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Regeneration By Pat Barker, in depth analysis of Chapter 4

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How does Barker convey Burns’ experience/regeneration in Chapter 4?

The extract opens with Burns standing by the window, looking out on a bleak and depressing landscape, “sky and hills together in a wash of grey.” The pathetic fallacy reflects on Burns’ mood; downcast, depressed. He feels the need to escape; but is trapped. A sense of darkness and connotations of conflict seem to surround him, both outside, in the form of the stormy weather, and inside the hospital in the form of the crowded room and the men talking in “strained or facetious tones about the war the war the war”.

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Through the repeated phrase and lack of punctuation, there is a sense that Burns is overwhelmed and feels a desire to break away, “somehow or other he was going to have to get out”. In this extract he is able to make his first steps towards recovery; literally by walking out of Craiglockheart and mentally in his longing to be rid his depression.

Once outside, Burns struggles to gain clarity; he feels almost euphoric in his power to make a decision for himself, but is confused, “…the possibilities seemed endless.” This is the first time that he has gained control in his life since his time in the army, where decisions would have been made for him, and he is almost overwhelmed by the sense of choice he has. The character’s extremely nervous state becomes evident on the bus. Surrounded by people, he becomes anxious. His repulsion is evident through the repeated olfactory and tactile imagery, “People smelling of wet wool jerked and swayed against him,” his senses are almost overloaded. Dealing with the normal situation seems too much Burns as past experiences flood back to him, “the lanes were narrower now”. The imagery seems to reflect the trenches, and the pre-modifier “narrower” suggests a sense of claustrophobia and panic. A branch “rattles” against the bus window, “like machine gun fire”. Through this simile we see that, as in battle, Burns is alone. He facing his journey to recovery by himself; despite being surrounded by people, he is very vulnerable. Burns is confused by his freedom, “He didn’t know what to do first, it was so long since he’d been anywhere alone.” His independency now seems a little intimidating. Asyndetic listing portrays his attempt to understand his situation and decide what to do next, “He got off at the next stop, and stood, looking up and down the country lane”. His freedom and confrontation of the real world is almost frightening, and again there is a sense of the character being overwhelmed, as evident in the adjectives “persistent” and “monotonously”.

Small details about his surrounding overcome Burns and the repetition of the word “up” describes his desire to move forward and away from them. Tension rises and the pace quickens in the next paragraph with short sentences, and as Burns reaches the barbed wire, we seen panic rise within him, “…breaking into a sweat…” He is reminded of battle, and begins “trembling.” The frequent use of dynamic verbs in this paragraph is highly similar to battle situation; we can imagine the fast, frantic movements of the soldiers, “scramble…slipping…stumbling”. Sibilance amplifies Burn’s panic and chaotic staggering; his only desire is to escape and save himself, but is held back by his “mud-encumbered boots”. The antagonism and personification of nature, “The mud dragged at him…the sucking earth”, throughout this part of the extract enforces the feeling of conflict and war, with nature as the enemy, as well as an association of life in the infamous flooded, mud filled trenches of WW1. It also demonstrates how difficult Burns is finding the normal, everyday experience of walking in the field. His illness is so mentally immobilizing, that he can barely function. Everything around him is acting against him and he is completely alienated from real life. Barker also demonstrates Burns’ alienation from military life, “His body was cold inside the stiff khaki, expect for a burning round the knees where the tight cloth chafed the skin”. His body doesn’t belong in the constrictions of the uniform, and he still feels the controlling and containing elements of militarily life. The only thoughts that he can occupy are of war and his terror of it, “His mind was incapable of making comparisons…and he listened for the whine of the shells”. He is numb, “Then blinking, he dragged his wet sleeve across his face”, and in shock, as if after a battle. There is a sense of relief, but the panic and fear remains as Burns begins “stumbling” once more. The repetition of the word “stumbling” by Barker enhances Burns’ inability to escape and gain clarity; he is struggling. There is an increase of tension through the characters’ sharp, juddering, interrupted movements; he runs stops and runs again. In this part of the extract, the atmosphere changes to one of horror, disgust, revolution and terror, “his fingers touched slime and he snatched them back”. The dead animals suspended in the tree are described as “fruit”, suggesting life and sweetness, but this is ironic, as they are an embodiment of death and conflict.

The lexical sets of this part of the extract are of death, “dead”, “decay”, “blood” and the listing of the animals suggests that they surround and overwhelm Burns, “a ferret, a weasel, three magpies, a fox…” Burns is terrified and the decisive verb “run” captures his strong desire to leave the animals behind. The anti-climax of the extract is reached when Rivers’ voice interrupts, “If you run now, you’ll never stop”. The treatment seems to be working on Burns; the pace of the extract slows, and he is able to gain control. There is a sense of sudden clarity, “he turned and went back”. The calm, decisive atmosphere contrasts to the panic previously in the extract. Burns finds peace in nature, he shows respect for the animals, and refers to them as his “companions”, showing equality. He chooses to “undress”, rejecting his associations with the army and battle, and finding safety in the tranquillity and peacefulness of nature. It has proved to be a process of healing for Burns, in returning the dead animals, who like his comrades, were killed unjust- fully and barbarically, to their rightful place in the Earth.

Cite this Regeneration By Pat Barker, in depth analysis of Chapter 4

Regeneration By Pat Barker, in depth analysis of Chapter 4. (2016, Nov 06). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/regeneration-by-pat-barker-in-depth-analysis-of-chapter-4/

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