Regeneration Essay, Research Paper
The authorial purpose of Pat Barker and Wilfred Owen is to present the harsh reality, of World War 1 and to shock and move us through their portrayals of the horrors at the front and their consequences. Discuss.
Regeneration is deliberately set in a psychiatric hospital, Craiglockhart, and this location highlights some of the major issues of war. Pat Barkers intention in terms of location is obviously because this emphasises some of the key elements of WW1 she wishes to explore, such as the mental trauma that the trenches caused, the often suicidal battle plans of those in charge of the conflict, plus other issues of hierarchical command. From the very beginning the experiences of the patients provide a disturbing insight into the effects of war on the soldiers. Within this hospital, which should be the soldiers sanctuary, their haven we are shocked and moved by Barkers portrayal of events as we realise that the men are seen as unmanly and degenerate for being in hospital.
Barker uses the central character of senior psychiatrist Rivers through his therapy with the patients to highlight their war experiences and the horrific effects of those on them. She employs a mix of fictional and historical characters, for example Rivers and the Poets Sassoon and Owen who, suffering from shell shock were at Craiglockhart in 1916. Barker in her research for the novel has clearly immersed herself in the writings of the World War 1 poets, the greatest of whom is undoubtedly Owen. His poems shock and move us even nearly a century later, through their graphic imagery, realism and appeals to the senses that almost bombard us.
Barker is equally adept at using powerful description and symbolism. In my view one of the most disturbing scenes in Regeneration is where we are forced to witness the horrors that soldiers in a different psychiatric hospital who have Yealland to treat them instead of Rivers, face. Barker makes everything about Yealland seem sinister, especially during River s visit.
Barker makes Yealland s treatment of his patients appear more shocking by building the tension and feeling of horror as Rivers enters Queen Square to visit Yealland, another physician dealing with the psycho-neuroses of war . We realise there is something sinister and not right when Rivers judged it more expedient than pleasant that he should accept an invitation to visit Queens Square, where Yealland practises. We are told that Rivers night had been more disturbed than usual and this foreshadows that he is about to witness something awful. The reader is given an anticipating feeling of dread as Barker describes how Rivers pushed through the swing doors on to a long empty, shining corridor which as he began to walk down seemed to elongate . These bleak descriptions of the hospital corridor, make it seem never ending, and could symbolise how the soldiers can t escape, not only from their experiences of war but of the experiences they have to undergo at the hands of Yealland. The vivid description of the corridor makes it seem very eerie, and unnatural as we hear a place that contains millions of men seems devoid of life. Barker compares the hospital to a landscape apparently devoid of life that actually contained millions of men which makes the hospital and Rivers visit to Yealland seem more sinister before we have even met Yealland. I think this represents that although the men are still physically alive, mentally they were dead as soon as they were put out to fight for the war through the events they had to endure.
When we meet Yealland we are also introduced to Callan, a soldier who has fought in and been affected by many battles. Barker moves the reader when Yealland poignantly and coldly lists all of the battles Callan has fought in. It is the way Yealland is so casual and comfortable when he lists Mons, The Marne, Aisne, first and second Ypres, Hill 60, Neuve-Chapelle, Loos, Armenti res, the Somme and Arr s that disturbs the reader. Barker does this to highlight why Callan might be mute and to emphasise how Yealland has no idea what it would have been like to fight in any one of those battles. Yealland would have no concept of the pain and heart-rendering horror that this soldier must have endured: he clearly does not even acknowledge the huge psychological impact of war on the soldiers.
Barker deliberately contrasts the way Yealland treats his patients compared to Rivers as Yealland lacks the sensitivity that Rivers treats his patients with. A good example of this is when Rivers is treating Prior and explains to him that he is wrongly thinking of his breakdown as a reaction to a single traumatic event, but its not like that. It s more a matter of…erosion. Weeks and months of stress in a situation where you can t get away from it , then he smiles at his patient Prior and explains that he is sorry to sound so impersonal as he realises Prior hates being the patient . This way of talking to and treating the patients shows love, compassion and Rivers trying to understand, which contrasts with Yealland harsh treatment of his patients. We hear Yealland say The patient has to know when he enters the electrical room that there s no way out except by full recovery . We feel sympathy for Dr Yealland s patients when he coldly says to Rivers, The last thing these patients need is a sympathetic audience .
