When we study the war, we often not only overlook soldiers’ personal stories but also do not debate its purpose. Because we only study the facts and events that took place,and that the war, having finished almost a century ago, is not forgotten but less actual and debated than it was at the time, we do not wonder whether it was necessary or not. However, in Regeneration, much like the characters in the novel, we come to challenge and question the war and its necessity. Several characters at Craiglockhart experience of the war is so horrible that it impacts them very severely and changes their lives entirely. This is particularly the case for Burns who, after a traumatising experience at the front in which he “had landed, head-first, on a German corpse, whose gas-filled belly had ruptured on impact”, was unable, despite eventually returning home, to carry on a normal life. “He had missed his chance of being ordinary.”, says Rivers, and the reader cannot help but to feel indignant as we come to understand that there is little hope for Burns to resume a normal life, and that no one but the few who know him personally are grateful for his sacrifice. Throughout the novel, Sassoon repeatedly denounces the war and its purpose, which sometimes puts him in a precarious position: “I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it”. Despite choosing to go to Craiglockhart and eventually return to the front, and Rivers’ and Graves’ advice, he steadfastly holds on to his beliefs. As the novel goes on, we come to understand Sasson’s point of view of powerful indignation and anger as we are more and more aware of the damage that was caused and wonder if it truly was worth it. Finally, the evolution of our opinion seems to be echoed by River’s own transformation throughout the novel. Being of a Victorian upbringing (he is older than most of his patients), he possesses, at least at the beginning of the book, more traditional values and agrees with Graves’ opinion of duty (“I couldn’t agree more.”) However, through the process of curing his patients, his values start to change. A particularly striking example of this woud be chapter fourteen, in which he criticizes the British people’s behavior to the horrors being perpetrated in France and of which they had barely known of, which he finds absurd: “in trenches and dugouts and flooded shell-holes, the inheritors were dying, not one by one, while old men, and women of all ages, gathered together and sang hymns.”. This is a turning point in Rivers’ characters as it shows a deep change in his beliefs, which is further demonstrated through his reaction when Burns attempts suicide: “Nothing justifies this. Nothing nothing nothing.” His values are swayed and, by the end of the book, as he reflects on the transformation which he experienced throughout the novel, we cannot help but feel as if this change was mirrored by our own. We have also been, in our own way, affected by the soldiers’ experience.
Throughout Regeneration, Barker skilfully allies fiction with reality in order to craft a striking story. Our beliefs and opinions of the war are swayed as we discover the points of view of people who had truly lived through it and the consequences that it brought, and we come, upon faced with the suffering and horror, to question its necessity. We look back upon the events having discovered a newfound perspective, one that is not as spread as the detached study of the war: our vision is entirely changed.