Later that afternoon, Sassoon meets with Rivers for their scheduled session. He explains that he never meant he really wanted to kill Lloyd George (the Prime Minister) as Graves implied; that comment was merely for rhetorical effect. Sassoon tells Rivers that both his brother and father are dead. He never knew his father well, as he left home when Sassoon was five, and died when he was eight. Sassoon never went to the funeral, though he was told that it was Jewish, and foreign to him. Sassoon was educated at Marlborough and Cambridge, but he never felt able to catch up on his education. Most importantly, Rivers discovers from this session that Sassoon is extremely uncomfortable being safe and out of danger. He feels contempt for those who live in safety while others fight for them.

That night, Burns looks outside the window. It is pouring rain, but he feels the need to go out, so he puts on his coat and boards a bus heading away from the city. He rides as far into the Scottish countryside as the bus will take him, uncertain of where to go. He stumbles along a field and comes across a tree that feels slimy. When he looks up, he sees that dead animals are hanging from all the branches. He starts to run, but then he turns around to face his fear. One by one, he unties the animals and arranges them in a circle around the tree. Then he removes his clothes and lies down naked in the middle of the circle. He feels that, despite the rain and the cold, this is the right place. Later, he returns to the hospital to the patience and comfort of Dr. Rivers.


In 1917, the time in which the novel is set, treatment for mental illness was just beginning to be an accepted topic in medicine. Although there were many reported cases of soldiers going "mad" in the trenches, many people, like the older men on the military Board in this novel, doubted the existence of any real sickness or affliction. They preferred to believe that those men who exhibited signs of madness did so in order to shirk their military duty. At this time, Sigmund Freud, who is mentioned in this novel, had become famous for his research of psychological disorders, which largely revolved around the topics of dreams, sexuality, and parental issues. Psychology and psychiatry were new fields, and doctors who recognized "shell-shock" as a mental problem tried various methods to correct it. Some employed electro-shock therapy, while others, like Dr. Rivers in the novel, believed it was better to allow the patients to talk about their experiences and to help them to remember. The therapy Rivers employs, like all the other methods, is experimental for its time; therefore it is important to note the context in which he practices his treatment. Such context helps to explain the distrust for some of Rivers's methods that is implied in the patients' speech.