This horrible idea that shell shocked men in the hospital are seen by the authorities as failures and degenerates, links in with Wilfred Owen s poem Dulce et Decorum Est. This poem creates the imagery of the young fighting men being reduced and made old before their time. The first line of Dulce et Decorum Est is alarming because Owen s imagery of the young men bent double, like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed, coughing like hags moves us and really strikes us as we realise that war has turned these young men old as well as forcing them to mature before they were ready. This is scandalous: these men who had their whole lives before them are now forced to remember froth – corrupted lungs, obscene as cancer being drunk with fatigue; deaf with even to the hoots of shells . What disturbs us as well as the violent and vivid imagery is the fact that Owen stresses the youth of those children ardent for some desperate glory who have believed the old lie that it is sweet and fitting to die for their country. The sheer physical pressure of fighting in the trenches weakens them in this poem, and Wilfred Owen shocks and moves us by the way he puts this across to us.
Owen describes events in this poem in graphic detail, appealing to the senses so that we are almost forced to go through the experiences of war with him. He wants us to pace behind the wagon that they threw a soldier who had been gassed in. He appeals to the senses of sight when he wants us to watch the white eyes writhing in his face . The use of alliteration here makes the image clearer and more vivid in our minds, encouraging us more to be brought in and hear and experience the horror of people guttering, choking, drowning .
Owen writes in a very immediate, appealing fashion If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood come gargling from the froth – corrupted lungs . He wants us to experience what he went through using our sense of hearing, hence the onomatopoeia of gargling he wants us to hear and really witness their horror.
Owen in this poem portrays war as something that leaves deep mental scars as well as physical ones. War is described as a recurrent nightmare. Those soldiers who fought in the war will be haunted by the images of war for the rest of their lives: they can t switch off. This moves us when Owen says, talking of the gassed soldier who dies, In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, he plunges at me the images Owen has of war are omnipresent and he conveys this effectively to us with his use of imagery and similes. In one section of the poem Owen tells of when the soldiers are being gassed – without their helmets they would simply drown. Most of the men managed to fit on the clumsy helmets just in time , one soldier however didn t manage in the ecstasy of fumbling to get his helmet on in time to save himself. He began yelling out and stumbling and floundering like a man in fire or lime . The effect of this simile shocks us, and makes us feel sick, as we can almost taste the lime; his detailed descriptions have helped us imagine so well what it would be like.
Owen makes us realise the pain of war when he writes how many had lost their boots, but limped on blood shod . The effect of this metaphor blood-shod makes us think of blood shed and the harshness and pain of war, animals, and the shoeing of horses, how it is painful for them even to put their feet down. Blood shod is a harsh sounding word, and its link to horses symbolises how men in war were forced to act like and were treated like mere animals, those who die as cattle as Owen s memorable first line of Anthem For Doomed Youth Records. In Dulce Et Decorum Est Owen explores the insanity of war and we are alarmed at how robotic these men had become, trudging towards their distant rest .
The vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues , shows how these permanent scars of war will always remain with these men who marched asleep . These sores that are as obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud , have silenced people. There is a terrible cutting sound being created with the alliteration of the C s in this part of the poem. It s bitter like poison; war is like a poison on innocent tongues . This image can be linked with Barker s exploration of the idea of mutism as a central theme in her novel. The innocent tongues in war victims are often silenced by mutism, an unconscious protest against the distress and horror of war.
