Life Class, by Pat Barker is a novel that is centered around the First World War and the effects this war has on a group of young students. Life Class also puts emphasis on the modernist movement which deals with individuals who are trying to find there place in a new, industrial society. Barker uses one character in particular, a young girl named Elinor, to illustrate the difficulties that arise when trying to find yourself in a changed world.
To show that the world has changed with the start of the war, Barker shifts the novel's point of view from that of a troubled, young artist named Paul Tarrant to that of the beautiful, but boyish Elinor Brooke. With this shift, we see the subject matter change from Paul's more trivial, personal issues to that of Elinor's bigger life issues. At the beginning of the novel, when Paul's point of view is present, the reader witnesses a dispute with an art professor, an affair with a married woman, and the various problems that develop because of this affair. As Paul struggles to become a successful artist the reader becomes enveloped in his feelings of inadequacy and watches as he tries to decide whether or not to drop out of The Slade School of Art. The reader also becomes a spectator to his affair with the attractive Teresa Halliday and we observe as Paul meets Teresa, falls in "love", and then tries to make a decision regarding Teresa's jealous husband, Jack Halliday. Is Jack really abusive to Teresa or is she making it all up? Should Paul get involved in all of this drama? Does he truly love her or is their relationship just a short lived fling that should soon come to an end? These are all questions that Paul and the reader face while the novel is in his point of view.
As the novel shifts to Elinor's point of view, the reader sees a change in subject matter. Instead of focusing on extremely personal matters the focus is put on more common life issues that most people can relate to. The setting shifts as...