Regeneration by Pat Barker

1109 Words3 Pages


World War I was fought on the battlegrounds of Europe. Death and dismay was strewn throughout the landscape. The major players included, but were not limited to, The United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and France. Much like the Vietnam War, that would occur later on in the century, this war was one of bewilderment for most of the people involved, and not involved, for that matter. The soldiers and civilians alike were uncertain about the events leading up to this escalation of mass bloodshed. This uncertainty through Europe and the US, led to a myriad of recurring themes on and off the battlefields. The novel Regeneration, written by Pat Barker, discusses these experiences, and consequential themes in depth. In particular, one of these recurring motifs found in the novel that is incredibly interesting is that of Emasculation. It can be found throughout the novel through a variety of medium, including experiences and even clinical healing methods used by a doctor. Emasculation was expressed as a major theme throughout the World War I era and should be addressed properly.
The primary character, Siegfried Sassoon, based on a real life person, was a poet as well as an extremely recognized war hero in WWI. Through his trials and tribulations he was transformed from an expert bombing technician, to an anti-war advocate. His writing of the “Declaration,” which was his most widely controversial writing, got him sent to Craiglockhart Hospital, as a mental patient and he was labeled “mentally unsound.” It was during his time at the hospital that we see the variety of emasculation that he encountered through the war.
At the turn of the century it was a time of strong patriotism. Men foolishly felt that it was their solemn duty to enlist in the war and fight gallantly for their country. There was no greater “manly” honor than to die in battle fighting for the country that you loved so much. It would have been completely “unmanly”, or emasculating to shy away from this God given duty to fig...

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...The loss of being able to speak is a very strong debilitating experience. Through this debilitation it is that emasculating experiences can occur; the inability to defend ones self verbally, not being able to communicate in an easy and effective manner, and it represents a complete loss of power, in terms of being able to command people around. This debilitation can easily be correlated to the debilitating feelings during the war. During battle men would be sent into trenches and mortar holes in the middle of the battle field, and commanded to hold their position. This was like sending a man into a grave to wait and be shot. Even though it was what every young boy read about and one day dreamed of doing, it was insane. Men packed so closely into a hole in the Earth, not able to move, and just waiting till the next shift comes or a shell hits them. “The war that had promised so much in the way of ‘manly’ activity had actually delivered ‘feminine’ passivity.” (Barker, 108) Everything the men aspired to do in life, which was fight for their country, then only seemed like a ridiculous activity, where they were emasculated beyond any question of a doubt.

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