Consider one or two of the set texts from the second half of the module in relation to conventional representations
of the First World War.
The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker is a collection of novels which focus extensively on the atrocities of world war one. Through her complex characterisations she focuses heavily on the effects and costs of war on a personal and societal level. The trilogy appears to written in a realistic fashion however Barker often applies modern conceptions of warfare and its effects and to the first great industrialised war. Through a concoction of both fact and fiction Barker creates a dramatic, realistic and intuitive picture of the world of trench warfare and its effect on the soldiers who fought in them. Barker challenges many presumptions and perceptions of warfare, combating past with present and fact with fallacy, with a large emphasis on psychological representation and reactions to war Barker intrigues the reader into the minds of the patients and staff of Craiglockheart.
Pat Barker s representation of her characters is perhaps one of the most intriguing features of Regeneration, The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Roadcollectively. Using a collaboration of both real and fictional characters as well as real settings, she creates a world in which the reader can thoroughly believe. The two principle characters, Siegfried Sassoon army officer and famous war poet and Doctor William Rivers, pioneer of psychological practises are both historical characters. Barker centralises her fictional events around the relationship of Sassoon and Rivers, as well as their interactions with other fictional and historical figures like Wilfred Owen. Sassoon is sent to a military hospital called Craiglockheart, near Edinburgh to be treated for post dramatic stress disorder most commonly called during the time Shell-Shock . Barker immediately introduces the reader to the first representation of war, rather than focus heavily on the brutal battles or lives lost Barker focuses on those who were altered or psychologically damaged by the events which took place in the trenches. As much as the headlines or modern documentaries relive the historic death tolls and horrific violence of world war one: History is not a record of what actually happened, but of what historians tell us happened, after they have organised the data according to their own version of social reality (Alan Munslow- Deconstructing History 1993 page 127) Barker introduced the reader to an area which many would not consider or have even fathomed. Barker represents an understanding that the loss of sanity is just as pivotal as the loss of limb. During the war the home front would have had propagandist reports of events and so reports of Soldiers losing their minds would not have been made mass social interest. Sassoon was not only being treated for shell shock there was other motives for him being sent to Craiglockheart; Sassoon had spearheaded a declaration against the war, as with many soldiers of the world war one he became massively disillusioned with the war and its aims. I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a solider convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers.
I am not protesting against military conduct of the war. However Barker uses the character of River s to deconstruct the differences between masculine and feminine. details of practices and personal information was destroyed by his re quest upon his death. on closer inspection. However as little is known about River s the reader has to question how realistic is this representation of him as a moral high guard. were rivers becomes central moral and ethical figure on which much of the other characters are based. as a modern audience would have anti-war internalised after the numerous statues. The general representation of soldiers outside of the trilogy is that soldiers are the penultimate image of masculinity. believed to be clear and pure. Social norms of masculine behaviour expected the soldiers of trench warfare to bury any emotions associated with the horrors of trench war fare. However as the trilogy progresses. Peter Barham remarks in his psychological study of shell shock. or more importantly the miss-representation of the solider that fought in it. Rivers was employed to treat patients who were suffering from shell shock. This condemnation of the anti-masculine leads many of the soldiers being unable to portray any weakness and as a result all of their troubles were internalised and resulted in male hysteria. However. This detaches the reader from his character. Forgotten Lunatics of the Great War that: The historical Rivers convictions ran the other way and Pat Barker has infused the fictional Rivers inthe moral imagination of her own gender and generation (Forgotten Lunatics of the Great War by Peter Barham. Rivers questioned the ethics of this procedure and through his work we see him challenge common theology and that ideas such as duty and patriotism. and I can no longer be a party to prolong those sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. has now become a war of aggression and conquest. Historically Dr Rivers was a very private man and most of his personal belongings. page 388) So with the insight of Barham s opinion we are introduced to another representation of warfare. (Siegfried Sassoon s Wilful Defiance of Military Authority read in parliament 30th of July 1917) Sassoon s was the first large scale revolt against the war and the man charged with silencing Sassoon s protest was Dr Rivers. In the Trilogy Rivers is seen as both a marginalised and a man of authority. however upon the completion of their rehabilitation the soldiers were sent back to the front to again endure the horrors that caused their respective mental illness. also Rivers is a none combative character having never served on the front line.upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation. but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed. However his position as a military doctor and his initial pro-war attitude. His Homosexuality and his initial pro war attitude lead him to become osterarisized by the reader. I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops. to be built upon old myths of national pride. to a reader or member of society during the war would have installed great authority.I believe that this war. therefor one can only assume that Barker had a little more creative scope for the character Rivers than she did with Sassoon. monuments and the detailed accounts of the famous war poets.
. prove. Historically soldiers would be faced with horrendous and horrific ordeals and sights within in the trenches yet they had they image of the ultimate soldier and man thrust upon them until numb of any such horror. Rivers too however have his own ideas about the war and it led him to become disillusioned with his own work. Rivers essentially becomes the moral measure throughout the trilogy. .
