Throughout “Journeys End”, R C Sherriff re-creates, for the audience, the reality of World War One. He also shows the conditions and the tremendous stress and fear suffered by the men at the front. The play is set in Flanders, in Belgium, where much of World War One was fought. It is set in the later part of World War One. World War One was fought using trench warfare. Soldiers each took turns at working in the line until they were given leave, which sometimes wasn’t for a long time. The soldiers showed tremendous courage and spirit to continue working and fighting every day even when their tasks sometimes seemed impossible. The play, “Journeys End” was written about ten years after the First World War, by a soldier who fought in the war, and since then it has been translated into every European language. It is the only play of its era that is still popular today.Order now
R.C.Sherriff chose a very wide range of contrasting characters, which help us to understand how different characters would react in certain situations. Most people have similar characteristics to at least one of the characters in the play. The characters reactions helps us to realise how bad some of the situations really are. A good example of this is when Hibbert, a grown man, is reduced to tears when Stanhope won’t allow him to go home sick.
“Every sound up here makes me all-cold and sick”
Hibbert â€“ Act Two: Scene Two
This line really shows how Hibbert can’t bare the life in the front line and how the conditions were really too much for a large number of men. He is scared. Hibbert couldn’t deal with the situation. He tried to get out of it by faking illness. The characters were under an enormous amount of pressure. They suffered from tremendous stress. In some cases, such as Stanhope’s, this can cause sudden mood swings.
“Look here, Osborne, I’m commanding this
company. I ask for advice when I want it!”
Stanhope â€“ Act Two: Scene One
This time, Osborne is the innocent victim of Stanhope’s short temper, which was a result of his time in the front line. “His nerves have all got battered to bits” says Osborne. This has shortened his temper. He is very anxious.
All of the characters have ways of dealing with the trench warfare. Stanhope knows that he is lucky to be alive after three years of fighting. He believes that it will soon be his turn to die. He is living in fear. The only way he knows to ease the fear is drink. Because of his time in the front line, he has become dependant on alcohol.
“Damn the soup!, Bring some whisky!”
Stanhope â€“ Act One: Scene One
He uses the drink to cushion the reality and to try to forget about the war. Raleigh is new to the front line. At home, they were sheltered from the reality of the war. Because he doesn’t know how bad things can be, he fails to see the bad side of some of the situations that he is placed in. He doesn’t have to cope with as much as the other officers. I think that R.C.Sherriff uses Raleigh to show how uninformed the people at home were of the conditions in the front line. Osborne tries not to show his emotions. He attempts to look as though he is unaffected by the conditions that he has to face on a daily basis. Other officers, such as Trotter, imagine that they are in a normal situation.
Some of the conditions that R.C.Sherriff describes in the play are unimaginable to people in the modern world. Not only do they face the constant fear of death, but also they don’t even have hygienic living conditions. The water that they drink is disinfected because it is so dirty and could otherwise cause illness.
“Don’t have too much, it’s rather strong today.”
Hardy â€“ Act One: Scene One
The men have to dilute it with whisky. The disinfectant that is in the water makes it unpleasant to drink. The sleeping conditions aren’t much better.
“That’s mine. The ones in the dug-out haven’t got any bottoms to
them. You keep yourself in by hanging your arms and legs over
the sides. Mustn’t hang them too low, or the rats gnaw your boots.”
Osborne â€“ Act One: Scene One
The beds don’t even have bottoms too them. The men don’t even get a proper rest when they are asleep at night. This quote also tells us how the rats crawl about everywhere.
“I should say- roughly- about two million;
but I don’t see them all.”
Osborne â€“ Act One: Scene One
There are more rats than humans out in the trenches. This is very unhygienic.
Some of the conversations that the men have reveal a lot about the stress that they are feeling and the fear that they face every day. During Act two, Scene two, when Hibbert tries to go home sick, you can see how scared the men really are.
“I feel the same- exactly the same! Every noise up here makes
me feel- just as you feel. We all feel like you do sometimes,
if only you knew. I hate and loathe it all. Sometimes I feel I could
just lie down on this bed and pretend I was paralysed or something-
and couldn’t move- and just lie there until I died- or was dragged away.”
Stanhope â€“ Act Two: Scene Two
All the men share the same fear of death. They are all suffering out in the front line. Other conversations reveal the characters true emotions. At the end of the play, when Raleigh dies, he and Stanhope have a very deep conversation, in which Stanhope refers to him as “Jimmy” which must be the name that he used to call Raleigh at home, outside of the war. This shows how much he really cares for Raleigh and how he views him as kind of a family member.
Another way that R.C.Sherriff re-creates the reality of World War One and the stress that the men suffer from is that he builds up tension in the scenes. In Act Two, Scene One, Raleigh writes a letter home to his sister about his first day or so in the front line. Stanhope’s anger and aggression build quite quickly. Stanhope fears that Raleigh will write home to his sister and tell her how Stanhope drinks all of the time and how he has changed as a person. He uses the law that he is supposed to read and censor all of the letters home to his advantage.
“It’s the rule that letters must be read.”
Stanhope â€“ Act Two: Scene One
When Raleigh declines, he quickly changes to: “Give me that letter!” and “D’you understand an order?” After this, Stanhope and Raleigh stare wide eyed at each other, creating tremendous tension. This tension clearly shows Stanhopes frustration that has been building up for ages, purely through stress. You can really see what Stanhope is going through. Another point in the play when there is a lot of tension, is the night after the raid. The men are all eating and drinking the food and drink that has been provided and smoking the cigars, when Stanhope tells Hibbert to go to bed, as he is to go on duty at eleven. Hibbert replies with a sarcastic comment. After this the conversation heats up. The following argument ends with Stanhope shouting at Hibbert.
“Get out of my sight!”
Stanhope â€“ Act Three: Scene Two
The following pause creates great tension. The anxiety of the great attack that is due to take place the next day is really beginning to show. The men are obviously very nervous.
After reading Journeys End, I now know a lot more information about what life was really like for a soldier in the front line. R.C.Sherriff has been successful in realistically informing a reader of the conditions that the men faced and the tremendous stress and fear suffered by the men. The ways he used to present the information were extremely clear. He created a character for every type of person, which helped me understand what they were suffering. I think that the ways that R.C.Sherriff presented details of the conditions was very clever. Just one sentence can tell us so much about a particular subject, for example the water supply the disinfectant in the water, the germs in it.
I think that the conversations that the men have are very true to what the men would really be feeling. They show the ongoing fear of the men. The tension in the scenes really highlights the stress that the men are suffering. Different people have viewed the play in different ways. Some say that the play has a message for peace however those who were not pacifist found that it supported their opinion too. The play shows the soldiers spirit in difficult situations. The carried out orders that sometimes they didn’t agree with, but still put on a brave face.