Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Y13: Emma Knighton- please take careful note of the marks.

Compare and contrast the use of different voices in the war poetry of Siegfried Sassoon and Pat Barker’s Regeneration
Emma Knighton

Regeneration by Pat Barker and the war poetry of Siegfried Sassoon both have the common subject of The Great War, examining the physical and emotional effects of the conflict of both the soldiers and civilians resulting in sociological and psychological trauma. By laying these two texts side by side we can see how the two writers use different narrative voices in their literary technique.
Pat Barker is a female author writing in the 20th century who usually focuses upon working class women. The novel, Regeneration, was published in 1991 and reflects a historical perspective on The Great War. The novel has a larger architecture than Sassoon’s poetry and concentrates on exploring three dimensional characters. Pat Barker wrote Regeneration to look at the English culture during the War rather than at the war itself. She basis her examination of the theme on a factual encounter between Siegfried Sassoon and his psychiatrist Dr W.H Rivers in the war hospital of Craiglockheart, between the months of July and November, which expands to involve other fictional and fictionalised characters. She uses the relationship of Rivers and Sassoon to create what she herself described in an interview in Time Out magazine as an ‘s-shaped structure’ to the novel. EXPLAIN THE S-SHAPED STRUCTURE Pat Barker uses a combination of research and imagination to bring factual characters to life for a 20th century audience.
As Barker wanted to show both the sociological and PSYCHOLOGICAL effects of the War she wanted to get inside the CONSCIOUSNESS OF many of her characters. Therefore, she wrote the novel using free indirect style, using third person narrative to give her the freedom to move between characters but dipping in and out of characters’ consciousness to show their state of mind. Pat Barker allows her characters to invade the narrative space, she poses between 3rd and 1st person so we experience the narrative in the characters language. It has been called a polyphonic novel as this literary technique uses many different, contrasting voices in the novel. She attempts to give each character narrative space to view there opinions so the reader can judge the characters without Barker explicitly telling the reader what to think. The Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin argues that “the novel is a genre most capable of technically dismantling the dictatorial authorial voice that regulates and resolves any interplay of other voices in the text.’ She uses a narrative trick to make the reader think they are reading a dialogic novel using several voice to guide the narrative, but arguable behind all these voices are Pat Barker’s. EXPLAIN WHAT YOU MEAN BY THIS
She shows this narrative technique by the language they use. “Pale skin, purple shadows under the eyes. Apart from that no obvious signs of a nervous disorder”.(chapter 2) we know that this is from inside Rivers’ head as he is analysing Sassoon first appearance the way a psychiatrist would. This is PRESENTED IN THE STYLE OF HOW medical notes would be taken; this is shown through the grammar and punctuation in his sentences. There is sort analysis as if he is noting them in a list formation.
In contrast, Barker uses reference from Sassoon’s poetry to give his character as much of a realistic or historically accurate presentation as possible; using the words “Glimmering arc” to describe his environment of the first interview with Rivers which is similar to the words used in his poem ‘The Death Bed’–“Blowing the curtain to a glimmering curve”. Barker uses their language to show the reader that you are inside Sassoon’s head. As Rivers heads up to a room in Craiglockheart the piping is described as if it looks like intestines, “Pipes lined the walls, twisting with he turning of the stair, gurgling from time to time like lengths of human intestine.” This is clearly from Rivers own personal analysis, as he is a doctor and would think in this manner.
Barker can incorporate free indirect style in subtle ways, such as including thoughts in to a narrative sentence for example “Yes Burns would worry about upsetting other people.” This is written as if Rivers is saying this to himself.
Reflections on the characters’ internal voices can also appear through more traditional narrative methods, such as in the dreams that some of the characters have. Burns and Anderson both have significant war dreams and strange actual experiences which symbolise the effect they experienced from the war. Barker challenges the reader to interpret these dreams and strange experiences; it is a technique used by Barker to make her characters psychologically transparent. The reader is given permission by Barker to decode the symbols and analyse the dreams and flash backs in Freudian terms. QUOTE FROM PAGE 28 AND 29 TO SHOW HOW BARKER DOES THIS- INTRODUCES ANDERSON AS BEING A CYNIC ABOUT FREUD AND THEN HAS RIVERS MORE OR LESS DEFENDING FREUDIAN INTERPRETATION AND GIVING AN INSIGHTFUL ANALYSIS OF ANDERSON’S DREAM IN FREUDIAN TERMINOLOGY In Anderson’s dream the reader is encouraged to take the place of Rivers and with him work out the symbols in his dream, “what the er snake might suggest is that medicine is an issue between your self and your father in law” (chapter 4). Barker wants the readers to asks questions like Rivers to decode the symbols. Anderson’s dream shows the life changing effects that the war can have as it made him afraid of blood which being a doctor has ruined his career and has left mental scaring.
