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Goodbye To All That

Goodbye To All That

Many people that came of age in the early part of the 20th century found themselves disillusioned in the aftermath of World War I. Robert Graves echoed the sentiments of his generation in his 1929 autobiography, Goodbye To All That. From life in public school to the atrocities of WWI, Graves takes his readers on a compelling journey as he says goodbye to his youth.

Goodbye To All That: summary

Robert Graves' autobiography was originally published in 1929 and later revised in 1957. It is an example of the literature of 'The Lost Generation', who came into adulthood during WWI and became disillusioned by the destruction and needless deaths it caused.

The autobiography begins with Graves' school days at Charterhouse School in London, and goes on to his time as a soldier in France when Graves was only a teenager. The autobiography continues after the war, touching on his time spent in Wales, his student years at the University of Oxford, and finally his time in Egypt. While a soldier in France, Graves was wounded and had injured his lung. Graves suffered from PTSD for ten years.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that affects a person's mental health. The condition is normally brought on by a traumatic event in that person's life.

Goodbye To All That looks at the atrocities that unfolded during WWI. It exposes some of the incompetency in leadership and the terrible conditions faced by soldiers. Dark humour appears throughout, particularly during the section dedicated to the war. This can be seen as a way for Graves to cope with the tragic events surrounding him. The book was written in a little over four months, when Robert Graves was 33.

Goodbye To All That, soldiers in a trench in World War One, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Trench warfare during World War One, an important period in Graves' autobiography.

Goodbye To All That: meaning

The title Goodbye To All That can be interpreted as Graves saying goodbye to the war and the time of his youth. Other interpretations include that it is a eulogy to England, which changed dramatically after WWI. The war went a long way to ending England's period of imperialism. WWI weakened the old imperialist powers, enabling countries such as India to gain traction on their paths to independence.

There is a famous scene in the book where Graves is falsely proclaimed dead. This can be seen as a marker for Graves losing the innocence of his youth. Like many, he was forced to grow up quickly due to the war's devastation. Young men like him were thrust into leadership while they were still teenagers.

Purpose

At the time of the book's publication, Graves claimed that he had written the book so that he could raise the funds to leave England. He had written the book very quickly, in four months. It sold well on publication. He was true to his word, using the money to emigrate to Majorca, Spain.

Despite his comments, Graves' motives for writing the book seem more than just financial. As the title suggests, the book can be seen as a departure from both youth and England.

it was my bitter leave-taking of England."

Goodbye To All That: Robert Graves

Robert Von Ranke Graves was born on 24 July 1895 in London. His father, Alfred Perceval Graves, was an Irish poet. His mother was Amalie Von Ranke, his father's second wife and daughter of a wealthy German family. Graves was a poet, novelist, and classicist, who enjoyed a prolific career. He wrote over 120 books in his lifetime. His most famous works include the historical novel I, Claudius (1934) and its sequels, and the autobiography Goodbye To All That. As a classicist, Graves wrote the book-length essay The White Goddess (1948).

He first started writing poetry while a student at Charterhouse. He removed the German 'Von Ranke' from his name after tensions rose with Germany before WWI. He joined the army after leaving Charterhouse at 17. Graves continued to write poetry during the war, like fellow poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Sassoon and Graves both served in the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

In 1916, Graves was severely wounded by a shell burst that injured his lung. That, and the PTSD that followed, put a strain on his first marriage; they separated in the 1920s. In 1929, after publishing Goodbye To All That, Graves and American poet Laura Riding moved to Deia, Majorca.

I, Claudius and Claudius, the God (1934) followed Goodbye to All That. Both books were bestsellers and earned Graves critical success. In his poetry, he was considered a traditionalist rather than a modernist. He prized metre and clarity in his poems and often wrote on the subject of love.

In 1957 Graves had turned down a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for the first time (he was offered it again in 1984). In 1961, Graves became Professor of Poetry at Oxford, a position he held for five years. He was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, losing out to John Steinbeck.

He died of heart failure on 7 December 1985, and was buried the next day in Deia.

