Sex and Dominance in The Ghost Road Essay

3936 Words16 Pages
Sex and Dominance in The Ghost Road

Pat Barker's The Ghost Road is a masterful literary integration of sex and war. The novel's protagonist, the lascivious, bisexual Billy Prior once remarks: "Whole bloody western front's a wanker's paradise," a statement with far-reaching implications concerning aggression and eroticism (Barker 177). The novel concludes a successful trilogy, beginning with Regeneration (1991) and The Eye in the Door (1993). Winner of the prestigious Booker Prize Award in 1995, The Ghost Road delves into many standard Booker motifs, such as war, the British class system, memory, and childhood, but Barker revitalizes these worn subjects. With prostitutes, lecherous priests, and the naked body, she
…show more content…
Unlike the crying child, Prior is duly subservient to the doctor's orders. Doctor Mather infantilizes Prior, calling him "laddie" (Barker 11). His examination by the dominating doctor reminds Prior of his childhood, and of his early sexual liaisons with men. At this early point, Barker leaves the reader in the dark as to Prior's history as a male prostitute. Clues to this history arise throughout the first half of the novel in flashes, as memories of childhood trauma.

This opening scene incorporates a variety of dynamics. First, the squad of running soldiers entices Prior's sexual appetite, as do the bodies of his own men later on at the baths. This outlines the sexual and military objectification of the male physique. Second, the domineering doctor anally penetrates the passive Prior with his fingers, which Prior interprets as an intermingling of medical and sexual authority. For Prior, the line between clinical and sexual authority blurs. Later, in the baths, Prior's command authority over his naked men mixes with his desire to exercise sexual authority. Third and finally, the doctor infantilizes his patient, spurring ghostly memories of childhood sexual abuse. As steeped as this scene is in sexual innuendo, this is just the beginning; Barker's booker is overripe with sexual subtexts and Foucaultian
Get Access