Regeneration History Versus Fiction
Split into Two GroupsYou have 5 minutes to prepare your arguments to support the following statements…. GROUP A Regeneration should be regarded as a historical document. GROUP B Regeneration should be regarded as a work of fiction only. • In your preparation, consider the following: • Which characters / events / places etc. are based on real life? • How accurate is Barker’s portrayal of life in the trenches? • How can someone in the 1990’s possibly be able to accurately portray something that happened before her lifetime? • What aspects of the novel are completely made-up?
Regeneration as a Piece of Historical Writing Several elements allow us to consider Regeneration as historically exact. Real people In the novel, there is a whole list of characters who have really existed. • Several characters like Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves were both poets and soldiers during the war. • The two psychiatrists also existed : Rivers had very modern Freudian views and Yealland did apply his own methods as it is described in the novel. • Pacifists like Lady Morrell and Bertrand Russell are real people. It is important to note that pacifism was strictly forbidden at the time.
Regeneration as a Piece of Historical Writing Real facts and events • There are numerous references to battles (e.g. the battle of the Somme) • There are references to real places (e.g. : Flanders, Belgium). • The main setting is Craiglockhart, which is also real.
Regeneration as a Piece of Historical Writing Her style of writing is realistic • Her descriptions of the landscape of war are based upon the testimonies of real soldiers and contain all the brutal truths. • Her presentation of the lives of the men while living in the trenches does not attempt to shield the reader from the harsh realities. • Her presentation of the physical and mental symptoms of the soldiers is based upon real documented evidence.
Regeneration as a Piece of Historical Writing You have 10 minutes to find as many examples as possible of genuine historical detail recorded in the novel… You should have found: • P3 – Sassoon’s declaration • P24 – Sassoon’s The Rear Guard • P24-25 – Sassoon’s The General • P25 – The Warmongers • P69 – entry about Sassoon from The Times • P71 – report from the real Rivers on Sassoon • P81 – reference to Owen’s letters to his Mother – great historical source for Barker to draw on • P157 – extract from Sassoon’s The Troops • P189 – Sassoon’s Sick Leave • P217-18 – references to the poems of Alymer Strong
Regeneration as a Piece of Fiction What distinguishes Regeneration from an entirely historical book? Fictional Characters • Prior - perhaps the most interesting character in the novel and he is entirely fictional. Does Barker have to invent a working class character because there are no historically represented working class officers from WW1? • Sarah – another interesting character, whilst based upon research of women on the home-front, is an entirely fictional character. • Burns and Anderson are also fictional
Regeneration as a Piece of Fiction Dramatisation • This type of writing, which appeals to the reader’s imagination, is not found in historical writing. • Writers of fiction use a range of stylistic devices that are rarely found in historical writing. Have a look at page 160 • How does Barker’s style of writing differ from historical writing? • Have a go at re-writing this page as a historical document.
Regeneration as a Piece of Fiction Perspective • Historical writing tends to have one objective voice. • Regeneration has a third person narrator who is able to present scenes through the eyes of the many characters. For example on p160, we see the ward through Sarah’s eyes. Therefore, it is a subjective account. • Find another example of a moment in the novel where we see objectively through another character’s eyes. Analyse the way the scene is presented. • The whole novel is based on revolt and anger and subjective responses to the Great War, beginning with Sassoon’s protest.
Regeneration as a Piece of Fiction Time • There are very few dates in the novel. • Chronology is disrupted by many flash-backs. Historical writing is nearly always chronological. Fiction is crafted to create the greatest effect on the reader. • What is the impact of the use of flashbacks in the novel?
Plenary… Discuss… • What right does Pat Barker have to try to present the suffering of a generation in order to make financial gain as a writer? • In terms of its place in presenting the harsh realities of the Great War, do you think it is more or less successful than a text which is either entirely fictional or entirely historical?