Monday, April 03, 2006

Y13: See my note at the end- applies to all of you!

Sarah May - my overall essay, so far at about 1,300 words. I have done the alterations to the first 500 so now hopefully its better. How is the rest?

Pat Barker’s Regeneration is a war novel set in 1917 at Craiglockhart hospital, where those who were directly involved in the war and suffered from neurasthenia were sent for pioneering psychological therapy and treatment. W.H.R Rivers, an army psychiatrist, and Siegfried Sassoon, a soldier sent to Craiglockhart for political as much as for medical reasons, are the main characters. Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart by the government because his ‘Soldier’s Declaration’ was a considerable embarrassment for them, and it was politically more useful to discredit him as writing it while suffering from neurasthenia rather than allow him the publicity that a court-martial would give him.

Regeneration was written in the 1990s, giving Barker an historical perspective on the events she portrays and this allows her to reflect on the times and the attitudes of her characters with some detachment, allowing her to present the reader with a variety of different viewpoints on the war and its consequences. Barker’s main purpose for writing her novel was to give a fresh approach to writing about the war as she takes her readers through the psychological and social consequences of the trenches, rather than describing the action on the battlefields themselves. The novel presents us with three dimensional, developed characters, fictional and fictionalised, and shows the effects of the war on a variety of people with a variety of civilian and military experiences.
The historical Siegfried Sassoon was an educated, aristocratic trench officer in the war, compared to Barker who is a working class, female novelist with no war experience. Sassoon’s poetry makes a very strong point of protest and as he had first hand experience of the war, it is easier to do this. Much of his poetry was actually written whilst in trenches or in hospitals; in fact, some of his poems were written during his stay at Craiglockhart in 1917, the setting for Barker’s novel. Sassoon had a number of purposes for his work: he used it as a method to voice his protest, to create sympathy for the soldiers and, perhaps unintentionally, because it was therapeutic; as Rivers notes in Regeneration of the fictionalised Sassoon and his relatively speedy recovery, ‘writing the poems had obviously been therapeutic’ (page 26). His poetry is short, dense, direct, powerful and makes his point very clearly.
In Regeneration, the governing narrative technique is varieties of free indirect style. Free indirect style is a technique of third person narration, which allows the narrator to drop into the character’s consciousness unannounced, for example in lines like, ‘the net curtain behind River’s head billowed out in a glimmering arc’ (page 11). This tells us we are in Sassoon’s head because, as he is a poet, no other character would think with that amount of imagery and descriptive vocabulary.

Fair enough, but try to find another example- Kyle uses the same one and goes into more detail about it. Any bit of f.i.s that shows the personality of the character would do just as well.

By using the third person narrative perspective, but populating it with a variety of her characters’ own voices by using free indirect style, Barker achieves a great deal. Firstly, she reflects a number of her characters’ personalities and opinions; secondly, she allows the reader to the experience events of the narrative from a character’s perspective and finally it allows her to have more than one main character and gives the reader an intimate knowledge of a number of characters. The critic Mikhail Bakhtin, writing on Dostoevsky, states that, ‘language is constitutively intersubjective (therefore social) and logically precedes subjectivity’, this shows that free indirect style is a narrative trick as the dialogue is actually between the author and the reader. We are being told the story, by the author, rather than being shown it by the characters, as it appears to be.

As Regeneration is a psychological and sociological novel, it looks at the consequences of the war on society and on the people in it. Barker examines and analyses the psychological effects of the war by using free indirect style and constantly dropping into a character’s consciousness. By this we can see how the war has affected them.

‘he woke to a dugout smell of wet sandbags and stale farts’ (page 101). This is when prior has been hypnotised to help him recall what incident struck him dumb, Barker drops into his head so the reader can see what he is recalling too.

You need to work on this, Sarah- you make a big claim about how free indirect style shows us how the characters were affected psychologically by the war and then your only ‘proof’ or analysis of technique in support of this is 12 words from the novel with no comment. You need to analyse in far greater detail- this is what examiners look for- candidates who go ‘Here’s a big claim about the text, and here’s a quote, there you go,’ are obviously just working from class-notes without much understanding. It should be ‘here’s a big claim about the text, and here’s how I came to work it out by analyzing these quotations in detail and using my own ideas and analytical ability).’

