Explore how Pat Barker portrays the theme of escape in Regeneration and explain what this tells you about the effects of war. “In peace, children inter their parents; War violates the order of nature and causes parents to inter their children. ” ” Herodotus (484BC – 430BC) Regeneration is a novel that tells the story of soldiers of World War One sent to an asylum due to emotional tribulation. Regeneration connects as a “back door into the present”, particularly with the theme of escape; and Barker chooses to portray this through her faction novel.
Inveterate indications of escape throughout the novel are masculation, sex, death and a sense of reality. It is genuinely hard to be sure what the majority of people in Britain knew about the war and battles like the Somme from the media of the day. The newspapers and their reporters offered a wide range of styles and opinions – as they still do – but often walked a difficult line between patriotic support for the war and a desire to convey its terrible nature. An extensive atmosphere of patriotism was generated by insincere information such as the propaganda.
The media were supercilious, dehumanising the Germans to attract more soldiers, promising them that they would gain rare pportunities such as travel. Men, as well as women, were disillusioned. The reality of war was distorted and no longer became a heroic affair. Sassoon may be disillusioned when he mentions that this war may have been Justified “… when it started… ” (Pg. 13). The authenticity of world war one was erroneous to the world surrounding the war. What the world saw was a picture that was glorified by the continuous mendaciousness made by the government and the commanding officers themselves.
In Regeneration the reader is presented with Sassoon’s ‘Soldier’s Declaration’ (Pg. 3) written in July 1917 to declare that the war is futile. Sassoon’s declaration, a “wilful defiance of military authority’, clearly and logically states his decision to stop fghting as a soldier in world war one and clearly paints a vision of escape in the readers minds. He believes that the purpose of war has changed; what was once a war of liberation and defence has become one of aggression. This is a historical document and is one that was not suppressed merely due to the fact that Sassoon was a commanding officer.
Because he was a commanding officer his document truly revealed the ways his beliefs got him to escape the war but make a trong argument too.. In Regeneration mental escape is the only way to relieve yourself of the war for a second until the next gunfire, the next shell blows or the next person comes into your care. Burns is a character who seems to be incapable of escaping his mental trauma caused by the war. He would tell you that the images of dying men and being ‘inside the stomach of a half blown German soldier’ (Pg. 19) with the stench of rotting innards devouring your nostrils would scar you mentally. eing wedged into a hole; and the heroic adventure was not nearly as heroic as the oldiers would have hoped for, Barker represented this through the struggle of men being sent to Craiglockhart and still never escaping the trenches as victims were immune to normal human life and trench life was still attached to their lives. The verisimilitudes of the characters of this novel conform to our sense of reality. Barker uses unadorned dialect and language which was not used at the time to maintain a sense of veracity. It seems as though every character has a need to escape and Barker presents us with this idea through her language.
Barker changes her use of language by changing the tmosphere and stripping away the dialogue, to romantic and poetic. She does this to remind us that Sassoon is sensitive and has a poetic side to him and this makes the reader feel closer to him, particularly when Graves identifies him as “Sass.. ” A technique in which Barker depicts escape is bird imagery. This could be linked with religion in a way that white doves were a major symbol in Christianity and were symbolic of freedom and peace. Just the idea of birds makes the reader wonder about how they fly so freely and Burns manages to grab hold of this by “drifting off to sleep” (Pg. ) He is entering a dreamful state in which “he could stay there forever”. His dream reminds the reader of the preciousness of escape “A shaft of sunlight filtered through the leaves (… ) shone sapphire, emerald, and amethyst. ” This is proof that he can in fact escape in his dream world. This shaft of light filtering through the leaves could be perceived as a motion of escape; Barker is hinting a glimmer of escape but not fully letting the light shine through representing the mental state of Burns. There is also a sense of escape though bird imagery again when Rivers is “under the spell of flickering birds” (Pg. ) however this is in a different light. With Burns, his sense of escape was in a dreamful manner but with Prior’s suffocation, the bird imagery sheds a new light, one of no escape. Even though Prior is out of war, his own problems still bother him and this shows that escape is Just an illusion. Another way Barker chooses to portray momentary escape is through the theme of sex and death. She chooses to depict her use of this type of escape through her creation of a character; Prior and her fairly new character, Sarah Lumb.
Barker uses sensual language in the graveyard scene which is highly contrasting the general etting; sex in the midst of death. Generally, you are not meant to have this kind of interaction in such a holy place, this was a sign of disrespect. Barker could perhaps be commenting on how the war shook people’s religious views. Living through the war and being surrounded by death must have changed people’s views and no wonder attitudes towards sex changed as it was for some if only means of comfort and life affirmation. as Barker is subtly suggesting.
However, the life ofa chick consists of living and dying in the hands of humans and this resembles the scene of the war; men were orn, sent to war, and slaughtered in the hands of human beings. It almost seems as though Barker is using allegory to describe the process of a hatching chick which ironically resemble the lives of the soldiers. (Pg. 1 52) “He remembered them struggling out of the eggs (… ) curiously powerful (… ) now the same chicks were scruffy, bedraggled things running in the coops. ” Rivers escapes the environment of Craiglockhart however he doesn’t escape his patients.
He writes to “David Burns” which shows what a caring fgure he is. He also begins to address Burns as ‘David’ and this shows how the relationship between hem is progressing. The perspective of escape changes when a female is finally given the opportunity to want to escape: Sarah Lumb. Barker being the omniscient narrator finally allows the reader to see how Sarah really feels. She needs to escape as she “began to feel distinctly green and hairy’. (Pg. 159) because the state of the men were too hard to handle.
The irony of this is that men harmed man, but couldn’t handle the sight of their destruction. Earlier Barker presented us with Sassoon’s resentment towards the older generation for seeing the war as glory, and now Sarah Lumb also feels a sense of anger as “she trode on through the heat, not caring where she was going, furious with herself, the war… everything”. She is angry at the country for sending all of these men to war as is Prior and this could represent a link between how men and women felt the same about war if you had been one of the very many to experience it.
In a reader’s perspective, this also shows and agreement between social class differences as Prior and Sarah are both of different class and share the same resentment which shows an escape of the social barrier and some sort of relief of the war. Herodotus’ quote at the beginning sums up that in war there’s no escape, you get hrown into a war torn asylum and spend the rest of your life, if any, trying to escape, through writing, through poetry, through art, Just like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.
However there was a chance of escape if you were seriously injured, and even then you were seen as a shirker and a failure and never mentally escaped the torture of war. Propaganda lead to young boys wanting to go to the war to fght for their country, meaning the children did in fact inter their parents, and once theyd lived the reality and managed to get away and go home, their parents did inter their hildren. Older generations that didn’t experience war saw it more as a playground of little toy soldiers they could fling around making it seem a lot more calm and fun than it actually was, but the reality was quite different.
Men became so lonely in the trenches and at the hospitals that any kind of physical contact from women became precious and in Priors case, the feeling of war was “like sex” and euphoria. His escape was Sarah, and many other men would find sex through prostitutes and this shows through death; even then their souls would not be at peace and fully escaped as the ar would go on, but as one soldier departed the battle grounds, a new recruit would be put in his place allured by the propaganda and media.
This displays a cycle of curtailed escape. There was no real escape in war as the pattern of death and new recruitment followed the cycle of life and even though this shows a great level of patriotism, futility is the only word to describe war. Bibliography Barker, Pat – Regeneration (England, 1991. Viking) Reusch, Wera – ‘A backdoor into the present’ an interview with Pat Barker, Germany. Lolapress (Translated from German) Nixon, Rob – An Interview with Pat Barker (England, February, 1992)
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