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Comparing The Ways Michael Herr In Dispatches And Pat Barker In Regeneration Show The Effects Of War

4183 words - 17 pages

Comparing the Ways Michael Herr in Dispatches and Pat Barker in Regeneration Show the Effects of War

When comparing Michael Herr's 'Dispatches' and 'Regeneration' by Pat
Barker the differences in format, style and setting are clear from the
outset. However both books explore the horrifying effect of war on
those directly and indirectly involved. The two authors attempt to
take the reader away from objective, statistical impressions of war
and closer to the real experiences of those affected. The various
mental and physical effects of war are explored in the books but the
underlining effect that is highlighted is the fact that the men
involved will forever be separate from the rest of society because
they have been irrevocably altered by experiences that can only be
understood by those who were there.

As an autobiography centered around Herr's experience of Vietnam
'Dispatches' provides a different reading experience to Barker's
novel, which is loosely based on the real life meeting between
Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Dr. W.H.R Rivers at Craiglockhart
War Hospital during The First World War. Due to the different
approaches the structure of the books is different and that affects
how the effect of war is shown. 'Dispatches' is a tapestry of
experience with no real linear structure except for the Khe Sanh
section where a siege develops through the section. Herr moves from
his own thoughts and experiences to stories that have been passed on
from soldiers or other correspondents. For instance, Herr's opinion of
a detached soldier is immediately followed by the soldier's own third
person story. This means that a great range of experience and
perspective is relayed. Barker also uses multiple viewpoints, but
these exist in a linear structure. Each character's view is slightly
different and is revealed at different stages in the novel. I am
surprised that one reviewer believes 'The novel has no obvious plot'*.
While not traditional, the plot fairly simply charts the mental and
emotional development of the characters over time. Generally, the
character of Rivers is followed as his views change and his

* Ms. Tallulah: www.amazon.com

patients attempt to remove the mental consequences of the war.
Importantly, 'Regeneration' begins with Sassoon's actual ant-war
declaration from 1917, which gives the novel immediate legitimacy. The
plot of Dispatches is not clear-cut as many different events, themes
and ideas are explored. The book seems to have no clear direction as
Herr explores his time in Vietnam almost like a stream of
consciousness. Because of these structural differences 'Regeneration'
leaves a specific, personal impression of the effect of war whilst
'Dispatches' is an overwhelming bombardment of experience that brings
you closer to the true experience.

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