Timothy Marshall states that ‘the technical resources of narrative in prose (the varieties of indirect discourse in particular) do have an inherent capacity to represent languages other than the author’s’. This comment is more relevant to Barker’s work over Sassoon’s because Barker at least presents herself as a neutral narrator. Although we don’t get Barker’s voice directly in the novel it is easy to see she isn’t completely invisible, by the way she presents her characters. For example, Barker believes that neurasthenia was an actual effect of the war, so her characters that also believe this are given more time and credibility in the novel. Prior’s view on this subject is the same as Barker’s, whereas Langdon’s aren’t. We can tell by the representation of these characters that Barker favours Prior. Some characters are given more speech than others and Barker tries to create sympathy for others, from the readers, ‘it was the closest Prior could come to asking for physical contact’ (page 104). This is after Prior’s hypnotism when he is upset and he ‘seized Rivers by the arms and began butting him in the chest, hard enough to hurt’ (page 104). This appears to be Prior’s way of wanting comfort because during the war it was unaccepted for men to express their emotions. Prior seems to be the character who Barker creates the most sympathy for, this could be because they are both from a working class background.
As Barker uses free indirect style the readers can tell whose viewpoint we are sharing by the way they think and what they think, even if these thoughts themselves aren’t introduced as such. ‘Pipes lined the wall, twisting with the turning of the stair, gurgling from time to time like lengths of human intestine’ (page 17), we know this is Rivers’ perspective because he is a doctor so he is likely to think that objects are body parts. Rivers’ and Sassoon’s vocabulary and the way they talk show their educated discourse, unlike Prior, Sarah and Ada, where what they say and how they say it shows their working class background. ‘Noting that the grove between radius and ulna was even deeper than it had been a week ago’ (page 18), this shows Rivers’ education and also tells the reader we are in Rivers’ head, as no other character would think this way. In contrast, the line, ‘Sarah began to feel green and hairy’ (page 159), shows Sarah’s working class environment through Barker’s voice and language as she compares herself to a gooseberry, which is typical of her colloquial discourse.
Barker also uses silence as a psychologically-revealing voice, particularly with Prior. Rivers believed that the ‘talking cure’ as Sigmund Freud called it, was the only way to express repressed memories of battlefield expereince, when the patient had, ‘usually been devoting considerable energy to the task of forgetting whatever traumatic events had precipitated his neurosis’ (page 26). However, it was socially unacceptable for a man to express their emotions, ‘they’d been trained to identify emotional repression as the essence of manliness’ (page 48), because if they did they would be labelled ‘sissies, weaklings, failures’ (page 48). This left the men bottling up their emotions and feelings and, in the case of Prior, struck dumb. When Prior is hypnotised he, Rivers and the readers finally learn what traumatic event had caused his muteness, ‘a numbness had spread all over the lower half of his face’ (page 103). We also know that it took a while for it to be cured, because he never discussed his emotions.

This warms up as it goes on and is very good towards the end- what it lacks at first as genuine analysis- don’t assert or claim or make any kind of judgement unless you can show how you used analysis to come to that judgement, otherwise the examiner will assume (probably rightly) that you are copying from class-notes with little or no understanding.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah May - I've done the corrections you suggested, and i have just started doing the poems, have only done 2 so far, but i just wanted to check that i am doing them correctly before i continue. So are the corrections any better and have i started the poems correctly?


Pat Barker’s Regeneration is a war novel set in 1917 at Craiglockhart hospital, where those who were directly involved in the war and suffered from neurasthenia were sent for pioneering psychological therapy and treatment. W.H.R Rivers, an army psychiatrist, and Siegfried Sassoon, a soldier sent to Craiglockhart for political as much as for medical reasons, are the main characters. Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart by the government because his ‘Soldier’s Declaration’ was a considerable embarrassment for them, and it was politically more useful to discredit him as writing it while suffering from neurasthenia rather than allow him the publicity that a court-martial would give him.

