Regeneration Summary and Analysis of Part II, Chapters 10-13


Chapter 10

Sarah and the other munitions girls share a cup of tea. Sarah is upset that Billy Prior did not show up for their date on Sunday, unaware that he was not allowed to leave Craiglockhart because he had violated curfew. Sarah's friends tease her for a few moments before discussing the dreaded return of Lizzie’s husband, who physically abused her before the war. As Lizzie explains, “‘Peace broke out’” for her the day the war began (110).

A new patient, Willard, lies immobilized on a table. Pieces of tombstone are embedded in his back-side from crossing a graveyard under fire. Though he has no injuries to his spine, Willard cannot walk. Dr. Rivers patiently attempts to introduce the possibility that Willard's paralysis is mental and a result of combat stress, but Willard continues to insist that his spinal cord must be damaged. 

Sassoon arrives a few minutes before Dr. Rivers for their meeting at the Conservative Club. As he waits, he listens to a pair of upper-class men discuss the war. Their words fill him with hatred, and he finds that his anger has a sexual edge. Though Sassoon has been quick to hold civilians in contempt, he is disgusted with himself for being safely tucked away, thus allowing his message to be disregarded. He thinks that he has become like the apathetic civilians he despises. One of his friends has recently been killed on the battlefield, thus exacerbating Sassoon's guilt. 

Dr. Rivers arrives and, as Sassoon studies the menu, the psychologist mulls over how much easier his life would be had Sassoon been assigned elsewhere. The lieutenant reminds Rivers of the costs of the war, leaving him constantly questioning whether the psychological and physical damage to these men can ever be justified. Rivers and Sassoon joke over the young waiter who is overly impressed by Sassoon’s uniform but the conversation hits a difficult patch when the subject of Sassoon’s recently deceased friend arises. After an awkward pause, Sassoon speaks of another friend who was shot through the throat. He admits feeling guilty for being safe; as his friends continue to perish, it has become harder and harder for Sassoon to stay away from the front. 

Dr. Rivers leaves the club while Sassoon is deep in conversation with an astronomer. Rivers thinks that he will be able to convince Sassoon to return to war because of the lieutenant's inherent need to prove his courage. Upon returning to Craiglockhart, the psychologist finds Willard and his wife stranded at the bottom of a steep hill because Mrs. Willard is not strong enough to push the wheelchair up the slope. Dr. Rivers helps her, noting Willard’s growing rage at his impotence.

Chapter 11

Owen comes to visit Sassoon, interrupting the lieutenant while he is reading a letter from H. G. Wells, the famous science-fiction author. Owen and Sassoon continue discussing poetry and Sassoon gives Owen one of his poems to publish in the Hydra. He tells Owen about how Dr. Rivers has been pushing him to envision the future in order to make him feel guilty about being at Craiglockhart. Sassoon admits to being intimidated by the psychologist, who has more education than he does. Owen shares that he imagines himself becoming a pig farmer after the war, but then feels embarrassed about his humble ambition in front of the aristocratic Sassoon.

Owen nervously hands over a sheaf of his poems. He explains that his own psychologist believes that the war disconnects men from society and nature. In order to reconnect, Owen explains, the doctor encourages his patients to find jobs that involve working with the land and with each other. Sassoon helps Owen edit some of his poems line by line, patiently encouraging the younger man to spend more time honing his craft. Before Owen leaves, the lieutenant convinces him to publish the best of his own poems in the next edition of the Hydra.

Chapter 12

Prior is finally allowed off the hospital grounds and he goes to visit Sarah. Once he explains why he did not show up for their last appointment, she softens and agrees to travel to the coast with him. As they are walking along the beach, Prior becomes enraged with the civilians who are able to live their lives without constant reminders of war. His experiences have alienated him from all of them, including Sarah. Prior is seized by the feeling that he is owed something and that Sarah is the one who “should pay” (128).

They continue walking and are caught in a sudden thunderstorm. Seeking shelter under a thick buckthorn bush, they press together. Billy feels his hostility towards Sarah wash away and they have sex as the storm continues to rage around them. As they return to town, the intimacy between them begins to grow.

They arrive at a restaurant and Prior begins talking about the war, thus killing the romantic mood. He reveals that officers censor soldiers’ letters but are themselves allowed to write uncensored letters, relying on their own sense of honor to limit what they include. Sarah is offended by the classism inherent in the system, arguing that honor is not limited to officers. Prior is satisfied with the sullen mood; he thinks to himself that it will dissuade Sarah from the belief that their tryst on the beach meant anything.

Chapter 13

Burns is nervous to face the medical review board, despite Dr. Rivers's assurances that he is recommending an unconditional discharge. 

During his appointment with Dr. Rivers, Prior admits that he had an asthma attack when he was on the trolley with Sarah because people around them were smoking heavily. Dr. Rivers informs Billy that he will request a specialist to come and inspect his lungs. Billy tries to refuse, explaining that he wants to return to the front; it is the only place where he feels like he belongs. Moreover, he views his breakdown as a weakness that can only be conquered by returning to combat. Prior further explains that the public will scrutinize his conduct in the war after it is over; only those who served honorably will be able to enter politics. Dr. Rivers encourages Billy Prior's ambition, internally reflecting that the war will result in the kind of social upheaval that enables talented working-class men to climb the social ladder. 

