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Pat Barker and the Mediation of Social Reality By David Waterman

Chapter :  Introduction
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Pat Barker and the Mediation of Social Reality


Social Representation
and the Question of Reality

If one wanted to choose a single image to represent the multiple themes running through Pat Barker's work, one might do well to choose that of Abraham preparing to kill his son Isaac: sacrifice, obedience to authority, the responsibility—and ultimate failure—of the old for the young, guilt and innocence, an overwhelming respect for abstractions like God and tribe, as well as the enduring power of the irrational. In the Biblical version of the myth, God stays Abraham's hand, leading to the image of a powerful but just God that has been passed down through the centuries and generations via sacred texts, illuminated manuscripts, and stained-glass windows. Barker, however, is skeptical of simple, trouble-free endings. She knows that human history is overflowing with examples of people of all sorts—ordinary people—ready to kill and be killed in the name of such abstractions, willing to sacrifice family, friends, and enemies indiscriminately. This idea is best summarized by a retelling of the Abraham myth in Wilfred Owen's poem “The Parable of the