Discuss How Sherriff Presents Human Weakness and Frailty in Journeys End

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  • Topic: Officer, Dugout, Commanding officer
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  • Published : November 28, 2012
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Discuss how Sherriff presents human weakness and frailty in Journeys End Journeys End was written with the intention of “letting the war speak”. The lives of the officers on the front line during 1917 are examined. A key theme that is explored throughout the play is the reactions of the mind and body, under the stress of the war. Each character represents the weakness of the human being in an individual way, but the character on which frailty is mainly focussed is Stanhope. Stanhope is the topic of many conversations within the dugout and the first conversation we see, Stanhope is mentioned. The conversation is between Osborne, the second in command, and the commanding officer of the company being relieved. The commander inquires as to whether Stanhope is “drinking like a fish”, this indicates towards the audience for the first time, that Stanhope is an alcoholic and is seen to turn to alcohol to cope with the war. Osborne jumps to the defence of Stanhope, explaining that Stanhope is “the best company commander”. Despite Stanhope’s coping mechanism of alcohol, he still has respect shown to him by his men. This is shown throughout, yet more so in the final moments of the play when the troops are rallied by Stanhope for the raid. Stanhope is shown to reject reminders of life before the war, and if his family waiting for him back home is mentioned it will not be tolerated. He shows that he does not want to be reminded when Raleigh arrives at the dugout and Stanhope becomes agitated. The conversations between the men and Stanhope are riddled with “silence” and on stage this would show the tension between the characters build up. We see how the war has also made Stanhope paranoid, and Stanhope’s irritation and paranoia become clear when he is insistent on looking through Raleigh’s letters home, to see if he has put anything derogatory about Stanhope. He is afraid that the truth about him being an alcoholic will reach home, and as Sherriff has told us, Stanhope has a fiancée waiting back home, and Stanhope does not want her view of him as this leader of the men to be damaged, especially by Raleigh writing home “and tell her I reek of whisky all day”. Stanhope’s human qualities are not shown often throughout the play, yet when Sherriff introduces his fiancée who is waiting him back in England; it adds a tender heartedness to the character. Stanhope also seems to distract his self from the war by being obsessed with cleanliness and hygiene. This is also related to the war and shows the characters drive and determination to make it through the war. Stanhope is described in the stage directions as having “well brushed” hair and is shown to have “care for” his uniform. Further in the play, the audience witnesses the death of Osborne who is seen as the caring figure within the dugout. After this, Stanhope uses anger along side the alcohol as a coping mechanism. It is shown how Stanhope appears to have lost everything, because of Osborne’s death. He has also lost Hibbert after using his authoritative powers over him and forced him to “get out” and “go to bed”. When Raleigh tries to talk to Stanhope about how he copes, Stanhope tells him to “get out” and so loses him as well. This scene shows the beginning of the downfall of Stanhope and bodes the ending of the play with the death of his soldiers. In the play Stanhope admits to his need for alcohol to cope with the war, stating that if he was not “doped with whisky” he could “go mad with fright”. Possibly showing why he showed sympathy towards Hibbert when he was breaking down, and that if Stanhope can survive the war he could possibly change. Overall Stanhope is presented as a man with is weaknesses yet has the courage (although this could be because of the doping effects of alcohol) to push on throughout his stay in the dugout and the war. He is regarded as a hero in the eyes of his men. Sherriff shows us Stanhope as an officer with a great experience of the war, yet this is...
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