Later that morning, Dr. Rivers is interrupted by a nurse announcing that Anderson is having an episode. Rivers rushes to Anderson’s room to find him curled up on the floor, having soiled himself. Apparently, Anderson's roommate nicked himself while shaving and the small trickle of blood triggered Anderson’s panicked reaction. After gently comforting him, Dr. Rivers advises his patient to seriously consider a career other than medicine once he returns to civilian life. Dr. Rivers notes that Anderson’s wife has still not come to visit him.

Willard, who is sharing the sick bay with Prior, complains about his new roommate and insinuates that Prior might be gay. Dr. Rivers dismisses the complaint, telling Willard that if anyone should be forced to leave the sick bay, it should be him, as he is not physically ill. Afterwards, Dr. Rivers attends a battery of meetings with patients and hospital administrators, all of them presenting various complaints. Later, Broadbent’s mother appears to inquire about her son. She is clearly not ill or dead as Broadbent has claimed on multiple occasions. After his farce is exposed, Broadbent locks himself in his room to wait for his likely court martial. After this discovery, Dr. Rivers meets with even more broken young men and finishes the day completely exhausted.

In the middle of the night, Dr. Rivers wakes up with chest pains. At dawn, he summons an orderly and Bryce immediately arrives to inspect him. Considering his irregular heartbeat and stress levels, Bryce orders Dr. Rivers to take a mandatory three-week leave starting at the end of the current week.

Sassoon and Owen sit down to continue working on a poem that Owen has written about the war. As a storm starts to build, Sassoon hears a steady tapping noise, but Owen cannot. The lieutenant continues to hear the tapping after returning to his room and begins reminiscing about his men, many of whom are not “more than five feet tall” (143). Sassoon remembers checking their feet for blisters and wonders if they are still alive. Despite being safe in the hospital, Sassoon cannot sleep.

Sassoon wakes in the middle of the night to find Orme, a friend from the war, standing clearly in his doorway. For a moment, he believes he is back on the front and wonders why he is in a bed. Then, he remembers that Orme has died. He turns to face the window and when he swivels his gaze back to the door, Orme has disappeared.

Convinced he has witnessed something supernatural, Sassoon waits until eight o’clock in the morning and rushes to find Dr. Rivers before he leaves. An orderly informs him that the psychologist has already departed. Devastated, Sassoon goes to wash his face in the bathroom, where he sees himself as a child in the mirror. The brief flash of his youth reminds him of the day his father left and he realizes that he has mentally replaced his father with Dr. Rivers.


The second half of Part II of Regeneration continues to reinforce the parent-child theme. Sassoon fondly remembers his soldiers, many of whom are physically smaller than he is; he recalls caring for their blisters and wounds. This is reminiscent of Dr. Rivers’ assertion that officers become like parents to their men. Sassoon then finds himself on the other side of a parent-child dynamic when he realizes that he has replaced his father with Dr. Rivers in his mind. The psychologist becomes both a mother and father to many different patients over the course of the novel, emphasizing the personal nature of his care and the dedication he brings to his work. Just as he pushes the trapped bee to freedom during Burns's review, Dr. Rivers works hard to shepherd his patients toward recovery - despite the risk of being stung.

Unfortunately, the stress of parenting so many men causes Dr. Rivers himself to experience illness, yet another example of mental pressure presenting physical symptoms. This stress is exacerbated by Sassoon’s constant reminders of the costs of war and the anxiety associated with Rivers's directive of sending soldiers back to the sites of their most anguished memories. Dr. Rivers has become painfully aware of these mounting consequences, thus causing him to doubt his purpose as a military psychologist.

In these chapters, Sassoon’s condition also worsens as his guilt becomes increasingly more pronounced, particularly after the death of his good friend. He admits as much to Dr. Rivers at lunch and continues to brood over how he will feel in the future about his current decision to remain safely at Craiglockhart. Sassoon's guilt also manifests itself in a prolonged auditory and visual hallucination that begins with a rhythmic tapping and escalates to a vision of his departed friend standing in the doorway. Unlike his earlier hallucinations of anonymous gore, this image is more personal, suggesting that Sassoon misses the emotional connection he had with his men on the front.

During the same period, Prior becomes increasingly alienated, imagining himself as a ghost or alien whenever he is among civilians. His intense physical and emotional connection with Sarah on the beach becomes overwhelming and he immediately detaches, using the war to distance himself from her. Prior later informs Dr. Rivers that he would like to return to the front because it is the only place where he feels like he fits in with those around him. 

The social effects of the war continue to impact the world of Regeneration. Sarah’s friends engage in self-aware and somewhat vulgar conversations over tea, free of the conservative restrictions that bound women of the previous generation. One of Sarah's companions, an older woman named Lizzie, describes the start of the war as the day “peace broke out” (110) in her life. Married to a violent and abusive man, Lizzie experienced a new-found freedom when he left to fight. This scene shows that the war has not only changed the dynamic between men and women, but also between the young and the old. At the Conservative Club, Sassoon senses the distance between the generation fighting the war and the one that is organizing and prolonging it. Later, Dr. Rivers suggests that the war may upset even the most enduring class hierarchies.

Chapter 11 and 14 feature the growing mentorship between Sassoon and Owen. Their relationship shows the lieutenant in a patient and kind role, complicating his seemingly aloof character. Many of the patients at Craiglockhart lack sympathy for each other: multiple officers complain callously about their roommates. Sassoon and Owen, however, develop a healthy and nurturing relationship. They support and engage each other; this human connection will play an important role in both of their recoveries.