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A comparison of how the War psychologically changes Barton in Strange Meeting and Prior in Regeneration.

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Introduction

A comparison of how the War psychologically changes Barton in Strange Meeting and Prior in Regeneration. As Pat Barker's 'Regeneration' is set in a mental hospital during World War I many aspects of the novel evaluate and discuss the psychological effects that the War has had on the patients. The novel explores the internal struggles of WWI soldiers and their attempts to overcome the trauma of war experiences. In 'Strange Meeting' a different approach to the war is addressed with much of the novel being set in the trenches and at the front line. The novel closely examines the relationship between two soldiers Barton and Hilliard and the extent of change caused by the war is a prominent theme throughout, showing clearly the emotional and physical changes the war has caused. Prior is an initially difficult patient who suffers from mutism, writing that he has 'NO MORE WORDS' when asked what he could remember from his time served in France. Barker's use of block capital letters and short, blunt statements here leads us to at first believe that Prior is not only an uncooperative patient hindering a possible speedy recovery but also inwardly angry and agitated. Although Prior gives the staff at Craiglockhart a hard time, describing the night staff as 'spies', and with this sarcastic dismissive attitude is perhaps at first perceived as though he doesn't want to get better we soon realise that he is simply a difficult character who actually really wants to recover and as fast as possible, 'it isn't fair to say I don't want treatment'. ...read more.

Middle

By the end of the novel Hilliard has changed his opinion claiming that it is in fact him that 'knew nothing about the war', but in actually fact despite once wanting to know everything he now 'did not want to know' suggesting that it was a better situation to be in to be naive and uninformed as when not in the trenches 'the air smelled sweet and dry' this is due to his relationship with Barton and after losing him, the only person that understood, he feels lost and is able to put things into perspective. Hilliard and Barton's relationship is portrayed by Hill as something that was rare during the War but its importance is made extremely clear and we realise this when we compare Barton to a character such as Prior, it is their Barton and Hilliard's closeness that allows them to remain reasonably sane throughout their time in the trenches despite the strong feelings of 'hoping against hope'. It is their close proximity that allows both characters to embrace their emotions rather than repressing them as we see frequently through the character Prior in Regeneration. Using hypnosis releases hidden thoughts and feelings; it is this particular release of thoughts and feelings that is shown when Prior tells Rivers 'I don't think talking helps. It just churns things up and makes them seem more real.' He is not willing to express emotion to Rivers in a fully conscious state, but he is willing to undergo complete physical submission in order to let his true emotions emerge and face his painful memories. ...read more.

Conclusion

'Barton was looking with interest at the rough edged scar along his (Hilliard) left thigh' Barton looks up to Hilliard, realising he is experienced and longing to learn from him. His childlike innocence is again reinforced here as he 'peers at it closely as he used to peer at scabs and bruises on arms and knees as a small boy'. By the end of the novel Hilliard has admiration for Barton believing in him, which is ironic as at the beginning of the novel Hilliard dismisses Barton as a naive youngster fooled by propaganda. Both Barton and Prior share a lot in common both having experiencing trench life and struggling with the brutal truths of war. They both create relationships with people throughout the novels and through Barton and Hilliard's relationship and the relationships Prior shares with Sarah and Rivers we learn a lot about their characters and the difficulties soldiers experienced in talking about their experiences as there were so many people that 'didn't understand'. We see that although the physical scars can be healed quickly it is the emotional scars that do the most injury and ironically are the hardest to heal. Barker and Hill both portray this message about the war using a fragmented discontinuous style, which reflects the disjointed thought process of many of the soldiers. From both novels we are shown just how innocent those back at home are and how they really don't understand the depth of the matter. ...read more.

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