Explain how R.C Sheriff conveys the horrors of war to the audience of “Journey’s End”
“Journey’s End” is a play written by R.C Sheriff, who had fought during the First World War. This enabled him to bring his experiences into the play which adds to the realism of the French trenches in 1918. First premiered in the year 1928 (10 years after the end of WW1), the audience would have been sensitive to the play because there was a real possibility that they’d lost friends and family in the war. The entire action of “Journey’s End” does not leave the dugout where the men are based; which allows the audience an insight of how life was for British companies during WW1 and how they coped with war. Although Sheriff did not intend his play to be focused on the horrors of war, his depiction of a realistic setting and characters convey this.
We are given information about the war and the men’s way of life by the setting. ‘Through the doorway can be seen the misty grey parapet of a trench and a narrow strip of starlit sky.’ This shows that the dugout was claustrophobic and frightening since they were so close to no man’s land where so many lives were lost like Raleigh’s. During Raleigh’s death scene, R.C Sheriff uses the stage directions to metaphorically describe Raleigh’s gradual death. ‘The solitary candle burns with a steady flame.....The shock stabs out the candle flame.’ The stage directions help to describe what is happening outside of the dugout such as ‘The shelling had risen to a great fury’. The writer has personified the shelling for the effect that war has a life of its own which cannot be controlled by the men, ‘stretcher-bearers’ can be heard by the audience off stage, this shows that people are being injured by the ‘fury’ of the shelling. Hardy and Osborne’s handover lists facts to explain to the audience what happened previously when ‘a dug-out got blown up and came down in the men’s tea. They were frightfully annoyed.’ R.C Sheriff has used dark humour to show how the men cope with the war. Also Hardy gives important information on the artillery “We’ve got a Lewis gun just here-“. To deter away from the uncontrollable war the men would talk about the things that could be altered or controlled; for instance Trotter enjoys controlling what they eat ‘Keep ‘em and use ‘em for dumplings next time we ‘ave boiled beef.’ This helps the men feel secure knowing that there are some things that are controllable and that they have a future albeit only in the short term.
A few of the characters are deeply affected by the war; one of them being Hibbert who attempts to use ‘neuralgia’ as an excuse to be discharged from the frontline. This is deemed cowardice by the rest of the soldiers ‘Better die of the pain than be shot for deserting.’ This is said by Stanhope when Hibbert tries to leave before the German attack. This quote also shows how cowardice was dealt with during the First World War and why it drove other men to cope with war in different ways. For example, Stanhope, turns to drink (alcohol) and soldiers are heard saying that he ’gets a reputation out here for drinking’. This quote shows that most of the men know Stanhope drinks and accept it even though he is a commanding officer. As an audience we are told that he didn’t drink before...