What is The 'All that' That Robert Graves is Referring too

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This essay is going to explore Robert Graves’s autobiographical novel and detail Robert graves use of the phrase all that and what it may refer too. The phrase ‘all that’ is very vague and indefinite. ‘All that’ could refer to so much; things, people, places, even emotions and feelings. In this novel ‘all that’ could refer to individual things or the novel as a whole, it may even refer to only one thing. That is what I am going to find out and illustrate in this essay.

Robert Graves’s autobiographical novel ‘Goodbye to All That’ was first published in 1929, 11 years after the end of World War 1 in which Graves served as a 2nd Lieutenant and was promoted to Captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. The work was revised and republished in 1957 removing and changing a great deal of significant material because of complaints, namely from Siegfried Sassoon a great friend and fellow soldier of Graves.

‘Robert Graves states that the objects of writing about his own life at the early age of thirty-three, are simple enough: ‘an opportunity for a formal good-bye to you and to you and to you and to me and to all that; forgetfulness, because once all this has been settled in my mind and written down and published it need never be thought about again.

”  This quotation from Robert Graves himself shows why he chose to write his autobiography at a comparatively young age to other auto-biographers. A major part, probably the most major event of his life; the war, had come to an end and he felt that his memories and experiences ought not to be subject to the effects of old age and forgotten, lost in the passages of time.

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The first section of Robert Graves’s novel is about his childhood and mainly his time at various preparatory schools and Charterhouse. Graves was born on July 24th 1895; his earliest memory is of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. His family; his mother, his father and nine siblings lived in Wimbledon, His father had five children from a previous marriage and then had five more with Graves mother. He had expressed his dislike for Wimbledon and seemed to enjoy most the spring and summer spent in Harlech in Wales climbing the hills with his sister and best friend Rosaleen. ‘I always considered Wimbledon a wrong place: neither town nor country. The house was at its worst on Wednesday, my mother ‘At Home’ day.’

He attended six different preparatory schools none of which he liked before settling at Charterhouse, which he equally disliked. He does not talk of a happy school experience, he describes a personally very familiar idea of a school where sports were important and those who did not play were looked down upon. He talks of how he had few friends, except those in the poetry club. His first friend at charterhouse, a boy called Raymond Rodakowski, encouraged Graves to box, because he was unable to play football, but he lost this friendship when he found he valued religion more than love. He had one special friendship with a boy referred to as Dick. Graves does not mention any particular significant encounters with Dick but it is commonly believed that Graves had homosexual relations with this boy. Dick and Graves remain in touch throughout most of his time in the trenches;

‘Dick’s letters had been my greatest stand-by all these months whenever I felt low; he wrote every week, mostly about poetry.’  Graves’s affection for Dick is obvious and remains for many years, until Dick is arrested for making ‘a certain proposal’ to a Canadian corporal and Graves convinces himself that Dick is mad. Graves’s time at school and his encounters and experiences there are the first ‘all that’ referred to by Graves. An episode in his life has come to an end in order to begin new one. The second section of ‘Goodbye to All That’ begins with the war. Graves confesses he enlisted in order to put off going to Oxford; ‘…though the papers predicted only a very short war…I hoped that it might last long enough to delay my going to Oxford in October, which I dreaded.

Graves being half German was lucky to have not been accused of spying or arrested along with other German residents of England, though he did have relatives fighting for Germany. ‘Among these enemy relatives was my cousin Conrad, only son of the German consul at Zurich.’  This loss of amicable connection with his German family is the second ‘all that’ for Graves, he recalls his visits to various uncles and cousins in Germany and playing with his cousin Conrad as a child. His German roots are repeatedly referred to throughout the book his mother’s maiden name; ‘Von Ranke’ is used by Graves himself as homage to his German origins. He also mentions how through the war his mother is ‘kept an eye on’ by the authorities because she is German and writes regularly to her sisters in Germany.

Graves does not immediately enter the trenches as a Special Reserve; he spends the early wartime at the depot in Wrexham, before being transferred as 2nd lieutenant on detachment duty to Lancaster. Graves was once proud to be part of the Royal Welch Fusiliers; ‘I used to congratulate myself on having quite blindly chosen the Royal Welch Fusiliers, of all the regiments in the army…The Royal Welch Fusiliers had twenty-nine battle-honours, a number equalled only by a couple of other two-battalion regiments.  Graves was sent to France in spring 1915 and was in the trenches to his disappointment with the Second Battalion of the Welsh Regiment. He talks comically of his frost experience in France with use of onomatopoeia such as, bump, crash, flop and buzzing and also of rifle and shell-fire. Later on his writing about trench life becomes more candid, authorities would have found this controversial at the time; soldiers were not allowed to keep diaries or write home about the conditions in trenches.

