Gender Roles in Wilfred Owen's Regeneration
Pat Barker sets her novel Regeneration in Craiglockhart War Hospital during the First World War. Craiglockhart is where the traumatised and shell shocked British soldiers are sent to be cured under the watchful eye of army Psychiatrist Dr William Rivers. Not only are the soldiers suffering from shell shock, they’re also fighting to save their manliness. Masculinity and gender roles play a massive role in the novel and this essay will show that Barker explores these themes through the thoughts and feelings of the shell shocked and sometimes confused soldiers. One theme that Barker explores throughout the novel is the theme of homosexuality, and even though it’s not clear, Barker implies that Dr Rivers is homosexual.
Barker uses homosexuality in certain parts of the novel and the relationship between Dr Rivers and Craiglockhart patient Siegfried Sassoon is interesting. The first sign of Rivers’ feelings came early in the novel as Rivers was filling out a report for Sassoon, he said to Rivers, “My intimate details disqualify me from military service”, and that’s when, “River’s looked up and smiled. I know”. Rivers knew Sassoon was homosexual, and he also knew he could never admit to having feelings for him, as he would have lost everything, so it must have been very difficult for him to deal with. It is clear the relationship between Sassoon and Dr Rivers is growing when they start to see each other outside of the hospital and the feelings of Dr Rivers start to show at a dinner date when Barker writes “None of this prevented him from watching Sassoon’s continued poring over the menu with affection as well as amusement”. Although this shows the affection Dr Rivers has for Sassoon it is also clear that these feeling might be more than just friendly when during the same dinner date Barker writes, “Rivers watched him as he pored over the menu and thought how much easier his life would have been if they’d sent Siegfried somewhere else”. If Rivers