THE INFLUENCE OF Burns’ INTERNAL voice IS CLEAR IN BARKER’S PRESENTATION of his trip to the woods, Barker PRESENTS HIM in a vulnerable psychological state as the smallest thing such as rain trigger his traumatic experiences over the war. She does this by using her narrative voice to explain the incident for him instead of using 1st person to show that he isn’t mentally stable enough to explain it himself rationally. THIS IS CONFUSED- THE POINT HERE IS THAT THE PASSAGE IS IN THE THIRD PERSON, BUT USES FREE INDIRECT STYLE TO ALLOW US ACCESS TO BURNS’ INTERNAL VOICE- THE WAY THE BRANCH ON THE BUS TRIGGERS HIS MEMORIES OF MACHINE-GUN FIRE, FOR EXAMPLE.
Barker uses different language to show the contrasts between the different classes: IN OTHER WORDS, THE SOCIAL VOICES OF HER NOVEL ARE DIFFERENTIATED BY STYLE AS WELL AS BY SENSE. The language that characters such as Sassoon and Rivers of a higher social background are clearly separated from characters such as Prior and Sarah Lumb who have a working class background. Although it is apparent that Barker shows much empathy for characters such as Prior as they are given a lot of narrative space the characters use their own language to reflect there personality and social background so the reader can see this for themselves. Sarah Lumb is portrayed as an outspoken northern working class woman, something Baker as most experience writing about. Her language, as one of the few women in the novel, is a representation of working class women of that time. When Prior meets her, Sarah and her friends speak in a northern dialect, this is reflected in the text “he says, hadaway and shite” and “D’ y’ get a hat”: language that is clearly different FROM how Sassoon and RiverS would talk. Rivers seems to treat Prior differently when he is cured of his mustism “Hearing Proir’s voice for the first time had a curious effect of making him look different. Thinner, more defensive. And, at the same time, a lot tougher. A little, spitting, sharp-bones alley cat.” (Chapter 6). It seems as if Rivers is making judgements according to the voice of others. IT MAY BE THAT BARKER IS PLAYING WITH THE READER HERE- DO WE MAKE THE SAME KIND OF ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT PRIOR AND SARAH ACCORDING TO THEIR DIALOGUE IN THE NOVEL, AND DOES THIS CONTRAST WITH THE SUBTLE, THOUGHTFUL, INTELLIGENT INTERNAL VOICE WE GET FROM BOTH CHARACTERS THAT WE PERHAPS WOULDN’T EXPECT OF THE WORKING CLASS, REFLECTED IN THE PASSAGES OF FREE INDIRECT STYLE- FOR EXAMPLE, SARAH’S ATTITUDE TO THE INJURED SOLDIERS IN THE HOSPITAL WHICH IS A LOT MORE SOPHISTICATED THAN SASSOON’S VERSION OF WHAT THE AVERAGE WORKING CLASS WOMAN WOULD THINK, AS REFLECTED IN ‘THE GLORY OF WOMEN’. YOU MENTION MUCH OF THIS LATER IN YOUR ESSAY BUT TRY TO MAKE THE CONNECTION HERE.
Bakers uses speech and silence as an index of psychic injury, therefore the more traumatised a patient is the less able they can talk about their experiences and express themselves. Speech and silence seems to be linked to rank as Sassoon, Anderson and Rivers have stutters and slight pauses in speech and many soldiers in the front line were likely to go completely dumb. The characters who stutter tend to be most effected when talking of a traumatic past experience or are hearing of one. “every thing I’ve done to to to to… a state of mental breakdown” Sassoon says this in a way which leads the reader to believe he almost doesn’t want to say what is coming next. Barker uses the difference between classes to show that Prior, although at the same rank as Sassoon, goes completely dumb. Prior’s muteness is from the fear of the consequences of speaking his mind, something that Sassoon could express in his poetry, therefore his mind is protecting himself by striking him dumb; Barker shows how even though his rank is the same, as characters such as Sassoon’s, he gets the same side effects as an ordinary solider, instead of a mild stutter, this could suggest that as he is of a lower class he is effected in he same way as a working class solider would be effected. “I imagine….Mutism seems to spring from a conflict between wanting to say something, and knowing that if you do say something the consequences will be disastrous.” This is Rivers interpretation of Prior’s incapacity to speak. He suggests that because he feels from the way he was brought up that he must ‘be a man’ and keep his feeling to himself hat this has resulted in his mutism. Prior, during the period where he can’t speak, writes on paper to communicate, writes everything he says in block capitals this gives the impression that he is shouting or anger all the time it could also be another way to keep people from knowing to much about him so nobody can analyse his writing, Prior may not want Rivers to know too much about him and this is another way of protecting himself against anybody or himself finding out too much.