Graves talks warmly of his companions in the trenches mentioning many by name, but deaths and wounds seem inconsequential after time; ‘One can joke with a badly wounded man and congratulate him on being out of it. One can disregard a dead man. But even a miner can’t make a joke that sounds like a joke over a man who takes three hours to die, after the top part of his head has been taken off by a bullet fired at twenty yards’ range’. Graves talks of pessimism breeding superstition and of strange coincidences in the trenches, for example his predecessor having predicted his own death and Graves himself managing to miss a shell literally by seconds. Graves had an unpleasant but uneventful time in the second battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers; the commanding officers were unlikeable and superior.

Younger officers such as Graves were referred to as ‘warts’ and were advised to keep quiet and were not allowed to drink whisky. Graves was wounded by shell-fire and sent home in summer 1916 he was originally thought and reported to have died. During his leave he spent a lot of time with his wartime comrade and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon. They wrote poetry, played Golf and it was t this time that Graves first began to write about his experiences in France. In January 1917 he was sent back to France. After catching bronchitis and being sent to Oxford he does not return to the trenches, but is content to remain in England recovering, the western front to which he never returned, being his third ‘all that’.

At the Somerville College hospital he meets various writers, such as Aldous Huxley, Lytton Strachey and Bertrand Russell. He later meets more writers, even H.G. Wells and John Galsworthy. ‘Aldous Huxley, Lytton Strachey, and the Hon. Bertrand Russell were frequent visitors…H.G. Wells, who was ‘Mr Britling’ in those days and full of military optimism…And who else? John Galsworthy.’  He is then moved to a convalescent home at Osborne House, previously Queen Victoria’s home on the Isle of Wight. Graves quoted Sassoon’s anti-war statement ‘Finished with the War: A Soldiers Declaration. This troubled Graves as he felt his friend Sassoon was in no condition to be imprisoned, as he surely would be.

Graves got himself wrongly declared fit for Home Service and set about doing everything in his power to get Siegfried into Craiglockhart convalescent home in Scotland. Graves accompanied Sassoon to Craiglockhart where the pair met Wilfred Owen. The third section of Robert Graves’s autobiography deals with his life post World War 1; his marriage and children. Graves was next sent to serve at home in Wales, where he met Nancy Nicholson whom he married in 1918. After his marriage Graves returned to work in Rhyl where he stayed until the end of the war. Again the end of a significant episode in Graves’s life and the beginning of a new one, the war itself being his fourth and most dramatic ‘all that’.

Graves’s first child Jenny was born in January 1919 and the family moved to Brighton. In October 1919 Graves finally went to Oxford after having managed to delay it for 5 years, slightly longer than I expect, he originally intended. Graves’s second child David was born in March 1920, to the delight of his mother who had longed for grandson. It comes at this point that Graves meets his old flame Dick again, it was not a well received meeting, Graves saw no longer the boy he had loved but a much changed man. ‘He was up at Oxford, about to enter the diplomatic service, and so greatly changed that it seemed absurd to have ever suffered in his account.’

Graves and his wife opened a shop where they lived outside Oxford which was successful at first but eventually had to be sold. The Graves family then moved to Islip and had two more children, Catherine in 1922 and Sam in 1824. Nancy adopted a thirteen year old girl, Daisy, who later leaves with her father. Graves failed to take his final exams after the death of his tutor, but managed to secure a lecturing job in Egypt after his wife through ill health had been recommended to go there where his elder brother, Dick and sister Mollie lived. Nancy and Robert parted in May 1929. Graves suffered from severe shellshock and nightmares; he was haunted by shells and the faces of dead friends. I was still mentally and nervously organized for war; shells used to come bursting on my bed at midnight, even though Nancy shared it with me;

Strangers in day-time would assume the faces of friends who had been killed … I was very thin, very nervous and with about four years’ loss of sleep to make up.’  Robert Graves final and complete ‘all that’ is England and his whole unhappy life from his birth in 1895, through school and the war to the end of his turbulent marriage in 1929 when he moved to Majorca never to return. ‘…I went abroad, resolved never to make England my home again; which explains the ‘Goodbye to All That’ of this title.’  In conclusion Graves ‘all that’ does not and can not refer to only one thing the whole book is the all that, and Graves is saying to goodbye to it all.  His reason for writing this novel was as I have illustrated in a previous quote so he did not have to think about these disturbing memories anymore but so they were also not forgotten. He did not want to have to go through the worst times in his mind again so he gave them to someone else to worry about; his readers!

Graves’s early life was so dramatic and so utterly emotional; he lost all hope in humanity, especially in England hence his move to Majorca. Where he married again, had four more children and ended his days a much happier man than he had been in his youth. Despite the great amount of war novels that appeared before 1930 none are as famous or as greatly acclaimed for their honesty as Goodbye to All That. The impact this novel has had on readers for decades has given people a vision of the war that was so terrible, it distressed not only Robert Graves but so many of the people involved and plagued many of them for the remainder of their lives. Goodbye to All That’ was Robert Graves way of coming to terms with his life experiences, an opportunity that few people had. It was his chance to say leave them behind and say Goodbye, to everything, to his previous life, to all that.

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What is The 'All that' That Robert Graves is Referring too. (2017, Nov 30). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-robert-graves-referring/

What is The 'All that' That Robert Graves is Referring too
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