English Literature
Goodbye To All That

Goodbye To All That

Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

The Lost Generation: A Reflection in Robert Graves' Goodbye To All That

The early 20th century was marked by a sense of disillusionment among those who lived through the aftermath of World War I. Writer Robert Graves, in his 1929 autobiography Goodbye To All That, captured the sentiments of his generation, known as "The Lost Generation". Originally published in 1929 and later revised in 1957, the autobiography is a poignant representation of the impact of WWI on those who came of age during the war and were disillusioned by the destruction and loss of life it caused.

The autobiography chronicles Graves' journey, beginning with his time at Charterhouse School in London where he later served in France as a young soldier during WWI. It continues after the war, tracing his experiences in Wales, his studies at the University of Oxford, and his time in Egypt. Despite being wounded in France and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for a decade, Graves was able to write this book in just four months at the age of 33.

Understanding PTSD

PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by a traumatic experience. For Graves, it was his time during WWI that left a lasting impact on him, evident in his writing.

The Horrors of WWI

Goodbye To All That sheds light on the atrocities of WWI, exposing the incompetence of leadership and the horrific conditions faced by soldiers. Throughout the book, dark humor serves as a coping mechanism, particularly in the chapters dedicated to the war. This autobiography was a way for Graves to come to terms with the tragedies he witnessed during this time.

The Meaning of "Goodbye To All That"

The title of the autobiography can be interpreted in multiple ways - as a farewell to the war and the time of his youth, or as a tribute to England, which underwent significant changes after the war. The war marked the end of England's era of imperialism, paving the way for countries like India to gain independence.

A Turning Point

One particularly memorable scene in the book is when Graves is mistakenly reported as dead. This moment can be seen as the turning point where he loses the innocence of his youth and is forced to mature quickly in the face of war.

Purpose of the Autobiography

Despite Graves' claim that he wrote the book to raise funds to leave England, it is evident that his motives ran deeper than just financial gain. As the title suggests, this autobiography symbolizes a departure from both his youth and his home country.

About the Author: Robert Graves

Robert Von Ranke Graves was born on July 24, 1895, in London to Irish poet Alfred Perceval Graves and German heiress Amalie Von Ranke. He was a prolific writer, with over 120 books to his name. Some of his most notable works include the historical novel I, Claudius (1934) and its sequels, as well as his autobiography Goodbye To All That. Graves was also a classicist and wrote The White Goddess (1948), a book-length essay.

Graves' passion for writing began during his years at Charterhouse, where he first started composing poetry. He dropped the German "Von Ranke" from his name due to tensions with Germany before WWI and joined the army at just 17 years old. During the war, Graves wrote poetry alongside fellow poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, both of whom served in the Royal Welch Fusiliers with Graves.

In 1916, Graves was severely injured by a shell burst that damaged his lung. This injury, coupled with the PTSD that followed, took a toll on his first marriage, leading to their separation in the 1920s. After publishing Goodbye To All That, Graves and American poet Laura Riding relocated to Deia, Majorca, where he wrote the acclaimed sequels to I, Claudius.

In his writing, Graves was often viewed as a traditionalist rather than a modernist, but his works were nonetheless highly praised and successful.

Robert Graves: The Poet and His Pursuits

Robert Graves was a renowned poet known for his mastery in the themes of love and his attention to meter and clarity in his work. In 1957, Graves declined a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) award but was later offered it again in 1984. He also held the position of Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1961 to 1966.

Exploring Goodbye To All That by Robert Graves

In 1962, Robert Graves was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, but ultimately lost to John Steinbeck. Sadly, on December 7, 1985, Graves passed away from heart failure and was laid to rest the next day in Deia.

Graves' most well-known work, Goodbye To All That, is an autobiography written in the first person and past tense. While it is a poetic memoir, it is important to note that it is not completely factual, but rather the author's personal recollection of events. The book focuses on Graves' time in public school, World War I, and his life after the war. Its title serves as both a theme and symbol for bidding farewell to youth and tradition in England.

The Value of Honesty

Along with the theme of departure, honesty is a significant theme in Goodbye To All That. Graves' portrayal of the Battle of Loos exposes the incompetence of the British Army's higher ranks, while also praising the bravery of the Welsh miners in his platoon. The author also candidly discusses his thoughts on the poetry of his contemporaries, including Wilfrid Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. He recognized their honesty in depicting war but argued that their work still glorified it.

It's worth noting that Sassoon was a close friend of Graves and was dissatisfied with some aspects of the autobiography. He disputed certain details and was unhappy with how he and his family were portrayed. Graves also included second-hand accounts of British soldiers killing German prisoners of war, which he did not personally witness. However, he stood by his claim that this was a common occurrence among soldiers. This blending of fact and hearsay in the author's recollections makes it challenging to differentiate between truth and perception.

Insightful Excerpts from Goodbye To All That

Let's delve into some notable quotes from the book and what they reveal.

  • "Cuinchy bred rats. They came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly." Chapter 14

This description of the rats in Cuinchy emphasizes the horrific reality of war and its consequences on the environment. It also serves as a symbol for the decay of humanity during this time.

  • "...but [I] had sworn on the very day of my demobilisation never to be under anyone’s orders for the rest of my life. Somehow I must live by writing." Chapter 26

This quote represents Graves' determination to move on from his soldier days and pursue a writing career. It reflects the overarching theme of the book - saying goodbye to the past and welcoming new beginnings.

  • "We no longer saw the war as one between trade-rivals: its continuance seemed merely a sacrifice of the idealistic younger generation to the stupidity and self-protective alarm of the elder." Chapter 23

After witnessing atrocities, Graves and Sassoon's perception of war shifts. They now view it as a war between generations, with the younger ones being sacrificed due to the incompetence and self-preservation of the older ones.

A Bestselling Autobiography

Upon its release in 1929, Goodbye To All That received widespread acclaim and became a bestseller. Its honest portrayal of the struggles of WWI drew in readers, providing Graves with enough financial stability to move to Majorca, Spain.

Farewell to the Past - A Summary

To sum up, Goodbye To All That is an autobiography that chronicles the life of Robert Graves. It takes place in various locations, including Charterhouse School, France during World War I, Wales, Oxford, and Cairo, Egypt. The book has a darkly humorous tone as it depicts the challenges of war and the author's transition to a new phase of life. Graves wrote the book as a way to bid farewell to his past and embrace a new future. Its purpose was to provide him with financial stability and serve as a commentary on the war's impact on the younger generation.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime