Regeneration by Pat Barker is a novel about a mental hospital for soldiers psychologically injured on the front line. It is unlike other novels and plays such as journey’s End by R.C. Sherriff which tells the story of front-line battle. The ways in which the war has had an effect on the soldiers is explored in great detail by Barker, perhaps to show that the effect the war has had on the characters, somehow has become part of their personality. A theme that Barker also explores is the theme of silence, perhaps rooting from the silence of her grandfather who refused to talk to her about his experiences in the war. The theme that is of most interest to me, however, is that of masculinity and, in turn, emasculation. IT is particularly interesting as the novel is written by a woman and from a woman’s perspective, but is based mainly around the experiences of men and any women that do feature within the novel are mainly inconsequential characters that seem to lack the understanding of Rivers or other male characters. I believe that this may be because Barker wanted to expel the beliefs of readers that she could not write about men or in the favour of men. Emasculation appears strongly for the first time when Anderson recounts his dream to Rivers. The fact that Anderson recalls being ‘chased’ by his father-in-law shows that he feels threatened by this man in some way, and there are various ways in which this could be the case.
Madness is a topic closely related to a person’s nature of sanity. The idea of madness is central to the novel, Regeneration, by Pat Barker. At its simplest level, madness is the problem that plagues the soldiers at Craiglockhart War Hospital. Psychologists long to “heal” this problem. The symptoms of madness range from an inability to eat, a vocal protest of the war, to the doctors questioning of their own treatments.