Osborne is noticeably important to all of the officers in Journey’s End, but he is especially important to Stanhope and Raleigh. In this essay, I intend to show this through his various empathic and logical character traits that assist him in his role in the company. Firstly there is Stanhope. Stanhope relies heavily on Osborne for guidance and support, and Osborne is obviously very important in the running of the company. Stanhope often asks Osborne for help and advice, such as when he asks him to censor Raleigh’s letter.
In fact, Osborne could be construed as a father figure to the young Stanhope. This is demonstrated when he has to ‘tuck Stanhope in to bed’ after a drinking session. Next is Raleigh. Right from Raleigh’s arrival, Osborne tries very hard to make Raleigh feel welcome and to alleviate any fears he might have by taking his mind off the war; ‘Let’s talk about pigs. Black pigs or white pigs? ‘ With the rest of the officers, his empathic nature really shows through, in that he treats each one differently but equally. For instance, he defends Trotter, the only man to be promoted into officer status.
He realises that Trotter is striving for acceptance with the upper class officers. He gives Hibbert the benefit of the doubt by saying that he might actually have neuralgia; Stanhope: ‘Artful little swine! Neuralgia’s a splendid idea. ‘ Osborne: ‘You can’t help feeling sorry for him. I think he’s tried hard. ‘ The fact that he was a public school school master probably played a large part in his empathic nature and work ethic and consequentially his importance in the dugout. He probably used a direct translation of his methods of dealing with young boys on the other officers in the dugout.
Also, public school trains people to have a definite sense of duty and determination, and this was demonstrated perfectly in Osborne and set a prime example by not using alcohol as a coping method. A major factor in his importance in the dugout was his unique way of coping with the horror of the war. At many times throughout the play, he puts things in a perspective relative to himself or the person he is talking to; ‘about the length of a Rugger field’. However, this is not his only method of coping. He also reads Alice In Wonderland, a book set in a kind of dreamscape; the perfect place to escape to.
On top of this, he uses poems in the book as analogies for the war; ‘How doth the little crocodile Improve his shining tail- And welcome little fishes in With gently smiling jaws. ‘ He means, of course, that the raid is leading them straight into the jaws of death. Ironically, Trotter accidentally realises this; ‘I don’t see no point in that’, Osborne replies, ‘That’s just the point. ‘ He uses these analogies to almost trivialise the war, but not to downplay it, simply to banish the physical war to the subconscious.
I believe that Osborne is as important as Stanhope to the officers and the company. He could be seen as a father figure to all of them, giving advice and offering empathy to all of the officers. He is, effectively, more of a leader to the company than Stanhope, as his good personality traits compensate for Stanhope’s flaws. However, this relationship is not reciprocal, and Stanhope has very little to offer except perhaps a good example of how not to cope. Perhaps the saying should not go, “Behind every great man is a great woman”, but perhaps, “Behind every great man there is a greater man”.