An example of one of the war victims suffering from mutism is the aforementioned Callan, a patient of Dr. Yealland, who as already mentioned does not believe in shell shock. For me one of the main scenes with a huge moving sense of irony is where Yealland is performing his mutism treatment on Callan. Callan s existence is a miracle, yet Yealland is not content with this, he wants to fix him like a robot and send him back to what Owen describes vividly in his poem Mental Cases as wading sloughs of flesh and to the batter of guns and flying muscles . The irony in this scene is that Callan s mutism is his subconscious protest against all the wrong, the pain and the terror of war. Yealland, by making Callan speaks essentially silencing this touching, futile protest and forcing him to live his life in torment. Barker shocks us when we hear Yealland say, The patient has to know when he enters the electrical room that there s no way out except by a full recovery . This is a tragic idea as we realise that psychologically the patients can never make a full recovery, as they are soldiers whose minds the Dead have ravished . Owen horrifically describes using vivid imagery in Mental Cases how and why soldiers have become mad, mocking peoples attitudes to war brilliantly. We are moved when he shows us graphic images of someone who is mad and literally slobbering like an animal. Owen describes the men as having drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish . This is poignant, because as in other poems Owen has written he portrays the men of war as animals unfairly being forced to fight an impossible and futile battle. This poem is very tender in the very moving and shocking contradiction that runs through it. We are told memory fingers in their hair of murders , this appeals to the senses and is awful because running fingers through someone s hair is normally shown as a symbol of love but here it a very morbid metaphor, it shows how soldiers are condemned to wade through flesh endlessly in their minds . The idea that is portrayed is that for these men death may be better than the pain and torment in their lives. It links back to regeneration and therefore Barker s title and we can clearly see how men like Callan have gone mad, and psychologically cannot speak. This poem Mental Cases uses disturbing imagery that makes us think how futile this war is, because even if they don t die in the war; because they must see these things and hear them forever they will almost wish they were part of the carnage incomparable . For the reader to realise that it might have been a kinder thing for these men to be dead, than alive and facing mental nightmares is a very difficult thing for them as fellow human beings to comprehend, and I personally was very moved by this part of the poem. We realise through the descriptive imagery and awful metaphors that war was torture for these poor soldiers. Barker s portrayal of Yealland coldly trying to repair the soldiers physically with little regard to their mental state moves us more if we are reading it alongside Wilfred Owen s poems, and we realise why these men are mute.
Censorship of some of the horrible details that happened in war came into place via mutism. Both Barker and Owen convey the feeling of censorship within their writings; Barker with the shutting away of the soldiers, and hierarchies within the groups of officers who wanted to send the soldiers back off to the trenches to die fighting for their country and hide the horrors of war. Barker vividly evokes agony when we realise that those not fighting have no idea what the soldiers are facing or how many were dying, and continued to sign up. We see people being forced to fight in Regeneration when Graves and Sassoon have a discussion on whether Sassoon should keep his word and go back to fight. Sassoon tells Graves that if he had any real courage he wouldn t acquiesce the way he does to orders to fight. This shows the personal and external pressures beyond the simple fact of the chain of command forcing soldiers to fight even though they clearly don t want to.
Owen s Inspection links closely with Barker s exploration of the effect of hierarchy in Regeneration. Hierarchies are shown in the power Yealland has over his patients and the futile orders to death being obeyed. Deaths in the war were being covered up and the intensity and seriousness of the conflict was heavily disguised in order to maintain recruitment.
Inspection is an incredibly intense and bitter poem, which moves the reader so much when they realise they could never comprehend the horror these soldiers faced. This is a poem in which a soldier gets confined to camp because he is seen to have a dirty uniform. We then heart-breakingly realise that this dirt the damned spot was blood, his own , this touches us almost to the core as we see within hierarchies it isn t good enough that these soldiers have to fight and witness the monstrous anger of guns , but they have to almost be punished for not being infallible as well, and are severely punished for having bled in the battles. This is hugely pathetic as we see the soldiers are in a no-win situation. As the sergeant snapped at the soldier to hold his mouth we realise that no one wants to hear, no one wants to listen to these soldiers and no one in the higher ranks wants to admit that they are wasting and loosing lives awfully.