Regeneration was written in the 1990s, giving Barker an historical perspective on the events she portrays and this allows her to reflect on the times and the attitudes of her characters with some detachment, allowing her to present the reader with a variety of different viewpoints on the war and its consequences. Barker’s main purpose for writing her novel was to give a fresh approach to writing about the war as she takes her readers through the psychological and social consequences of the trenches, rather than describing the action on the battlefields themselves. The novel presents us with three dimensional, developed characters, fictional and fictionalised, and shows the effects of the war on a variety of people with a variety of civilian and military experiences.
The historical Siegfried Sassoon was an educated, aristocratic trench officer in the war, compared to Barker who is a working class, female novelist with no war experience. Sassoon’s poetry makes a very strong point of protest and as he had first hand experience of the war, it is easier to do this. Much of his poetry was actually written whilst in trenches or in hospitals; in fact, some of his poems were written during his stay at Craiglockhart in 1917, the setting for Barker’s novel. Sassoon had a number of purposes for his work: he used it as a method to voice his protest, to create sympathy for the soldiers and, perhaps unintentionally, because it was therapeutic; as Rivers notes in Regeneration of the fictionalised Sassoon and his relatively speedy recovery, ‘writing the poems had obviously been therapeutic’ (page 26). His poetry is short, dense, direct, powerful and makes his point very clearly.

In Regeneration, the governing narrative technique is varieties of free indirect style. Free indirect style is a technique of third person narration, which allows the narrator to drop into the character’s consciousness unannounced, for example in lines like, ‘the net curtain behind River’s head billowed out in a glimmering arc’ (page 11). This tells us we are in Sassoon’s head because, as he is a poet, no other character would think with that amount of imagery and descriptive vocabulary. This line mirrors ‘blowing the curtain to a glimmering arc’ in Sassoon’s poem, ‘The Death Bed’, which shows Barker may have used this poem as a aspect of reseach for the novel.
By using the third person narrative perspective, but populating it with a variety of her characters’ own voices by using free indirect style, Barker achieves a great deal. Firstly, she reflects a number of her characters’ personalities and opinions; secondly, she allows the reader to experience events of the narrative from a character’s perspective and finally it allows her to have more than one main character and gives the reader an intimate knowledge of a number of characters. The critic Mikhail Bakhtin, writing on Dostoevsky, states that, ‘language is constitutively intersubjective (therefore social) and logically precedes subjectivity’, this shows that free indirect style is a narrative trick as the dialogue is actually between the author and the reader. We are being told the story, by the author, rather than being shown it by the characters, as it appears to be.

As Regeneration is a psychological and sociological novel, it looks at the consequences of the war on society and on the people in it. Barker examines and analyses the psychological effects of the war by using free indirect style and constantly dropping into a character’s consciousness. By this we can see how the war has affected them, ‘he woke to a dugout smell of wet sandbags and stale farts’ (page 101). This is when prior has been hypnotised to help him recall what incident struck him dumb, Barker drops into his head so the reader can see what he is recalling too. During prior’s hypnosis, the main literary technique we are shown is free indirect style, this is because without it we would only learn about Prior’s experiances by him telling us about them, which wouldn’t ‘work’ as Prior cannot recall his experiances. Rivers and the readers soon discover the extent to which Prior is affected by the war by one, in particular, incident that has happened, ‘what am I supposed to do with this gobstopper?’ (page 103). This shows his callousness towards the war, and how harsh it has made him, because this is his reply when a man he was talking to minutes before was blown up, and he picked up his eyeball. When Prior has woken and relises the incident, he is shocked that that particular incident was what had struck him dumb ‘is that all?’, because the war had had such an effect on him psychologically that particular incident had seem very minor to him.

