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A comparison of the ways in which Pat Barker and Sebastian Faulks present different attitudes to war in the novels 'Regeneration' and 'Birdsong'

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Introduction

A comparison of the ways in which Pat Barker and Sebastian Faulks present different attitudes to war in the novels 'Regeneration' and 'Birdsong' The Great War stirred up many emotions during as well as after the event, which led to the expression of many attitudes born from experience, both direct and indirect. The authors of Regeneration and Birdsong, Pat Barker and Sebastian Faulks, each explore a range of these views in their novels. In being such a complex, yet popular, topic in literature, the tendency is towards simply focussing on the negative consequences of World War One. However, by exploring a well-known topic in two unique ways Barker and Faulks reveal a deeper and more varied set of attitudes to the Great War. In the openings of both Regeneration and Birdsong Barker and Faulks reveal the protagonists' strong attitudes towards war, however the methods which they use to represent these views differ hugely. Barker chooses to open her novel with the real historical document of Sassoon's declaration and the effect of this is to firmly base the reader in the era of the Fist World War. The military style language in the declaration expressed through such phrases as "wilful defiance" and "aggression and control" is direct yet poignant, as the reader can appreciate that these words would have had a real effect when they were first written by Sassoon. In contrast the romantic opening of Birdsong in Amiens, with "the picturesque feature of Saint Leu" and the "fishermen, slumped at their rods", is confusing, as this is not a typical opening for a novel about the First World War. ...read more.

Middle

This is a more complex issue concerning religion expressed by Barker, as through Burns she shows the reader that somebody "imagined" Christ's method of execution, linking to the view that the suffering in war time was perpetrated by men whom God gave the debatable gift of free-choice. This concept of the purpose of sacrifice is tackled by Faulks through the emotive, incredibly crafted, account of Brennan's need to give the mutilated body of his brother a proper burial. Brennan's collected explanation to Stephen of how he feels "better" after facing the horrendous task of recovering the body, is not dissimilar to Burns' calm explanation to River's as to how he can take comfort in the notion of Christ's sacrifice. This hints at the idea that religion could offer the men some comfort as Brennan, despite the horrors he has faced, is content that he did not let his brother "lie there" as now "he'll have a proper burial." Despite expressing the admirably strong sense of hope for the survival of the souls of the soldiers, through Brennans' character, Faulks' ending to the chapter really brings home to the reader the immense courage of the men in the face of war as "All night (Brennan) sung for his brother, whom he had brought home in his hands". The idea of having a proper burial is also touched on by Barker through her use of Wilfred Owen's poetry in her novel in which the attitudes expressed in 'Anthem for Doomed Youth" are scrutinised. Sassoon's character questions Owen saying there is a contradiction in the poem, as Owen appears to claim "there is no consolation" in the soldiers death yet ends the poem hinting there is. ...read more.

Conclusion

Through using her character to read Stephen's diary Faulks provides the all important notion of posterity, as Faulks uses the idea of time shifts to remind all civilians of their duty to remember. Posterity is an important issue in the context of creative attitudes to war which are shown by both Barker and Faulks to be a positive outcome of war. Sassoon jokes to Owen that at least going back to the front will "help your poetry", and Stephen's character provides the poignant outlook that "the war proves us all with a daily lesson in anatomy", which fuelled his character's drawings and carvings. These creative outlets not only provided links to the past for further generations to be able to experience the war, but also stopped the characters from going mad, as creating something from the destruction stopped them from going mad. Ultimately Faulks expresses this notion of creation through the ending of his novel and the birth of the new life of baby John which brings the circle of a regenerated life to a close. War destroyed lives but it also had the ability to create new ways of thinking. The continuation of love and humanity in both of the novels, be it through the creation of new life or Sassoon's continuing love for his men, represents how humankind can regenerate after the dire events of World War One. Through writing novels about this event, Barker and Faulks are able to present varying views of war but also offer their own interpretations of them, and in creating these novels from the devastation of the war they provide a lasting reminder to everyone of the sacrifice and bravery of the soldiers, 'Lest we forget'. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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