He also wants to be hypnotised by Rivers and pushes for it from a very early stage in his therapy. “I thought it was a good idea. I mean you’re more or less saying: things are real, you’ve got to face them, but how can I face them if I don’t know what they are” (Chapter 6) This may because he is only willing to talk about his feelings when he will have no choice under hypnosis and wants the decision to talk about what has effected him to be made for him, it could also be so he can talk about hi experience of war without having to consciously remember what has happened. The fact that he was brought up to have a ‘stiff upper lip’ means that the only emotion he could show after learning of what had made him mute was “Prior seized Rivers by the arms, and begun butting him in the chest, hard enough to hurt”, “this was the closest Prior could come to asking for physical contact”. The voices that Barker uses in the novel can be transferred in to Sassoon’s poetry, there are many links between his poetry and what Barker has decided to include in to her novel. YOU NEED A STRONGER LINK- SOMETHING ABOUT THE TENDENCY OF SASSOON’S POETRY TO BE MONOLOGIC- REFLECTING HIS OWN VOICE AND OPINIONS- IN CONTRAST WITH BARKER’S POLYPHONIC STYLE, ALTHOUGH REMEMBER THERE ARE SOMETIMES MANY VOICES IN SASSOON’S POETRY AND BARKER’S NOVEL IS ARGUABLY EXPRESSIVE ONLY OF HER VOICE AND THOSE CHARACTERS WHOSE OPINIONS CLOSELY MATCH HERS.
Siegfried Sassoon was and army officer in The Great War who was sent to Craiglockheart after writing a letter entitled ‘a soldiers declaration’ in 1917 which showed his ‘wilful defiance of military authority’ and protested that the war was unnecessary. To escape any public support for the argument, the army medical board with the help of his friend Robert Graves sent him to Craiglockheart, against his will, under the supposed illness of neurasthenia. Sassoon wrote the majority his poetry during his stay using a combination of memory and imagination to create sympathy for the soldiers who he fought with and as an unintentional side effect it became a therapeutic experience. Rivers, in Regeneration, explicitly comments on this, “Writing the poems had obviously been therapeutic, but then Rivers suspected writing the Declaration might have been therapeutic too”. (Chapter 3) His poetry mainly uses one voice, his own, to make a powerful message and make an emotional plea for his soldiers. He incorporates some free indirect style in to a few of his poems but not to the same extent as Barker as it is not necessary for him to want to see the minds of the people in his poems as his voice is the most important. He uses a mix of epic and lyrical voices in his poems to convey a powerful political message, which is often satirical. DEFINE THE TERMS ‘EPIC’ AND ‘LYRIC’
Sassoon tends to be patronising towards women and gives little value or sympathy to them in poems like ‘The Glory of Women’, a poem written with an almost vengeful voice. He uses a lyric voice to show how angry he is about how women treat soldiers after they are mutilated by war,
“You love us when we’re heroes, home on leave,
Or wounded in a mentionable place.”
This contrasts with what Barker writes when Sarah Lumb enters the hospital with her friend and finds that, men’s “mutilations” have been hidden away from the public. SEE MY NOTE ABOVE She is outraged that she, nor anyone else knew of this and is horrified by what she sees, “her sense of her own helplessness, her being forced to play the role of medusa when she meant no harm, merged with anger she was beginning to feel at their being hidden away like that.” It seems as if Barker may of used this poem to write a retaliation of it using Sarah Lumb who’s job is to make shells for the war which is mentioned in the poem “You make us shells”. This is evidence of the research Barker may have used to construct her novel. In Sassoon’s poem ‘Does it Matter?’ he uses a lyrical voice I’D SAY THIS IS EPIC- HE’S DIRECTLY ADDRESSING THE READER AFTER ALL AND NOT WRITING ABOUT HIMSELF, APART FROM, ARGUABLY, WHEN HE TALKS ABOUT PSYCHIC INJURY IN THE FINAL STANZA to furthermore display his anger about how he seems to think that nobody cares about the soldiers after the have been injured by war. He uses a patronising tone and simple rhyme scheme so that it is blunt and straight to the point, therefore it is easy for the reader to understand the message that he is trying to show,
“Does it matter?-losing our sight?...
There’s such splendid work for the blind”
He is using irony to show the reader that the subject he is dealing with is serious as people who lived during the War were very dismissive about the consequences of the war.
The poem ‘Survivors’, written during his stay in Craiglockheart, focusEs on young men who war has become second nature to, so much so that they are almost portrayed as being empty, free from emotions or feelings towards killing or people who are killed as there is nothing they can do about it,
“They’ll soon forget their hunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died”
This is also ironic, as from what was shown in Regeneration we know that dreams are not easily forgotten. Sassoon also makes a connection between speech and silence, about men who have been effected by the war having “stammering, disconnected talk”, which is typical to the characters at Craiglockheart such as Anderson and Rivers, Barker may of read this poem and picked it up as an important issue, therefore making it a prime subject and common to many of the characters in the novel.



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