In Regeneration we have the stereotypical conception of early 20th century war – a heroic young officer leading his men to glory with no regard for himself. In contrast to this, Journey’s End is a less traditional World War One text, with many characters and scenes included for nothing more than comic relief.
It is fair to say that Regeneration deals with the war in a head on manner rather than dodging the subject of it, whereas in Journey’s End, the matter of the war is somewhat disguised – fleeting references to combat amid the humour of Stanhope in his drunken stupor, and the farce of Mason’s nature in the trench.
In Regeneration, Pat Barker deals very heavily with the psychological effects of the war and the ugly realities of conflict, as illustrated in the extract below:
“Corpses, men with half their faces shot off, crawling along the floor”
This quote is characteristic of the graphic descriptiveness of the novel, something of which there is little trace in R.C Sherrif’s Journey’s End.
The way in which the war is presented in Journey’s End is very surrealistic. There is little evidence of the horror of war in the text, rather, the reader feels light-hearted when they learn of Stanhope’s intoxicated ramblings and Mason’s ‘diverse’ cookery.
While this is important in creating a little comic relief, it detracts from the serious of the subject matter, and so when the text takes on a more serious tone, it is hard to accept it at face value, as we are used to the satirical nature of the text to date.
The other side of the argument is that Journey’s End is actually a very accurate and descriptive account of World War One. Being bored waiting for the orders to march to your own death could represent the characters situation, and that the comedy element of the text is there simply because the characters are bored with waiting for senseless orders, as seen when *CHARACTER* is counting down the hours until the attack by shading circles on a piece of paper.
Whichever side of the argument I decide to support, there is always the feeling that Regeneration is simply the more accurate and descriptive text.
I think the reason for this is the way in which we are allowed into the characters psyche, another element of descriptive literature that we do not see in R.C Sherrif’s text.
By understanding the characters, we get a sense of feeling for their weaknesses, and this allows us to sympathise more with the characters.
The novel gives us an accurate and authentic feel for the psychological impacts of serving in a First World War Trench – the endless cold and dark, noise of gunshot and the wounded, and the constant feeling that everyone was there for one reason: to kill or be killed.
Journey’s End fails to provide such a feeling, and that is the major reason that Regeneration serves as a more descriptive and factual representation of the War.
The titles give the reader a sense of the direction of the texts as much as the text itself.
Journey’s End conveys to the reader that the War means just that – the end of a journey. One is born, one fights for their county, and one dies.
Regeneration on the other hand, is a slightly more sinister title, and conveys that no matter how hard you fight for your country, you are just a cog in a machine, and it can function without you, as your space will be regenerated and filled as soon as it becomes vacant. This message is certainly more firmly delivered in Regeneration, mainly because there are so many more characters, not just the soldiers, but the hospital staff, officials at home and on the front line, etc.
In Journey’s End, in contrast to this, the only characters we know of are the soldiers, and that creates the effect of the war being much more localised, and that the characters in the text are central to the novel, when this is not the case.