Pat Barker's Regeneration Essay

1090 words - 4 pages

Pat Barker's Regeneration

Pat Barker's Regeneration focuses on the troubled soldiers' mental status during World War One. Barker introduces the feelings soldiers had about the war and military's involvement with the war effort. While Regeneration mainly looks at the male perspective, Barker includes a small but important female presence. While Second Lieutenant Billy Prior breaks away from Craiglockhart War Hospital for an evening, he finds women at a cafe in the Edinburgh district (Barker 86). He comes to the understanding that the women are munitions workers. Women's involvement in war work in Regeneration shows the potential growth in women's independence, but at the expense of restrictions placed on men while they were on the front lines of battle.

Munition-ettes during World War One took the places of their husbands, fathers, and brothers in order for the men to take up positions in the armed services (Braybon 45). Women working in munitions factories were mainly of the lower class; yet, roughly 9 percent of women working in the factories came from the middle to upper classes (Robb 45). Munition-ettes held responsibilities for making and filling shells and cartridges along with other basic cleaning duties, driving, and intense labor ("Twentieth Century"). They acquired some engineering skills that helped them in producing various weapons ("Twentieth Century"). Munition-ettes took the deployed soldiers' places in the factories as a way to show their patriotism as well as to earn a better living than in domestic jobs.

Munition-ettes suffered the flaws in the system of gender bias when looking at equal pay: "many [women] left low-skill, low-wage jobs, especially in domestic service, for better paying skilled labor in factories and workshops" (Robb 40). Trade unions supported equal pay among men and women only if women were fired as soon as the war ended (Robb 42). Even by supporting equal pay, women still earned less then their male counterparts, but found the pay much higher than the domestic jobs they left. Equal pay may not have been as equal as women hoped, but their experience and reason for working in the factories allowed them to feel more distinguished than working in domesticated services.

While men argued against women working in factories, the women were taking full strides to prove their strength and abilities while working under harsh and almost unbearable conditions. Women worked long hours exposed to chemicals and explosives that caused damaging health conditions. The most noticeable health problem came from TNT poisoning that caused jaundice (Robb 43). The symptoms women suffered were pains below the xiphisternum, loss of appetite, nausea, constipation, dermatitis, irritability, depression, and some change in menstruation (Thom 124). Under harsh conditions, women continued to prove their abilities though suffering with health ailments.

Barker introduces Sarah Lumb, Lizzy, Madge, and Betty as munition-ettes in...

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