War soldiers of WWI throughout Pat Barker’s book, Regeneration, combatted various issues
that other citizen could not understand, which contributed to the emasculation
of these servicemen. Soldiers that became patients of Craiglockhart War
Hospital possessed internal struggles that psychiatrists like Rivers and
Yealland attempted to assist with. Once patients of Rivers realized that it’s
okay to breakdown and let out your feelings; patients tended to achieve more
success “And as soon as you accepted that the man’s breakdown was a consequence
of his war experience rather than his own innate weakness, then inevitably the
war became the issue” (Regeneration,
p. 115). While in the World War I, death became quite prevalent to see among
soldiers from both sides creating new mental struggles such as suicide,
depression, and anxiety.  Although
soldiers leave the battlefield with various degrees of PTSD, oftentimes these
veterans have great difficulty conforming to society. Throughout Regeneration, Barker utilized doctors
and soldiers to symbolize how war can lead to feelings of emasculation.

In order to combat the
challenges faced after the war in Craiglockhart, Dr. W.H.R. Rivers attempted to
heal his patients of their traumas; however, as a war psychiatrist, attending
to his patients’ needs became troublesome for his own mental toughness. With
compassion 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 to
understand that breakdown was nothing to be ashamed of, that horror and fear
were inevitable responses to the trauma of war and were better acknowledged
than suppressed…. And yet he himself was a product of the same system” (Regeneration, p. 48). After
Rivers viewed all of these men suffering from the war, he too felt inclined to
set his emotions aside even knowing the consequences of these actions. Each
patient 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 because
he knows that the people who become well, end up back into the military to face
the same situations (Regeneration, p.
238). Although Rivers was not directly impacted from events in the war like his
patients, he found nurturing his patients’ well-being quite difficult; he knew
that if the injured were healed, they would return to the war with the same
possible traumas as before.

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Although David Burns endured
great tragedy during World War I, he attempted to combat these internal
struggles by facing his fears and participating in the routines of the
Craiglockhart War Hospital. During Burns’s
service in the war, he found himself launched from a bomb into a decomposing
German’s corpse, which created anxiety about death. Rivers plays such a
significant role in Burns’s recovery from the war that he hears Rivers in his
mind stating, “If you run now, you’ll never stop” (Regeneration, p.39) while encountering various dead animals hanging
from trees in the Scottish countryside. Because Burns feels determined to
overcome his fear of death, he decides to take all of the dead animals down
forming a circle and then strip his clothes to nothing. By completely
undressing down to nothing, Burns now feels “This was the right place. This was
where he had wanted to be” (Regeneration,
p. 39) demonstrating how he controls his feelings and sanity. Although Burns did
not want to face his issues of death, he successfully overcame the emasculation
sustained from the traumatic accidents during the war.

Regeneration demonstrates
the various effects war has on its soldiers as well as on civilians. When Billy
Prior was first instituted into Craiglockhart, he refused to speak with the doctors
verbally, so he used a notepad and pencil to communicate what he remembers from
the war. After answering several of River’s questions, Prior became irritable
of River’s persistent interrogations on what happened to him during the war; in
which, Prior could not remember making him more frustrated. Because of Prior
being unable to speak, this emasculated his communication skills to only be
able to respond through writing. Once Prior found himself able to communicate
with Rivers, he noted “I don’t think talking helps. It just churns things up
and makes them seem more real” (Regeneration,
p. 51) which contradicts his desires to speak after first arriving to the
hospital. Eventually Prior ends up traveling with Sarah on a train to the sea
where he becomes jealous of all the civilians licking ice-cream, playing in the
sand, and eating cotton candy along with everyone’s ability to just not think
about the war. Prior even becomes frustrated with Sarah when she connects with
the rest of society “She belonged with the pleasure-seeking crowds. He both
envied and despised her, and was quite coldly determined to get her. They owed
him something, all of them, and she should pay” (Regeneration, p. 128). Because civilians are able to escape the
harsh realities of war, Prior becomes jealous that he constantly ponders the
war. Soldiers from World War I face various eternal traumas that emasculate
them, which normal citizens would be incapable to comprehend.

The role of psychiatrists
became crucial for soldiers as emasculation caused these men to struggle to
escape the harsh traumas inflicted from constant deaths of World War I as shown
in Regeneration. A doctor from the
Craiglockhart War Hospital, W.H.R. Rivers, found aiding and diagnosing insane
soldiers led to himself questioning his own life. While under care of
Craiglockhart, Burns traveled to the countryside where he walked through trees,
found dead animals hanging, placed the animals around a circle, and stripped
himself to nothing in order to overcome his fear of death by becoming one with
nature. Another patient, Billy Prior, found himself mute for a short time when first
arriving to the hospital feeling emasculation for his inability to communicate.
Both patients and doctors from Craiglockhart War Hospital found that the best
way to help diminish the constant traumas were through removing the masculinity
from themselves and being able to talk and reflect about their emotions
“Feelings of tenderness for other men were natural and right, that tears were
an acceptable and helpful part of grieving” (Regeneration, p. 48).

 

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