Regeneration: World War I and Siegfried Sassoon

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Regenerating Relationships
A look at character connections in Regeneration by Pat Barker
Throughout Regeneration by Pat Barker there are intricate connections being made between the characters. The relationships between patients, doctors, and soldiers cross over many lines forming complicated bonds that go beyond those of friendships and father figures. The gender roles in this wartime tale do not follow normal social rules. There are strong, dominant females that compensate for the effeminate males. There are doctors and patient relationships that even today could be considered taboo as well as patient and patient partnerships. While some of these relationships are merely implied and not spelled out, they are definitely present throughout the novel.

There are four relationships that seem to be most predominant, involving the following five characters. Dr. W.H.R. Rivers is a psychiatrist at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. He treats soldiers during World War I for “shell-shock”. There are two patients that he sees regularly who he develops close bonds with. The first, 2nd Lt. Siegfried Sassoon, is a poet and an anti-war protestor who has been sent to Rivers because his ideas of the war oppose those of the Royal British Army. The second patient that Dr. Rivers attends to is Lt. Billy Prior, an asthmatic who rose through the ranks from the working class. There are two more characters whose paths intertwine with these men. Wilfred Owen is also a poet and in 1917, only 24 years old when he meets Sassoon for the first time and becomes his number one fan. Lastly, there is Prior’s love interest, Sarah Lumb. Going against the social norms of the early 1900’s, Lumb is a working girl in a munitions factory near the hospital and meets Prior initially, in a bar.

The two relationships that Dr. Rivers has are familial. Both Billy Prior and Siegfried Sassoon see him as a mentor, advisor and role model to a certain extent. Sassoon more so than Prior, but they...
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