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"Regeneration is a novel that focuses on Seigfried Sassoon's rejection of the war, but the character of Dr William Rivers becomes insistently prominent." What interests you about Barker's presentation of Rivers?

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Introduction

"Regeneration is a novel that focuses on Seigfried Sassoon's rejection of the war, but the character of Dr William Rivers becomes insistently prominent." Based on your reading of the first five chapters, what interests you about Barker's presentation of Rivers? After considering this question for some time, I decided to look at Barker's presentation of Rivers' personality and his professional status independently. However I soon noticed that there is little information purely about Rivers' private life in this novel. It was only then I realised how intertwined his career and his personal life really were. Barker constantly brings Rivers' personality into focus whilst he is talking to his patients. Not only does this show how personal his relationships with the characters such as Sassoon, Anderson and Prior are, but it also shows that the line between patient and associate seems to be growing hazy for him. The emphasis on his commitment to his patients and work becomes increasingly evident as the novel progresses. This delicate approach of Rivers' that Barker brings to light in the confidential conversations between him and his patients has lead him to treat each character as an individual and in turn has lead him to take a different approach to each of the patients. Almost instantly it is evident in these early chapters that Rivers is well respected and has an excellent reputation. ...read more.

Middle

I think it is not least because of his sympathy towards the characters and his reassurance he is constantly offering them, "I don't know whether that's abnormal" "I hope not. It happens to me all the time." "Do you think I'm mad?" "Of course you're not mad, did you think you were going mad?" He is so affirming in his agreement. To retrace slightly, the aforementioned commitment has allowed Rivers to become sensitive to each case and personality. He has a subtlety about his manner. He is also highly empathic, adding to his sensitive treatment of them and his striving to understand each of his patients as best he can. I think this point is best illustrated by Rivers' attention to detail, which is ever present, "Rivers looked down at Burns's forearms, noting that the groove between radius and ulna was even deeper than it had been a week ago." I think that it is particularly admirable that Rivers is not only aware of the mental health of his patients but the physical health also. Granted, his job requires him to be observant. However, in this instance, it seems that Rivers registered this because of his genuine care for Burns rather than a factor to add to his 'case file'. Another instance in which it is made clear that Rivers is a superb listener and again illustrates his attention to detail and his consciousness of every detail mentioned is in a conversation he has with Sassoon, "It was like being three different people... ...read more.

Conclusion

I think this shows one of his character traits to be how easy he finds it to talk to people. I do find it interesting that Barker's portrayal of Rivers in the first five chapters of the book is no less than glowing. There is little negative that she has to say about him, and yet the character is no less believable. Admittedly there is an instance where Rivers seems to disappoint himself, "Sassoon lingered on the drive for a full minute after the taxi had driven away, then took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and ran up the steps. Rivers turned away from the window, feeling almost ashamed of having witnessed that small, private victory over fear." For me, however, this just adds to my fondness for Rivers as a character. He wants to spare Sassoon any embarrassment he might feel, which is a commendable quality. In conclusion, Barker's presentation of Rivers as a caring, sympathetic and committed doctor is not only believable but also interesting. All the qualities in him that his patients come to admire and respect him for - such as his dedication, his effort and his never ending search for reason and understanding in his patients actions also attract our admiration of him. His sympathy for these other characters that is fuelling his constant workload, causing him tiredness and stress, "After Graves had gone, Rivers sat for a while resting his eyes, then opened the envelope Graves had given him," evokes similar feelings in us for him. ...read more.

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