A study in to the way war affects the soldiers fighting in them in terms of mental and physical health with reference to Pat Barkers “Regeneration”, Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” and Penguins anthology “Poems of the Great War 1914-1918.
The First World War lasted between 1914 and 1918 and saw the death of nearly twenty million people (including civilians) and the casualties were even higher. Many were left wounded for life as they lost their limbs, sight or mind and they would never recover. Some soldiers couldn’t cope with life out of the trenches and were later confined to mental wards where some, if not, most committed suicide due to the horrors they had seen and committed. Pat Barkers “Regeneration” focuses on life for the soldiers during the war who were committed to Craiglockhart War Hospital in 1917. It features the poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon who were both admitted for shell shock and were under the care of the novels protagonist (and army psychiatrist) William Rivers. In this study I will be looking at the poetic works of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen along from an anthology of Poems of the Great War. I will also be looking at Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” as it features the German perspective as typically we would only think of our own countries point of view so it would be a great contrast to see the war from a different perspective style. I personally believe that the main theme of Pat Barker’s “Regeneration” is Madness as it is set in Craiglockhart War Hospital where the soldiers are being treated for mental illnesses caused by the horrors they have experienced on the front line. Siegfried Sassoon was admitted to Craiglockhart as he was expressing the ideas that war was a waste and continuing unnecessarily and the officers didn’t want the soldiers to think this about the war so they sent him to the hospital to be treated for shell shock even though he wasn’t showing any of the main symptoms. He did however see dead men around him when he was at the Piccadilly Circus train station which does suggest that he did suffer from shell shock to some extent. “The whistle blew. Immediately, he saw lines of men with grey muttering faces clambering up the ladders to face the guns. He blinked them away.” The simple sound of the whistle blowing brought back the memories of the war where he would see many men die before him every day. The fact that he only blinked them away suggests that the hallucinations of soldiers didn’t disturb him. It became such an everyday occurrence that it no longer shocks him to see his fellow comrades’ march to their death. It’s as if he is now nonchalant towards death which seems to contradict the reason for his declaration. This is mirrored in Wilfred Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum est” “the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs” This implies that Owen is angered by his injured comrades as they are now “Corrupted” by the froth that fills their lungs. This could however, be metaphor for the soldier being corrupted by the war. This links in with Barker’s “Regeneration” as both Owen and Sassoon no longer show much compassion towards the men they fight alongside with as they are another victim in this never ending and relentless war just like them. Owen showed this when he said “My subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is the pity” About his poem “Dulce et Decorum est” The Great War has had more than just a mental effect on the patients at Craiglockhart as some soldiers are suffering physically due to their mental issues. An example of physical suffering is the mutism of Billy Prior. At the start of the novel it is unknown as to why Prior is unable to talk as he has repressed most memory he has of being in France fighting on the front line. However, as Barker progresses with the novel it is revealed that Prior saw a young boy get blown up by a German shell so he and his comrade have to clear up the mess the body has made and...
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