Goodbye To All That: analysis

Goodbye To All That is an autobiography. It tells the life story of its author and is told in the first person, in past tense. The book can also be considered a poetic memoir. Rather than being taken as fact, it can be seen as Graves' account of his memory of the events included. The autobiography is an account of public school life, WWI, and the events that followed. The book's title can also be seen as its major theme, a departure from youth and 'Old England'.

Honesty

Another large theme of the book is honesty, both in the sense of Graves' honesty in depicting the war and society, and what is true in the book. Graves' account of the Battle of Loos exposed audiences to the incompetency of the higher echelons in the British Army. In contrast, Graves often praised the heroics of the Welsh mining class in his platoon. Graves was also honest when reflecting on the poetry of his contemporaries, Wilfrid Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Graves claimed that while the pair's poetry was honest and unflinching, it still glorified the war.

Sassoon was a close friend of Graves at the time and was upset at parts of the autobiography. He disputed some of the accounts and was unhappy with the depiction of him and his family. Graves also included second-hand accounts of German prisoners of war being killed by British soldiers, which he himself did not witness. He did, however, claim that nearly every soldier had a story of it happening. This gives the impression that Graves' account can at times blur the lines between fact and rumour.

Goodbye To All That: quotes

Let us examine some quotes from the book, and what they can tell us.

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

Here Robert Graves talks about some of the horrific conditions faced by the soldiers during WWI. Rats increased in size and population due to the corpses left on the ground.

...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 can be seen as echoing Robert Graves' overarching theme in the book, the act of saying 'goodbye to all that', in this instance, soldiering. He vows to no longer follow orders, and wishes to take up a life of writing.

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

He is describing his and Siegfried Sassoon's position on the war after the atrocities they had witnessed. Graves made clear his thoughts that WWI had left a younger generation suffering at the hands of an incompetent elite.

Goodbye To All That - Key takeaways

  • Goodbye To All That was an autobiography written by Robert Graves, published in 1929.
  • The book follows Robert Graves, from his school life through to when he begins teaching in Cairo.
  • The overarching theme of the book is Graves saying goodbye to both his youth and the England of old.
  • The book attracted readers due to its honest account of the difficulties faced during WWI.
  • The book was a bestseller and allowed the author to leave England for Majorca, Spain.

Frequently Asked Questions about Goodbye To All That

Goodbye To All That takes place in several locations, including Charterhouse School, France in World War One, Wales, Oxford, and finally Cairo, Egypt.

The mood of Goodbye To All That is darkly humourous. 

Graves wrote the book so he could be financially secure enough to emigrate. But he also wanted to say goodbye to his youth and an England that no longer existed.

Goodbye To All That is about moving on from one life to another, whether that is growing up or moving to a different country.


The purpose of Goodbye To All That is for the author to say goodbye to his old life and the war he played a part in.

Final Goodbye To All That Quiz

Question

Where does Good-Bye to All That take place?

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Answer

Goodbye To All That takes place in several locations. Including; Charterhouse School, France in World War One, Wales, Oxford and finally in Cairo Egypt.

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Question

What is the mood of Goodbye To All That?

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Answer

The mood of Goodbye To All That is darkly humourous. 

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Question

Why did Robert Graves write Goodbye to all that?

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Answer

Graves wrote the book so he could be financially secure enough to emigrate. But also to say goodbye to his youth and an England that no longer existed.

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Question

What is Goodbye To All That about?

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Answer

Goodbye To All That is about moving on from one life to another. Whether that is growing up or moving to a different country


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Question

What is the purpose of Goodbye to All That?

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Answer

What is the purpose of Goodbye to All That?

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Question

Which school did Robert Graves attend before the war?

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Answer

Robert Graves attended Charterhouse School before World War One

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Question

Which poet was upset by the depiction of him and his family?

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Answer

Siegfried Sassoon was upset by the depiction of him and his family

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Question

Robert Graves suffered from which condition following the war?

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Answer

Robert Graves suffered from PTSD after the war.

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Question

In what year did Robert Graves revise Goodbye To All That?

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Answer

Robert Graves revised Goodbye To All That in 1957

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Question

Robert Graves emigrated to where after the publication of Goodbye To All That?

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Answer

Robert Graves emigrated to Majorca, Spain shortly after the publication of Goodbye to All That.

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