We all have those moments when we run away from our problems. Some may try to skip a school day in order to miss a test, while others try to hide themselves to avoid being picked to openly discuss a topic in front of the class. Although we try to run away from the problems we face in our lives, the only way to solve the problem is to embrace it. Pat Barker reveals this theme not only to our general lives but to those of soldiers facing war neurosis in WWI. Her novel, Regeneration, portrays the various characters' struggles with combating the effects of war neurosis at the psych ward, Craiglockhart. Through escape, homosexuality, and the striving for masculinity, the responses of three major characters, Siegfried Sassoon, Dr. W.H.R. Rivers, and Billy Prior, are examined to show their struggles toward the traumas of World War I.
Each character emphasizes the need to escape from their war neurosis close to and upon arriving at Craiglockhart. "The social environment determines how [each character] will cope with trauma"(Vickroy). Sassoon and Prior's trauma initially begins in France while Dr. Rivers' begins at Craiglockhart. Siegfried Sassoon escapes through his avid interest in poetry. Sassoon is able to relate his own feelings in a manner unlike any other way. Being a respected platoon commander in France, Sassoon has much responsibility. As a leader, he must show dignity and strength. He forces himself not to succumb to crying and weeping in the trenches at night because he believes he is the only thing holding his men together. He finds that through poetry, he is able to release his frustrations. Sassoon is able to "repress his emotions about the war"(Harris). The anxieties of running away from the horrors he witnessed in France become lessened through the use of poetry. He is able to channel his feelings of anger and frustration in his nightmares away through the use of poetry (Smith). Although he says he still dreams, his nightmares eventually go away. By defining his horrors with flowing, descriptive words in poetry, Sassoon embraces and accepts the horrific events that took place during his time in France.
Essentially, Dr. Rivers is similar to Sassoon. He is a very patient, caring, and emotionally strong man. He is able to constantly counsel and help his patients, but as time passes with more patients entering Craiglockhart, he falls into a state of subjectivity. He starts to see every day as a challenge. He comes to feel subservient to his patients' needs. "For Rivers the situation often feels impossible and even immoral" (Monteith, xviii). Dr. Rivers sees so many difficulties in trying to help all of his patients. After so many hours with so many patients, Rivers begins to develop his own, obvious stutter. He states, "I already stammer and I'm starting to twitch" (Barker, 203). Rivers feels the cause of this is his subjectivity to Sassoon. In his dedication to helping Sassoon, he feels, he has changed himself (Mukherjee). Dr. River's position becomes one in which he is "both the jury and the judge" (Mukherjee). Rivers tries to escape his situation when he vacations with one of his former patients as a checkup. There he is unable to escape from his problem of subjectivity. But he does embrace the situation there. He attempts to help Burns as a friend and a doctor.
Contrasting River's ability to ultimately embrace his situation, Billy Prior comes to Craiglockhart with a loss of speech due to his traumatic experiences. He neglects his problems through dissociation. Prior is able to dissociate from his own "awareness to avoid pain" (Vickroy). He limits himself to only writing on a pad to communicate. His dissociation, too, causes Prior to back himself into his mind. Priors dreams are extraordinarily clear as he dreams of himself holding a fellow soldier's eye, named Towers, in his hand. The hole in the eye represents "a hole in reality for him", and "his narcissistic integrity is shattered" (Mukherjee)....
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