Conviction and Justification in Regeneration
In Regeneration, we follow the work of William Rivers, an army psychiatrist, as he tries to mend the minds of broken men. His talking therapy with various patients highlights the issues of the emotional and physical trauma caused by war, but especially the flawed philosophy behind the war. One patient in particular, Siegfried Sassoon, causes Rivers to delve introspectively so as to carefully consider and question his own beliefs and attitudes towards the war. It is also during this inner search that he finds his subconscious speaking to him through the medium of dreams as though they are “the voice of the protopathic heard at last” (Barker 239). Through his treatment of Sassoon and the contemplation of his own dreams, Rivers reaches the conclusion that the war can no longer be completely justified. In Siegfried Sassoon, Rivers finds that he does not have a shell-shocked soldier to cure, but rather one with a case of “powerful anti-war neurosis” (Barker 15) and his attempts to treat Sassoon begin to unravel Rivers own convictions. At the onset of the novel, Rivers is very firm in his belief of the war and he behaves rather business-like about it. This is evident in how he admits that Sassoon is certainly “not mad” (Barker 14), but he has an anti-war complex and that Rivers has “to try and change that” (Barker 15) as if it is some sort of a sickness. However, Sassoon makes an impression on Rivers by appealing to Rivers intellectual side. From Sassoon’s Declaration to his discussions with Rivers, Sassoon’s arguments are logical and carefully crafted based on facts. As a result, Rivers begins to open up to the possibility that Sassoon is correct, but dismisses the idea that he would “[want] the war to end tonight” (Barker 45) as a selfish motive. This does not deter Rivers from continuing to challenge what he used to perceive about the validity of the war and he finds himself in “discomfort of having to express views he...
Cited: Barker, Pat. Regeneration. London: Penguin Books, 2008. Print.
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