Imagination in Pat Barker's Regeneration

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Imagination in Pat Barker's Regeneration It is through the imagination that we have the power to create and destroy. This theme holds true throughout Pat Barker's Regeneration and for the many characters in this novel who experience both the awful and inspired effects of the imagination. Pat Barker draws on many resources to support this claim, including the Book of Genesis, from which she cites the quotation "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth," spoken by the character David Burns on page 183 of this novel. Through this quotation and many other developments, the theme of the power of the imagination, both good and evil, perpetuates itself throughout Pat Barker's novel. The word "imagination" is one that has evolved throughout its many years in Biblical history. Its first and original meaning to the ancient Hebrews was that of "plotting or devising evil" rather than what we think of as imagination today: "the power of freely forming mental images" (Denton 685). The Hebrews thought of the power of the mind, for the most part, in the context of preparation for action rather than simply as a creative power (Denton 685). Although "imagination" in the biblical quote "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" does mean the power to form mental images, it also has a sense of forming these images in preparation for evil action. Through this dual role of the imagination, that of plotting evil and creating images, we see the imagination as a double-edged sword that can be either destructive or constructive, depending on its use. In order to determine further the meaning of this quote, one must go to the Book of Genesis from the King James Version of the Bible, to Genesis 8:21, which reads as follows: "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" ("God's" 547). The speaker here is God after He has destroyed the earth with a flood. When the first part of this quote is added to the second part found in Regeneration, one learns that God is resigning himself to the realization that men will always have an evil imagination, or evil tendencies, and that even destroying the earth could not correct these inclinations for evil in the heart and imagination of man ("God's" 548). Because the imagination has roots in the preparation and use for evil, it is easy to see how one could use the imagination for these same purposes in warfare.

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