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How Does Barker Present the Theme of Masculinity in Regeneration?

  • Date Submitted: 01/07/2015 06:11 PM
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How does Barker present the theme of masculinity in Regeneration?

Barker presents the theme of masculinity and what it means to be emasculated in many different ways throughout the novel. The ideas are successfully conveyed through character interaction and in particular the way in which the men communicate with Rivers.  

Ideas about masculinity are presented through disempowerment. Barker creates situations in which the men have in a sense, lost their power. This is done through the characters being ‘silenced’ by their injuries and losing their dominance or power to control the situations around them. This is evident when Sassoon talks to Graves of a young soldier who had “a neat little hole…between his legs”. Barker’s use of the word “neat” suggests that the soldier suffered injuries that may have been less gory than the other men. However “neat” also depicts an image that something perfect has just been taken a way in a flash which makes it almost unnoticeable.   The lack of privacy in the hospital suggests that being treated for such a ‘private’ injury would have made the young soldier embarrassed and powerless. Barker links emasculation to how powerful the men are feeling. The idea of a man losing his power contradicts the war, as enlisting was seen as the manly thing and it made a man feel powerful and heroic.

Anderson is a character who is introduced through a patient session with Rivers. The experience of nightmares has lead him to undermine his masculinity. Anderson explains that he was tied up in female corsets which were “fastened” and “tied” around his arms. Barkers use of language suggests that there is no escape for Anderson, who is desperately looking for a way out of the “loony bin. As dreams are an uncontrollable way of projecting our thoughts and feelings, it is clear that being at Craiglockhart, which Anderson describes as a “fairly emasculating experience”, has made him question his masculinity. Due to his fear of blood, he is no longer...


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