Ad Hominem Attacks Aimed to Discredit Pacifists

John McCrae.jpg

John McCrae and his dog Bonneau during the First World War. Courtesy of the Osler Library Print Collection, McGill University (Print OPF000110).

“Rilla was wildly busy all day, helping to decorate the Glen hall and seeing to a hundred last things. The evening was beautiful, in spite of the fact that Mr. Pryor was reported to have said that he ‘hoped it would rain pitch forks points down,’ and to have wantonly kicked Miranda's dog as he said it.”

L. M. Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside. NY: Stokes, 1921, p. 76.

Just as “In Flanders Fields” author Lieutenant John McCrae had a loyal canine side-kick in his companion Bonneau, perhaps one of the most memorable characters in Rilla is Jem's loyal Dog Monday who goes to the train station to see his owner off to war and remains there faithfully until Jem returns years later.

A canine character of lesser prominence is Miranda Pryor's dog, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Mr. Pryor disliked dogs, so Miranda believed naming him after her father's favourite politician would go some way to appease him. The choice of name is in itself ironic since Laurier actually favoured the war effortthus making Pryor appear confused or simply stupid. In addition, the violent attack on an innocent dog perpetrated by a pacifist directly invokes the reader's revulsion, not just because of the immorality of the act, but also for its symbolic nod to Jem's Dog Monday. Such ad hominem attacks on pacifists aim to discredit them not by direct response to their views but by discrediting them personally as moral agents.

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