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Compare the ways Michael Herr in 'Dispatches' and Pat Barker in 'Regeneration' show the effect of war.

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Compare the ways Michael Herr in 'Dispatches' and Pat Barker in 'Regeneration' show the effect of war. Including: -Narrative voice -Structure and technique -Own view and that of critics. When comparing Michael Herr's 'Dispatches' and 'Regeneration' by Pat Barker the differences in format, style and setting are clear from the outset. However both books explore the horrifying effect of war on those directly and indirectly involved. The two authors attempt to take the reader away from objective, statistical impressions of war and closer to the real experiences of those affected. The various mental and physical effects of war are explored in the books but the underlining effect that is highlighted is the fact that the men involved will forever be separate from the rest of society because they have been irrevocably altered by experiences that can only be understood by those who were there. As an autobiography centered around Herr's experience of Vietnam 'Dispatches' provides a different reading experience to Barker's novel, which is loosely based on the real life meeting between Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Dr. W.H.R Rivers at Craiglockhart War Hospital during The First World War. Due to the different approaches the structure of the books is different and that affects how the effect of war is shown. 'Dispatches' is a tapestry of experience with no real linear structure except for the Khe Sanh section where a siege develops through the section. Herr moves from his own thoughts and experiences to stories that have been passed on from soldiers or other correspondents. For instance, Herr's opinion of a detached soldier is immediately followed by the soldier's own third person story. This means that a great range of experience and perspective is relayed. Barker also uses multiple viewpoints, but these exist in a linear structure. Each character's view is slightly different and is revealed at different stages in the novel. I am surprised that one reviewer believes 'The novel has no obvious plot'*. ...read more.


Herr also uses character to show how war has the power to change a person beyond recognition. One marine is said to have sent an enemy's ear to his girlfriend and 'could not understand why she had stopped writing to him'. This surreal story demonstrates how detached from reality and desensitised to death people can sometimes become to cope with war. In 'Dispatches' Herr's characters are fleeting but the reader does not feel detached from those involved because of the range of experience relayed. It is the common experience of all that Herr expertly conveys. Strongly defined characters in 'Regeneration' allowed Barker to personalise the effect of war and heighten the readers' emotive response. The relatively small number of characters allows the reader to focus on select individuals and understand the nuances of their condition. Because of this dialogue is extremely important in 'Regeneration' as it allows the characters to communicate with the reader, which is vital in such a character led novel. In 'Regeneration' dialogue is the primary device used to introduce and develop the characters and to show the effect of the war. The character of Dr. Rivers has extensive conversations with all of the hospital characters and almost always in his professional role. However, much of these conversations consist of relaxed, personal dialogue such as when Prior says "You must be tired". These natural comments develop a realistic relationship between Rivers and the patients, which help the reader to more easily relate to both and prevent the novel from being overly concerned with psychological theories. The true effects of the war on characters such as Prior are almost always revealed during such conversations. For example, the extent of Prior's problem with nightmares is only truly shown when the character says, "I've actually woken up once or twice and wondered whether there was any point going on". The character of Prior also perfectly describes the feeling of alienation that was a common consequence of the war when he says "Yesterday, at the seaside, I felt as if I came from another planet". ...read more.


Because of the poetic language used by Herr 'Dispatches' sometimes feels like a novel. Both authors use descriptive language to evoke strong images and provide the reader with a graphic and layered sense of the situation as well as the feelings generated. This creates a fuller experience for the reader, almost incomprehensibly full in 'Dispatches'. As I have shown, the two books use various techniques to varying degrees as the authors show the shocking effect of two equally shocking wars. Their success is reflected in the critical praise the books received. Catherine Pepinster in 'Time Out' magazine believes Pat Barker's novel is a 'vivid evocation of the agony of the First World War' and Robert Stone feels Dispatches 'may be the best journal about war, about any war, that any writer has ever accomplished'. It could be said that the books are equally effective in showing the effect of war but I believe that the significant differences mean that most readers will respond very differently to each book. This is because the two books provide very different reading experiences, which is due to the differences in setting and structure. 'Regeneration' is deliberately detached from the frontline of the war by the confined and perfectly safe space (Craiglockhart War Hospital) in which most of the book takes place. This is contrasted by the erratic nature of Vietnam warfare and the constant sense of unease and fear caused by Herr's narrative and almost random structure. The authors use the same techniques to convey the effect of war but tailor those techniques to suit the specific style and structure of their books, which leads to the decisive difference in the reading experience. I feel that 'Regeneration' is flawed in its presentation of the effect of war because, although interesting, concentrating solely on the psychological consequences is too restrictive. Importantly, 'Dispatches' presents the physical, emotional and psychological effect of living and fighting in Vietnam from a highly personal perspective. As an individual reader I found this compelling and believe Herr's overwhelming account brings the reader closer to understanding the true effect of war. ...read more.

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