What impact does war have on an individual in Pat Barker's Regeneration?

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In Regeneration, Pat Barker shows us the damaging effects that war has upon the individual. The story revolves around the work of Dr. Rivers, an army psychiatrist working at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland. The many patients he sees on a daily basis display a wide variety of different physical and mental ailments caused by their harrowing experiences of war.

One such patient, Billy Prior, has developed mutism and can only communicate with Dr. Rivers in writing. Another patient, Burns, develops an aversion to eating. This is the result of a devastating explosion which threw Burns up into the air and caused him to land in the ruptured stomach of a dead soldier.

But it isn't just soldiers who are adversely affected by the war. Even hardened medical professionals like Anderson are changed forever. Once upon a time, he was a surgeon, but due to his traumatic experiences, he can no longer stomach the sight of blood.

At the same time, Barker shows us that the experience of war can be channeled to positive ends. It is during his recuperation at Craiglockhart that Siegfried Sassoon is able to help his fellow poet Wilfred Owen draft "Anthem for Doomed Youth," one of his most famous works.

Though the experiences that inspired Owen and Sassoon to write poetry were clearly traumatic, they also provided the raw material for the creation for enduring works of art, works that are still read to this day. In that sense, art—whether in the shape of war poetry or the novels of Pat Barker—provides a way of transcending the horrors of war without shying away from them.

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