrate how that change in opinion might be affected through the employment of animal characters in the selected novels. This mentioned effect can be achieved in two ways. Firstly in War Horse, it is shown that this change is affected by emphasizing an emotional bond and similarities between the human and animal characters to get recognition via sympathy. Differently, as exemplified in A Soldier’s Friend, a change in opinion can be actualized by the utilization of strategic events and conversations to didactically illustrate the agency and significance of animals.