Timothy Marshall states that ‘the technical resources of narrative in prose (the varieties of indirect discourse in particular) do have an inherent capacity to represent languages other than the author’s’. This comment is more relevant to Barker’s work over Sassoon’s because Barker at least presents herself as a neutral narrator. Although we don’t get Barker’s voice directly in the novel it is easy to see she isn’t completely invisible, by the way she presents her characters. For example, Barker believes that neurasthenia was an actual effect of the war, so her characters that also believe this are given more time and credibility in the novel. Prior’s view on this subject is the same as Barker’s, whereas Langdon’s aren’t. We can tell by the representation of these characters that Barker favours Prior. Some characters are given more speech than others and Barker tries to create sympathy for others, from the readers, ‘it was the closest Prior could come to asking for physical contact’ (page 104). This is after Prior’s hypnotism when he is upset and he ‘seized Rivers by the arms and began butting him in the chest, hard enough to hurt’ (page 104). This appears to be Prior’s way of wanting comfort because during the war it was unaccepted for men to express their emotions. Prior seems to be the character who Barker creates the most sympathy for, this could be because they are both from a working class background.
As Barker uses free indirect style the readers can tell whose viewpoint we are sharing by the way they think and what they think, even if these thoughts themselves aren’t introduced as such. ‘Pipes lined the wall, twisting with the turning of the stair, gurgling from time to time like lengths of human intestine’ (page 17), we know this is Rivers’ perspective because he is a doctor so he is likely to think that objects are body parts. Rivers’ and Sassoon’s vocabulary and the way they talk show their educated discourse, unlike Prior, Sarah and Ada, where what they say and how they say it shows their working class background. ‘Noting that the grove between radius and ulna was even deeper than it had been a week ago’ (page 18), this shows Rivers’ education and also tells the reader we are in Rivers’ head, as no other character would think this way. In contrast, the line, ‘Sarah began to feel green and hairy’ (page 159), shows Sarah’s working class environment through Barker’s voice and language as she compares herself to a gooseberry, which is typical of her colloquial discourse.
Barker also uses silence as a psychologically-revealing voice, particularly with Prior. Rivers believed that the ‘talking cure’ as Sigmund Freud called it, was the only way to express repressed memories of battlefield expereince, when the patient had, ‘usually been devoting considerable energy to the task of forgetting whatever traumatic events had precipitated his neurosis’ (page 26). However, it was socially unacceptable for a man to express their emotions, ‘they’d been trained to identify emotional repression as the essence of manliness’ (page 48), because if they did they would be labelled ‘sissies, weaklings, failures’ (page 48). This left the men bottling up their emotions and feelings and, in the case of Prior, struck dumb. When Prior is hypnotised he, Rivers and the readers finally learn what traumatic event had caused his muteness, ‘a numbness had spread all over the lower half of his face’ (page 103). We also know that it took a while for it to be cured, because he never discussed his emotions.

Sassoon’s poetry is generally doggerel and there is a juxtaposition between the anger and the childish innocent style, that he portrays, particularly in ‘Does It Matter?’.
‘Does It Matter?’ is satirical and sarcastic and is written in an epic voice and leans towards a lyric voice in certain places.
‘As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.’
This shows great detail of how a man in distress might behave, which is where we can see Sassoon’s lyric voice could these two lines could be a reflection of his own experiances.
This poem can be compared to pages 159-160 of Regeneration when Sarah Lumb is walking around a hospital and finds a hidden ward with soldiers who have occurred very bad injuiries, such as mutilation. ‘Does it Matter?’ has a upbeat and jolly feel of how to deal with mutilation because it is satirical and ironic, even though it gets across the same points as the section of Regeneration.
‘And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.’
This gives the message that society ignores you because you are mutilated, which is the same message given in the novel. ‘If the country demanded that price, then it should bloody well be prepared to look at the result.’ (page 160), this is Sarah’s opinion of the way these men should be treated by society. She is so shocked by what she had seen and by the way the men are put away in a hidden ward so that no one can see them.
‘Glory of Women’ can also be compared to the same extract from the novel as ‘Does it Matter?’. This poem has a monological voice because it is Sassoon’s voice and no one elses voice appears. The general point of this poem is that sassoon thinks that women don’t want to see the effects of the war, that they only care when their men are still well and have small heroic wounds,
‘You love us when we’re heroes, home on leave,
Or wounded in a mentionable place.’
This can be compared to Madge in Regeneration who visits her boyfriend in a hospital, for physical injuries. ‘Madge was now sitting by the bed…to bask in the admiration of her restorted lover and to plan what they would do on his leave’ (page 158-159). This shows that Madge does still care about her lover, when he has a wound which shows his bravery but we are unsure whether she would still behave in the same way if he had a bigger injury or was mutated. Barker proves Sassoon wrong in his opinions that women don’t want to see the effects of the war with her character, Sarah. When Sarah Lumb comes across the hidden ward she believes society should be forced to look at the consequences of the war.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Mr.D said...

I'll need some time to look through this properly but you're on the right lines, certainly. Be careful to make sure you are technnical in your analysis of poetry and not to assert without looking at evidence- you call Sasson's poetry 'doggerel', for example, which is a very strong statement that you need to support with an example or two of the simplicity and nursery-rhyme rhythm of (some of) his verse, contrasting with the horror of its content. However, this is shaping up nicely. Corrections are good. Good comparisons, too!

11:33 AM  

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