How does Regeneration depict trauma/PTSD and its manifestations? What is the novel's portrayal of the British State during World War I?

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In Regeneration, Barker depicts trauma realistically. The traumatized veterans are all essentially haunted by their pasts—they're psychological victims of the Great War and the war machine that operates society. They all deal with pain and suffering and manifest different symptoms of PTSD and conditions as a consequence.

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In her Regeneration trilogy (Regeneration, The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road), British novelist Pat Barker explores the experiences of WWI soldiers, specifically their mental and emotional struggles and trauma, and presents her views on British society and its social structure during and after the Great War, focusing on classism, gender, and identity.

Baker's trilogy is essentially an evaluation of trauma, a psychological study of the effects of war neurosis, and an analysis of the way traumatic experiences shape the historical identity. In Regeneration, she focuses on Dr. Williams Rivers and his tactic of treating his patients with the help of Freudian psychoanalysis and "The Talking Cure," as opposed to the electric shock therapy, which was the most common method of treatment. The trauma in question is essentially shell shock, or PTSD, which can cause various neurological symptoms and manifest as mutism—as is the case with Billy Prior—dyslexia, panic attacks, phobias, and other disorders.

Dr. Rivers notes that talking helps his patients heal. In this, they don't only address their trauma, but also challenge it and even find ways to self-treat; they discover something that mentally and emotionally soothes them and helps them cope with their memories. Owen and Sassoon, for instance, discover poetry.

In leading his patients to understand that breakdown was nothing to be ashamed of, that horror and fear were inevitable responses to the trauma of war and were better acknowledged than suppressed, that feelings of tenderness for other men were natural and right, that tears were an acceptable and helpful part of grieving, he was setting himself against the whole tenor of their upbringing.

... In advising young patients to abandon the attempt at repression and to let themselves feel the pity and terror their war experience inevitably evoked, he was excavating the ground he stood on.

Barker explores the stigma surrounding mental struggles and war neurosis and explains how the patients basically live in a different world—their perception of the environment is distorted, and their thoughts and emotions are much more complex. It is expected of the soldiers to behave in a "manly" fashion and suppress their emotions, to let go of their inner struggles and disregard their suffering, so that they can keep their masculinity intact and return bravely on the battlefront.

This is how Barker connects the response of the society to trauma and the culture of violence that often precedes it. She doesn't necessarily focus on the general state of Britain during the First World War, but rather uses the individual experiences of her characters to explain the way the social system operated and therefore influenced the social climate, especially during and after WWI.

For instance, Sassoon isn't actually suffering from shell shock, he's simply haunted by the pain and suffering of war and feels grief for the men dying and guilt for not fighting and not wanting to fight on the fronts. He was sent to the hospital so that he could avoid prosecution for his opposition to the war. Sassoon is a pacifist and thus has a different view on war and its consequences, which many consider to be abnormal and cowardly and a symptom of damaged masculinity and temporary insanity and even an act of treason.

Furthermore, Barker explores sexuality and gender identity, as well as classism and the way the patriarchal society expects men and women to behave a certain way which would please the social standard. It could be argued that those whose voice is suppressed and those who choose to purposely remain silent when it comes to social change—the lower social classes, women, homosexual people, people whose mental health is compromised, and other marginalized groups of people who are targets of prejudice and discrimination—are metaphorically presented by Prior's silence.

People were forced to hide their true nature and their struggles just because the society said so; in this sense, Barker encourages the readers to reexamine the social norms of the past and the present, as they portray not a strong and organized society, bur rather a weak and vulnerable one.

Essentially, the British state struggled socially as much as the "damaged" soldiers that defended it struggled physically, mentally, and emotionally; they all tried to recover and accept themselves, while also trying to be whatever it was that society expected them to be.

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