This not wanting to know or hear links in with the deaths that people wanted to cover up. In Regeneration and throughout Owen s poems we see a hierarchy of people who want to cover up all the mutilation and act as if someone is winning the war. One particular incident that everyone wanted to cover up was that of Burns. What had happened to him was so vile, so disgusting, that Rivers could find no redeeming feature . Burns was thrown into the air by the explosion of a shell, he landed, head first, onto a German corpse, whose gas-filled belly had ruptured on impact . Burns, before he lost consciousness, had time to realise that decaying human flesh was filling his nose and mouth. Afterwards whenever Burns tried to eat, the smell of rotting flesh came back to haunt him. There is an awful scene in Regeneration where the conditions Burns suffered take him back to the trenches in his imagination as he has been mentally broken by the effects of war. This part in the book really is the key point and finale of how the harsh reality shocked and moved me through Barkers and Owens portrayals of the horror of WW1. Here we see Burns have a nervous break down and really lose any mental stability that he had left after fighting in the war. We see how he runs clumsily along the brow of a hill towards a distant clump of trees as if he is drunk or possessed. Barker tells us in detail what the setting was like and when we hear how the mud dragged at him we are quick to realise that the conditions are taking him mentally back to the trenches. Every step was described as a separate effort, hauling his mud-clogged boots out of sucking earth . Barker lets us know poignantly that Burns has gone mad as she describes to us that his mind was incapable of making comparisons, but his aching thighs remembered, and he listened for the whine of shells . This is a very distressing scene as we once again see that these soldiers will always be reminded and haunted by the shrill demented choirs of wailing shells and the awful falseness of set-smiling corpses . Pathetic fallacy is used by Pat Barker, which gives this part of the book immense power to move us, and horrify us when we see what war has driven this man to do. Burns has a mental breakdown as he releases dead animals that have been nailed to a tree and arranges them in a circle. He is clearly demented and we are shocked as we realise he cant cope with death, he has seen so much of it, and he feels he needs to be at one with the dead animals. This constant steady reference to animals reinforces the idea and image that the men who fought died like animals. He wants to let the animals dissolve into the earth as they were supposed to , this is I suppose a link to how the soldiers were left, to just decompose and rot into the earth. His circle made of dead animals represents the circle of life and we see how they are left to return to the earth from which they originated. Burns we are touched to see feels a great urge to lie down with them and dissolve into the earth, we see here he wishes he was dead, and he may as well be if this is the quality of life he will be faced with on earth. When Burns takes off his clothes to lay down beside the animals Barker shows us that he doesn t feel like a man anymore, more like an animal, Barker does this by telling us he cupped his genitals in his hands not because he was ashamed but because he didn t feel they belonged with him, we are shocked here as we see Burns isn t even interested in being a man anymore, and sees himself not as a person but as an animal. Barker finishes this part of the book using Pathetic Fallacy to show us how disturbing this scene is, and to reinforce the awfulness of WW1. We see how the sky darkened, the air grew colder, we as the audience are moved to think that this is where he wants to be, as we, if in that situation I m sure would be terrified. Barker makes us realise though that compared to what he has been through Burns must be in heaven. This makes us understand why the men of war can never be fully rehabilitated, or regenerated and in some ways it would be futile to try.
Owen too tells us beautifully in Futility how pointless the war is and emphasises the fact that lives are being lost in the war, how serious yet pointless it is. This is a touching poem, which takes away all the superficial glory of war and presents the harsh bare facts. Futility highlights the unnaturalness of man destroying man, and uses the sun as a metaphor for the implicit suggestion that it is Gods decision to take and make life and not our own. Owen portrays a real sense of desperation that these people are too young to die, as he does in other poems using imagery, metaphor and with a sad reflective tone. He thus moves us by making us aware that the soldier who has died in this poem, has no chance of living his life, no tender moments of touch left, and no opportunity so bring new life into the world. Owen captures how precious human life is so sensitively as he describes the soldiers limbs as so dear achieved he talks about the creation of life and life cycle as Barker does in Regeneration. Through personification the sun is seen as a friend, something like a friend who can whisper into the ears of dead soldiers and help to heal their emotional scars. This poem emotionally moves us, this time not violently but sorrowfully and upsettingly fills us with pity and remembrance for those who died to save us. Owen vividly describes a dead soldier as still warm which touches us with a recency that makes the death seem immediate.
The events described in Owen s poems and Barkers novel are real and passionately conveyed, I think that it is the realism, which shocks and moves us, the thought that these events actually could happen to another human being is a very frightening and moving concept. Barker through her extensive research has managed to capture the mood and the truth of the war and Owen because he was there makes it all seem very close, intimate and personal. Both writers are thus powerful anti-war advocates: As Dr River s contemplates the way Burns has been destroyed as a person by the war he says nothing justifies this , a feeling clearly conveyed by both Barker and Owen.