A Compare and Contrast Essay on the Presentation of Words and Silence in the Novels Regeneration by Pat Barker and Strange Meeting by Susan Hill.

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Barker has written Regeneration laid in England in 1917, the novel is populated by a mixture of real and imaginary people. One of the real characters is the soldier and poet, Sigfried Sassoon. We meet him after he has been awarded a medal for heroism in WWI, and has publicly denounced the war as one of aggression and conquest in defiance of military orders. Instead of having a court martial, he is sent to Craiglockhart Hospital to be treated as a "shell shocked" casualty by Dr. William Rivers another real character. Craiglockhart was what we today would call a neuro-psychiatric hospital, and Rivers is a practitioner of psychoanalysis. His job is to get men well, by carrying out particular methods such as getting the men to recall their disturbing events and then to speak about them, so they can return to the front. Sassoon, Rivers, and other real and fictional characters are interwoven in this tale. The experiences and stories of Regeneration are greatly inspired by historical events and sociological influences. Bringing real life poets and their experiences together with a fictional plot surrounding the great war, Barker has been able to produce a novel from an intriguing blend of fact and fiction, one that conveys several aspects of history. Strange Meeting on the other hand is set against the horrors of the First World War, this novel portrays the friendship of two young officers. Hilliard is a veteran of combat, a reserved and isolated young man who prefers the stark reality of the front line "why had it been so easy to sleep up there, to sleep through the noise of guns?", where he follows orders and makes only simple decisions based on life or death, to the political and social complications of his previous existence in England. Hill presents the characters as more positively, psychologically affected by war, from which a main character John Hilliard grows as a person and learns to love as a result of learning to communicate, speak and express himself freely , as at the beginning of the novel he is portrayed as detached and unable to feel or relate to those around him, (primarily his immediate family). Comradeship between Hilliard and Barton, (another central character) appears to be the most prominent component in the novel; however the exploitation of the silenced youth is also explored throughout the novel.

He had been unhappy at home, where he could not talk to no one, nobody knew." Both Regeneration and Strange Meeting provoke an anti war attitude through the indirect or not so indirect emphasis on silencing. In the first few chapters of Strange Meeting Hill presents us with Hilliard who is clearly presented as detached, withdrawn and repressing emotions. This is reflected through Hill's use of narrative, we do not experience a lot of Hilliard's speech, such use of narrative is vital to represent the lack of speech on Hilliard's behalf. The narrative is full of descriptions of sound and listening "..where old men aired their military opinions and he could not join in, just sit there,"…. "He had argued twice, bitterly, with his farther. But after that, stayed silent." Within the first few pages Strange Meeting we experience Hilliard suffering with nightmares of his experiences in the trenches, his suffering is in silence, as he wakes, crying out from a nightmare but is worried any one may have heard him "He sat up quickly, to shut out the sound of his own heart, thumping against the pillows…" The very thought that the stereotypical soldier could be thought of as being scared certainly implies that there is something exceptionally fear-provoking about the hostilities of war that are shown in the novel. Similarly Regeneration introduces us to a character very similar to John Hilliard.. Whilst the novel is set in Craiglockhart we are introduced to patients attending Craiglockheart, who are gravely wounded in spirit if not body; sometimes they are tormented by their nightmares, revulsions, mutism, stammering,...
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