Like the speechlessness it seemed natural (Regeneration by Pat Barker page 93&94) Barker s metaphor for gob stopper is quite literal. Bill prior was sent to Craiglockheart after losing the ability to speak and suffering from memory loss as a result of seeing two of his friends blown up. However the issue arises when one considers the act of mutism. Consider that Prior isn t unable to speak due to traumatic events but consider that he is doing so because he sees the need to speak out against the horrible conditions. but numbness had spread all over the lower half of his face. River s identifies Prior s loss as a means of repression. something that would prove he was alright. particularly Sassoon and Prior have protest on their minds. and a fear of speaking out and being labelled a coward or being reprimanded by the army is what compels him to silence. What is most interesting however is that by society focussing so heavily on the idea of a man s man that heroic men were given (believed at the time) to be entirely female illnesses. curved it back. He tried to think over events. this is beneath the surface and he is unaware of what he is doing. and both her fictional character and the historical character of Rivers employed a Freudian approach to the treatment of the mentally wounded. felt the stretch of skin and pulling muscles in his throat. Prior s condition stems through: There is something he is afraid to talk about. the characters of the regeneration trilogy. but how they combined to make sounds he had no idea. Prior while cleaning the trench after the explosion finds a human eye. and on a scale that mother s and sister s had hardly known.Throughout literature and history hysteria had been assumed as only a female illness and as such many of the characters of the novels have in their societies been castrated by the shell shock. were if by talking to his patients and getting his patients to talk. (Regeneration by Pat barker page 98)
. (Regeneration by pat Barker page 51) Barker obviously studied psychological impact that trench warfare had on its participants. The war that had promised so much in the way of manly activity had actually delivered feminine passivity . All present and correct. No wonder they broke down. Prior is caught between his masculine sense of duty and his true versions of the horrors in the trenches. Prior used the treatment called the talking cure. Two of his men were dead he remembered that. and the image that it creates is highly effective as eyes and the round white shaped sweet look very similar. is the act of mutism a coping mechanism or a protest? From the trilogy I would suggest both. One character in particular we are given a full detail of his illness. He ran his tongue along the edges of his teeth. Hysteria also acted on behalf of many soldiers as an escape from the war and would have been met with much social stigma. Nothing else. but found he could remember very little about them. stroked the rigid palate. flexed his lips. This reaction to the trauma that the soldiers have faced provides both context and content for Barker as the majority of the novels are detailed around this. What am I supposed to do with this gob stopper? He had wanted to say something casual. and according to River s. so he solves the problem by making it impossible to speak. they would restore the patient s ability to accept the traumatic experience as a part of who they are. Prior following these events had lost the ability to speak and suffered from memory loss. Prior lost his manly grasp of reality and his silence is both body and mind.
hisobsession with social class and his abiding fear that the public might discoverthat Wilfred was homosexual ( Wilfred Owen: A New Biography By Dominic Hibberd page 312) The great poet of pity couldnot be thought. The reader is engulfed in the realism in which Barker documents the true effects. As much a Barker s has clearly based the characters of the novel on historical people the reader must be aware that they are interpretations of the real people and not factious in nature.
In conclusion throughout the Regeneration trilogy Barker relies on her dramatic representation of historical characters and their interactions with each other to form and drive the plot forward. audience with regards to war heroes and the psychological costs of trench war fare. Owen younger brother who handled his affairs after his death had reconsidered the image in which he wished his brother be portrayed. She challenges the uber masculine assumptions of both a modern and contempory. to have won a medal byslaughtering Germans (Wilfred Owen: A New Biography by Dominic Hibberd page 312) Barker assumed the view of Owen as his brother did. rather than a skilled military veteran he is painted in a much softer light. The characterisation of Owen is ambivalent as by some accounts he was seen as a bloodthirsty war hero by Prior but Barker chooses to focus on the more personal story that can detail personal accomplishment and growth. could not even be imagined. even though Barker uses a factious methods of research the product is an intellectual fictional representation of conventional warfare. rather than causes of war. Barker however did include the matter of Owen s homosexuality in an attempt to reinforce her critique of the importance of masculinity during the war.Any explanation of war neurosis must account for the fact that this intensive masculine world of war and danger and hardship produced in men the same disorders that woman suffered in peace.
. In his Biography of Owen Hibberd details how. (Regeneration by Pat barker page 196) Another of Barker s characterisations that conflicts with other representations of his part in warfare was that of Wilfred Owen the poet of pity. Harold s portrait of his older brother was more than a trifle coloured by what he perceived as the failures in his own life. Through her extensive knowledge of psychology and the effects of trauma she creates and entirely believable reconstruction of Craiglockheart military hospital. thus giving an inaccurate or slightly misleading representation into Wilfred Owen Character.
wikipedia.Deconstructing History 1993 http://en.Alan Munslow.org/wiki/Sigmund_Freud Laurie Vickroy Trauma and survival in contempory fiction 2002 Dominic Hibberd Wilfred Owen: A New Biography 2002