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“To What Extent Does Language Develop The Theme Of Gender Roles In Pat Barkers “Regeneration”?”

1308 words - 6 pages

Pat Barker uses language effectively in the novel “Regeneration” to present gender roles and other themes within the novel. Her presentation of women, emasculation and men taking on more feminine roles are important for the theme of gender roles within the novel. She also uses language effectively to present themes of duty and father figures.
There is a very small but important female presence in “Regeneration”. The first mention of women in the novel is the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD’s). “A couple of VAD’s ran across the room to him, clucking, fussing, flapping ineffectually at his tunic with a napkin, until eventually they had the sense to get him out of the room”. The language Barker uses compares the women to chickens, the use of “until they had the sense” shows the women as stupid and “fussing” suggests they were making a bigger drama than they needed to about the situation. Later on in the novel, Barker introduces Sarah Lumb and her friends; they’re described in a much more positive way and are portrayed as strong dominant women. The contrast from the VADs earlier in the novel to Sarah and her friends later in the novel could suggest that Barker is trying to show how the roles of women changed as the war progressed. Her positive description of Sarah and her friends could show Barker is a feminist as she seems to favour the ‘munitionettes’ to the VADs. Though her own views on women are presented within the novel, she still accurately represents women’s roles in wartime society.
Barker uses emasculation to show how important gender roles were to the men during the war. All of the patients at the hospital have experienced traumas resulting in them having to leave the war, this has made some of the men feel like they’ve lost their masculinity. Burns fear of emasculation is obvious during his weird dream when he runs away to a tree full of dead animals. When he lies naked with the dead animals he undresses because his clothes “separated him” and he also “cupped his genitals” because “they looked incongruous”. The animals could represent the men that died in the trenches. Burns removing his clothes because he feels separated suggests that he doesn’t feel like he belongs with the soldiers because he left. By him cupping his genitals because they looked “incongruous”, it could suggest that burns feels like because he left the war before it ended he is less of a man compared to the soldiers that died or are still fighting. It could also suggest that he no longer feels like a man, he feels like his illness has made him less masculine. This shows the importance of gender roles to men during the war.
Another way Barker uses emasculation to show the importance of gender roles is with Anderson’s dreams. Dreams are almost impossible to control, Anderson having emasculating dreams could symbolise that he feels like he has no control over losing his masculinity. The dream about the corsets tying him up is a significant dream. “They fastened them...

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