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Course Hero. "Regeneration Study Guide." Course Hero. 2 Apr. 2018. Web. 15 Dec. 2018. <>.

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Course Hero. (2018, April 2). Regeneration Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 15, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2018)



Course Hero. "Regeneration Study Guide." April 2, 2018. Accessed December 15, 2018.


Course Hero, "Regeneration Study Guide," April 2, 2018, accessed December 15, 2018,

Regeneration | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


As a novel, this book is a work of fiction even though the author includes people who actually lived through the war (Dr. Rivers, Dr. Yealland, and the poets Sassoon and Owen, for example). The author fictionalizes the stories of these actual people by imagining and writing about what their lives and interactions may have been like.

Rivers and Sassoon

The novel begins with a letter, or Declaration, written by British poet Siegfried Sassoon, in which he explains his opposition to World War I. The letter, published in a London newspaper in July 1917, sets out Sassoon's critique of the callous individuals behind the war, who demand the sacrifice of men in a pointless, meaningless cause. The letter has upset the British military leadership, so they send Sassoon to Craiglockhart War Hospital, near Edinburgh, Scotland, for treatment. The hospital treats British soldiers suffering from disorders, often psychological, arising from war trauma. Rather than court-martial (to be subjected to military trial) the famous poet, the military brass decide his opposition to the war is a symptom of Sassoon's mental instability. His stay at Craiglockhart is intended to "cure" him of his anti-war stance and get him back to the war front as a British officer.

Psychiatrist W.H.R. Rivers treats Sassoon at Craiglockhart. Dr. Rivers encourages Sassoon and other soldiers to talk about their war experiences—a treatment intended to heal those whose minds have been shattered by the war. The ultimate goal is to send these soldiers back to the battlefield. Despite his dedication to his task, Rivers empathizes strongly with the soldiers' horrific battle traumas.

Although Rivers and Sassoon get along well, one of the conflicts running through the novel is Rivers's mandate to convince Sassoon to return to France to fight. Sassoon, on the other hand, is intent on being court-martialed so he can publicize his anti-war Declaration.

Rivers treats an array of soldiers suffering the effects of war. David Burns is unable to eat; Anderson, a former surgeon, cannot abide the sight of blood; Billy Prior is unable to speak. Rivers suffers symptoms too, resulting from the stress and moral conflicts of his work. Like many of the soldiers and officers at Craiglockhart, he has terrible nightmares. One of the first described in the novel relates to nerve-regeneration experiments Rivers did with a colleague, Henry Head, years before. The pain he caused Head during the experiments haunts Rivers.

Sassoon's Declaration is read in the British House of Commons, but its viewpoint is discounted and its author deemed mentally unstable. Sassoon anticipated this response, yet he is still disappointed. He begins to realize he will never be court-martialed. When he meets poet and traumatized soldier Wilfred Owen at the hospital, Sassoon becomes more involved in writing poetry, and the two men become friends.

Return to the World and to Duty

As Rivers treats Prior, the young working-class soldier who has lost his ability to speak, Prior gradually improves and is allowed to walk outside the hospital grounds. On a trip to an Edinburgh pub, he meets Sarah Lumb, who works in a munitions factory. She and Prior begin going out together. On occasions when they are among many civilians, Prior is overwhelmed with resentment toward those who have managed to avoid serving in the war.

Prior implores Rivers to hypnotize him to help him release his repressed memories of the war. Rivers agrees despite some skepticism. The hypnosis works, enabling Prior to remember his traumatic experiences on the battlefield.

One night Rivers is awakened by chest pain. Another Craiglockhart doctor diagnoses overwork and stress as the cause, and he insists Rivers take a three-week vacation. Rivers takes time to visit his brother, and then he spends some time with Henry Head, who offers Rivers a job at a London war hospital. Rivers says he'll think about it. Rivers then spends some time at Burns's home in the English countryside. Burns has been discharged from military service, but he is still suffering from his war trauma. At one point he attempts suicide, but Rivers saves him.

Board members who determine the fate of soldiers treated at Craiglockhart decide Prior can be assigned to permanent home service, which means he doesn't have to return to the front and the fighting. When Prior tells Sarah, she is happy for him but unsure about their relationship. Sarah and Prior decide to continue to see each other to see how their relationship develops.

Meanwhile, Sassoon has been conflicted about his future. After realizing the military won't court-martial him—since they don't want his Declaration to be made public—he decides to return to France and aid the British men fighting there. He especially wants to lead and care for the men in his battalion. He feels he cannot now abandon them by staying in Britain. Rivers is glad Sassoon has chosen to return to the fighting, although both, of course, are aware of the dangers.

A Different Type of Treatment

Dr. Lewis Yealland at National Hospital in London invites Rivers to witness his own method for "curing" the soldiers in his care. Yealland's method is electroshock; a horrified Rivers observes Yealland using the shock treatment to achieve quick results with a mute soldier named Callan. Yealland's indifference and inhumanity toward the soldiers contrasts sharply with Rivers's far more humane, empathic approach. That night Rivers has a terrible nightmare in which he seems to be torturing a soldier in a manner similar to Yealland's. Rivers realizes that, even though he is more humane toward the soldiers, both he and Yealland have the same inhumane goal—to "cure" soldiers so they can return to the horrors of a senseless war. Rivers decides to join Yealland at National Hospital.

Rivers briefly returns to Craiglockhart to sit on the Board that decides the patients' fate. The Board grants Dr. Anderson a desk job with the military. Sassoon is allowed to return to France to fight. As Rivers prepares to return to London he says goodbye to Sassoon. Rivers realizes that Sassoon, Prior, and the other soldiers, men he was to have changed and cured, have, in fact, forever changed him and his attitude toward the war.

Regeneration Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction


1 Rivers treats Sassoon, who wrote an anti-war Declaration.

Rising Action

2 Rivers treats many men with mental or physical trauma.

3 Rivers treats Prior for muteness, which then disappears.

4 Prior meets Sarah Lumb and begins dating her.

5 Sassoon meets and mentors Owen, a fellow poet.

6 On holiday Rivers saves Burns from committing suicide.

7 Rivers is offered and accepts a job at a London hospital.

8 Sassoon decides to return to France if he can.


9 Rivers witnesses Yealland's electroshock treatments.

Falling Action

10 Rivers rethinks his duty in light of his anti-war principles.

11 The Board lets Sassoon return to France.


12 Sassoon returns to the front.

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