Goodbye to All That Book Summary - Goodbye to All That Book explained in key points

Goodbye to All That summary

Robert Graves

Brief summary

Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves is a memoir that chronicles the author's experiences during World War I. It offers a raw and honest portrayal of the war and its impact on soldiers' lives.

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    Goodbye to All That
    Summary of key ideas

    The War's Onset and Grave's Early Life

    At the beginning of Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves recounts his early life, born into a middle-class English family with Irish roots, his experiences growing up in Wimbledon and attending boarding schools, which he found restrictive and deficient in creativity. Graves provides a detailed insight into the socio-cultural mores of the British middle class during the early 20th century, highlighting their emphasis on formality and decorum.

    Soon, the narrative pivots as World War I breaks out. At this young age, Graves' life takes a dramatic turn. He enlists in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and, after a brief period of training, finds himself on the front lines in France, where he is confronted by the grim realities of war. His descriptions of trench warfare are graphic, capturing the horror and brutality of battle.

    Existential Anguish and War's Brutality

    As Goodbye to All That continues, Graves paints a picture of the psychological distress caused by the war. The persistent fear of death, the loss of comrades, and the bloody injuries were routine, which led to an overwhelming feeling of dread and disillusionment. We see how war can forcibly rip away innocence and force youngsters to face mortality prematurely.

    Graves also portrays the incompetence and lack of empathy of the high command, recounting instances of callous decisions that disregarded the welfare of soldiers. He shows us the glaring divide between the officials far from the front lines and the ordinary soldiers in the trenches. This realization further fuels the sense of disillusionment among the soldiers.

    A Return Home and Post-war Struggles

    Midway through the war, Graves is badly wounded and erroneously reported dead, a development that gives the book its title – a 'goodbye to all that.' He returns home to England to convalesce and, in this period, finds solace in poetry and his relationship with fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon. However, even the temporary respite from the war doesn't spare him from the mental anguish prevalent among the returning soldiers.

    The period after the war poses a different kind of struggle for Graves, as he strives to reintegrate into a profoundly changed society that could not comprehend the soldiers' traumatic experiences. He chronicles his ventures into family life and academia during this period, vividly illustrating a society grappling with the aftermath of the Great War.

    The End and Graves' Departure from England

    In the final sections of Goodbye to All That, Graves explores his growing disillusionment with English society, further fueled by his post-war experiences and a tumultuous personal life. Still haunted by the scars left by the war, and now burdened by financial issues, marital discord, and a general revulsion for the societal norms and values he once held dear, Graves eventually decides to withdraw from England and his previous life.

    The book ends with Graves and his second wife, Nancy Nicholson, moving to Majorca, marking the final, symbolic goodbye to 'all that.' While the war might be over, its grim shadows linger. The book completes its circle here – with Graves attempting to find a new sense of normalcy after having said his goodbyes, to his past and to his homeland, leaving readers with a profound insight into the abysmal impacts of war on individual lives.

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    What is Goodbye to All That about?

    Goodbye to All That is a memoir by Robert Graves that recounts his experiences during World War I and his disillusionment with the war and its aftermath. Graves provides a candid and personal account of his time in the war, reflecting on the senselessness and brutality of the conflict.

    About the Author

    Robert Graves is a renowned British writer who lived from 1895 to 1985. He was not only an author but also a poet, scholar, and translator. Graves served in World War I and his experiences greatly influenced his writing, notably his autobiography, 'Goodbye to All That.' He is best known for his historical fiction novels, such as 'I, Claudius' and 'Claudius the God,' which have received critical acclaim. Throughout his career, Graves also wrote numerous poetry collections, essays, and non-fiction works on mythology and literary criticism.

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