War soldiers of WWI throughout Pat Barker’s book, Regeneration, combatted various issuesthat other citizen could not understand, which contributed to the emasculationof these servicemen. Soldiers that became patients of Craiglockhart WarHospital possessed internal struggles that psychiatrists like Rivers andYealland attempted to assist with. Once patients of Rivers realized that it’sokay to breakdown and let out your feelings; patients tended to achieve moresuccess “And as soon as you accepted that the man’s breakdown was a consequenceof his war experience rather than his own innate weakness, then inevitably thewar became the issue” (Regeneration,p. 115). While in the World War I, death became quite prevalent to see amongsoldiers from both sides creating new mental struggles such as suicide,depression, and anxiety.
Althoughsoldiers leave the battlefield with various degrees of PTSD, oftentimes theseveterans have great difficulty conforming to society. Throughout Regeneration, Barker utilized doctorsand soldiers to symbolize how war can lead to feelings of emasculation.In order to combat thechallenges faced after the war in Craiglockhart, Dr. W.H.R.
Rivers attempted toheal his patients of their traumas; however, as a war psychiatrist, attendingto his patients’ needs became troublesome for his own mental toughness. Withcompassion towards his patients, the doctor sought out to treat his patients’struggles to the best of his ability “he was already experimenting on himself. In leading his patients tounderstand that breakdown was nothing to be ashamed of, that horror and fearwere inevitable responses to the trauma of war and were better acknowledgedthan suppressed…. And yet he himself was a product of the same system” (Regeneration, p.
48). AfterRivers viewed all of these men suffering from the war, he too felt inclined toset his emotions aside even knowing the consequences of these actions. Eachpatient needed to be evaluated of his madness to determine their well-being,which emasculated Rivers by having to talk and sympathize with his patients.Rivers ponders greatly how his methods of therapy affect his patients becausehe knows that the people who become well, end up back into the military to facethe same situations (Regeneration, p.
238). Although Rivers was not directly impacted from events in the war like hispatients, he found nurturing his patients’ well-being quite difficult; he knewthat if the injured were healed, they would return to the war with the samepossible traumas as before. Although David Burns enduredgreat tragedy during World War I, he attempted to combat these internalstruggles by facing his fears and participating in the routines of theCraiglockhart War Hospital. During Burns’sservice in the war, he found himself launched from a bomb into a decomposingGerman’s corpse, which created anxiety about death. Rivers plays such asignificant role in Burns’s recovery from the war that he hears Rivers in hismind stating, “If you run now, you’ll never stop” (Regeneration, p.39) while encountering various dead animals hangingfrom trees in the Scottish countryside. Because Burns feels determined toovercome his fear of death, he decides to take all of the dead animals downforming a circle and then strip his clothes to nothing.
By completelyundressing down to nothing, Burns now feels “This was the right place. This waswhere he had wanted to be” (Regeneration,p. 39) demonstrating how he controls his feelings and sanity. Although Burns didnot want to face his issues of death, he successfully overcame the emasculationsustained from the traumatic accidents during the war. Regeneration demonstratesthe various effects war has on its soldiers as well as on civilians. When BillyPrior was first instituted into Craiglockhart, he refused to speak with the doctorsverbally, so he used a notepad and pencil to communicate what he remembers fromthe war. After answering several of River’s questions, Prior became irritableof River’s persistent interrogations on what happened to him during the war; inwhich, Prior could not remember making him more frustrated. Because of Priorbeing unable to speak, this emasculated his communication skills to only beable to respond through writing.
Once Prior found himself able to communicatewith Rivers, he noted “I don’t think talking helps. It just churns things upand makes them seem more real” (Regeneration,p. 51) which contradicts his desires to speak after first arriving to thehospital.
Eventually Prior ends up traveling with Sarah on a train to the seawhere he becomes jealous of all the civilians licking ice-cream, playing in thesand, and eating cotton candy along with everyone’s ability to just not thinkabout the war. Prior even becomes frustrated with Sarah when she connects withthe rest of society “She belonged with the pleasure-seeking crowds. He bothenvied and despised her, and was quite coldly determined to get her. They owedhim something, all of them, and she should pay” (Regeneration, p. 128).
Because civilians are able to escape theharsh realities of war, Prior becomes jealous that he constantly ponders thewar. Soldiers from World War I face various eternal traumas that emasculatethem, which normal citizens would be incapable to comprehend. The role of psychiatristsbecame crucial for soldiers as emasculation caused these men to struggle toescape the harsh traumas inflicted from constant deaths of World War I as shownin Regeneration. A doctor from theCraiglockhart War Hospital, W.H.
R. Rivers, found aiding and diagnosing insanesoldiers led to himself questioning his own life. While under care ofCraiglockhart, Burns traveled to the countryside where he walked through trees,found dead animals hanging, placed the animals around a circle, and strippedhimself to nothing in order to overcome his fear of death by becoming one withnature. Another patient, Billy Prior, found himself mute for a short time when firstarriving to the hospital feeling emasculation for his inability to communicate.
Both patients and doctors from Craiglockhart War Hospital found that the bestway to help diminish the constant traumas were through removing the masculinityfrom themselves and being able to talk and reflect about their emotions”Feelings of tenderness for other men were natural and right, that tears werean acceptable and helpful part of grieving” (Regeneration, p. 48).