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Extract from Regeneration by Pat Barker

By achi Mar 14, 2006 1016 Words
The extract begins with a scene of relief and joy, a large contradiction to how it ends where there is sadness, anger and fear. The writer seemed to have purposely used this contradiction as a way to contribute to the mood of the passage and of its readers; to give a sense of how easy feelings change and how our mood depends greatly on our environment. We can observe these signs of relief and joy mentioned earlier through the way the writer describes how the patients in Ward Fourteen behave. Even though the ward is overcrowded with injured men, they are still happy. Sarah felt like "the object of amused appreciation from all parts of the ward" meaning the men were still the same as they were before going into war; young men out to get girls' attention. Relief is also seen through Madge when she inspects her injured lover and see that he still has his arms and legs.

Although in some parts there are feelings of panic and nervousness, which is experienced by Madge as she walks past beds looking for her lover, and also jealousy which Sarah feels when Madge and her lover plan on what to do on his leave. The writer cleverly uses the terms ‘green' and ‘hairy' implying Sarah was beginning to turn into a jealous monster. The writer includes these feelings again as a contradiction, this time between the feelings of the two girls and the rest of the men. As the reader, we are torn, not knowing whose feelings to trust and leaving us vulnerable in a way.

The language the writer uses throughout most of the extract is simple and straight to the point and this adds a sense of seriousness in the mood of the passage. For example, when Sarah is walking out of the ward she knows there "must be other wards where the wounds were not so slight". The mood has changed already from that sense of joy to fear as we wonder what the writer means by this, further adding to our vulnerability to fear and panic. When Sarah suddenly gets lost in this world of rushing doctors and nurses, our fear turns to panic as we find ourselves also lost. The writer has written notices in capital letters and uses terms such as ‘civilian use'; this makes the setting more formal and more serious, only making the mood drearier. The maternity ward which we know as where new lives are ready to enter the world has been turned into a ward of injured people who are in pain and may even possibly be a ward where lives are lost. The way the writer has turned the hospital around enhances the panic and fear.

When Sarah is finally out of the hospital, she is greeted by a brownish-yellow smoke. This smoke is like a foresight of what is yet to come and that is much more darkness. A tent is seen and serves "as another ward". The way this tent is presented is very minimal and common as if tents are always used as hospital wards. There are no sanitary concerns whatsoever and this brings about our own concerns and worries. Despite the amount of sunlight entering the tent through the roof, the atmosphere is still appears and feels dark. There is no longer fear and panic, all that is left is gloominess. Sarah looks for ‘refuge'; the use of the term refuge indicates that this is where the real war is.

Then there is the ‘shadowy figures' which is all that can be seen through the conservatory; it is rather symbolic as this is how these men feel of themselves, nothing but shadows next to everyone else in the world. Inside the conservatory is much different from other parts of the hospital and because of this there is a change of mood in the passage; there is silence. Silence signifies grief, sadness and even mourning. How Sarah had to ‘blink several times before she saw them' contributes to the sadness and the invisibility these men feel.

The writer describes how trouser legs are sewn short and empty sleeves pinned to jackets; he does not simply say they have lost their limbs. The writer has given a clear imagery of everything hence adding on to the grief and sadness of the passage. The writer keeps repeating this horrible imagery, "one man had lost all his limbs, and his face was so drained, so pale," emphasizing once again the sorrow. They were so worrying to look at that they were put out at the back instead of the front where "their mutilations might have been seen." The way the writer depicts this draws out anger in how mistreated these men are.

There was nothing left in these men; their eyes only showed a "totally blank stare." Sarah was unable to move and not even able to turn back. The way the writer has constructed this situation makes us wonder what we would do if we were Sarah, if we were the ones standing in front of these men. There was no possible way to make the situation better and the writer makes this clear to us; "simply by being there, by being that inconsequential, infinitely powerful creature" would only make everything worse. The writer has left Sarah and us, the readers, feeling nothing but helpless. The writer stresses this; "being forced to play the role of Medusa when she meant no harm."

Sarah did not intentionally walk into that conservatory nor would we if it happened to us. The writer has purposely constructed this awkward situation to leaving the mood of the passage turn to anger. Sarah blames her own country and the price it was willing to pay to go to war. She in so much rage that she walks on, not knowing and not caring where she will end up. The final sentence and how the writer leaves the last word hanging makes it clear how the mood of the passage is meant to end and that is in anger.

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