Journey's End igcse English
Do you have any sympathy at all for Hibbert? Give evidence for your opinion
It could be argued that the realistic way the horrors of life in a First World War trench are depicted in "Journey's End" leads us to feel sympathy for all the soldiers, including Hibbert, an officer in the company led by Stanhope. We see how soldiers had to deal with physical hardships like rationed food, rats, extreme discomfort and the emotional traumas of terror and almost inevitable death. The conditions they come to accept as ‘normal’ would strike anyone not accustomed to them as intolerable and Hibbert’s response, based on his instinct for self-preservation, may be seen as rational and in many ways understandable. However, his stance goes against the crucial military requirements of camaraderie and unity against the enemy and thus he loses the sympathy of the audience, even though he has, in all probability, been forced to go to war through conscription. I shall examine in this essay why it is possible to feel sympathy for Hibbert at the beginning of the play, but how this diminishes as more of his character is revealed.
We first meet Hibbert towards the end of Act One. The stage directions describe him as ‘small, slightly built, in his early twenties’, reinforcing his youth and far from heroic stature. He refuses supper, complaining of ‘beastly neuralgia’ and apologises for continuing to talk about it. Neuralgia is pain associated with damage to the nerves and it seems credible that he is genuinely suffering. At this point I felt justified in giving Hibbert the benefit of the doubt. Osborne too seems to share this view when he says ‘I wonder if he really is bad. He looks rotten.’ Osborne, a former teacher with far more experience of the world and understanding of people than the young Stanhope has more compassion and probably understands that even if the neuralgia is feigned or exaggerated, there is an underlying psychological problem...
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