It is written by R C Sheriff who was a soldier in the war. He was wounded in the battle of Passchendale in 1917 so knows what it is like being in the army in the middle of a war. There are not many characters in this play but almost all have a large part in the play. The play ‘Journeys End’ was first performed on stage in 1928 with Laurence Olivier acting the role of the Commander, Stanhope. It was such a success that by 1929 there were fourteen companies performing the play. This was just in England!
The play starts off with the C Company commanded by Stanhope getting ready to face an onslaught by the German army. There are five officers in the trench who are getting ready to face the biggest battle of their lives. They are Mason, Raleigh, Osborne, Trotter Hibbert and Hardy. This play tells us about many things that happen to people when they are at war. During this play you can see the differences in the characters start to grow especially Raleigh. However, this is only because he just came into the army. He is the youngest and the least experienced. The others had already been the army for a while before the story started.
The play starts with Hardy sounding really cheery. He is singing a song, obviously trying to get his mind off the events happening and the constant threat of being killed, just like many of his friends and relatives who had died before him. Osborne comes in and talks to Hardy. Osborne seems to be a lot less cheerful than Hardy. This could be because Hardy is about to have a break from the front line so can rest. Osborne is just starting. During the point where Osborne and Hardy are talking to each other Hardy makes about three main points. The first is where he says “Don’t have too much water, it’s rather strong today”.
This shows that the water that they are drinking is treated which doesn’t taste very nice. The second point that he makes is that he is glad that Osborne has come because Hardy has had enough. Osborne thinks that the area where he was was not as bad but Hardy tells him the truth that it was very dangerous which Osborne would probably worry about. The third point was a joke about when the ‘Minnie’s’ (German bombs) explode in the trench. He doesn’t mention that the men were nearly killed he just says, “A dug-out got blown up and came down in the men’s tea.
They were frightfully annoyed” Hardy is very insensitive when they are talking about when the German attack is coming. He tells Osborne that he will “get it right in the neck” which I think is an awful thing to say when you are on the verge of having a major battle which could kill you. Osborne reminds him that, although he won’t be in the front line he could still be in danger if the German’s launch a big attack. Then he quickly changes the subject by asking “where’s the map”. Hardy also seems to be a rather careless sort of person. This is proved on two occasions.
The first is when Osborne asks about the trench stores and calls him “a fussy old man” and pulls out a scruffy piece of paper. The second occasion is when Stanhope comes onto the scene and says that he wants a word with Hardy because of the mess he left the trenches in. Stanhope is the main character in the play and is in charge of the four officers and Mason, the cook. Stanhope is still in his early twenties but taking on the role of a much older more experienced officer. He is very important, has to make many decisions and is always under a lot of stress.
We hear early on in the play about Stanhope and his drinking problem. This is his way of coping with the war and the pressure he feels he is under. However, Osborne sticks up for him and tells Hardy that he is by far the “best company commander we’ve got” This is obviously true, or most people agree because Hardy, who seems not to like him very much, agrees with him. Osborne then has a go at Hardy because Hardy encouraged Stanhope to drink a whole bottle of whisky as quickly as possible which is not helping the situation. Stanhope seems to cope with the pressures of war worse than everybody else.
This could be because he has been there one of the longest and has experienced more horrific events than the rest of them. He has been there for three years which is an incredibly long time as quite a lot of people end up doing ‘a blightly one’ which is where they go home because of an injury. This is because they are afraid and do not want to get killed. Some people used to ‘cheat’ the system by shooting each other and themselves in the feet. Stanhope is not like this. This why he is always so stressed out. Stanhope is terrified of going into the war and being killed, which is the thing which drives him to the drink.
This is the only way he can cope with it. Stanhope shows the effect of war to Raleigh when Raleigh first comes into the play. Raleigh used to be friends with Stanhope at school and admired him greatly. Another important factor is that Stanhope is in love with Raleigh’s sister and is worried that when Raleigh sees him in the state he is at the moment, that he will write to his sister and tell her. Raleigh is deeply disappointed when Stanhope gets angry with Raleigh for joining his company. He puts extra pressure on Stanhope because he does not want people back at home finding out that his ‘hero’ is a drunkard.
Stanhope does not listen to Raleigh and it only aggravates things further. At this point in the play, it seems to me as if Stanhope is quite a stubborn person. He does not listen to what Raleigh has to say to him, even if they are in his best interests. Raleigh seems to be a persistent character, who is very enthusiastic. He seems to hang around Stanhope like a ‘faithful dog’. Stanhope gets sick of this very quickly and hurts Raleigh’s pride by treating him like a child. He also starts to censor Raleigh’s letters to his sister because he is convinced that Raleigh will tell her that Stanhope is just a drunkard and is really nasty to him.
Stanhope seems to be paranoid about this. However, it is shown that Stanhope is not all bad when he cannot open Raleigh’s letter even though he had just screamed at him to give him the letter. Osborne opens the letter and it says “Dennis works frightfully hard” and that he was “proud that he was his friend”. When Stanhope hears this he gets up without saying anything and goes to bed. As is shown in the last paragraph, Stanhope undergoes the most personality changes out of everybody in the play. He needs a drink to get him going and drinks constantly during the day but still manages to be a respected officer.
However, he seems to be more respected before he started drinking. The drinking seems to be a thing that he does only because of the pressure. This is because when Raleigh is talking to Osborne about “Dennis”, he says “Oh I know old Dennis’s temper. I remember once when we were at school he caught some chaps in a study with a bottle of whisky. Lord! The roof nearly blew off” We hear that Stanhope is also a great disliker of smoking. That side of Stanhope seems completely different to the side we have seen of him so far in this play. This is one of his major personality changes due to the war.
When Raleigh arrived in Stanhope’s battalion he expected them to be still the best of friends. He was sadly mistaken. Because of the effect of the war on Stanhope, it is the opposite. Stanhope is worried that if he gets too close to Raleigh again, then Raleigh will notice the difference in him, think that he is not as brave as every one thought back in England or worse and that Raleigh will tell his sister and that she will leave him. It is not until right at the end of the play where Stanhope realises his true feelings for Raleigh when Raleigh gets hit with a bit of shrapnel.
He gets somebody to get the stretcher and stays with Raleigh and helps him until he passes away. When this happens he has no time to dwell on it but goes back into the defence to stop the Germans. Even though one of his best friends dies he still reports for duty which shows that he is a very strong character and a good leader. Osborne is also a very important character in the play. He is a very decent and loyal man. He tries to be a fatherly figure towards the people in his battalion which is why everyone calls him ‘Uncle’ instead of Sir. Osborne and Stanhope seem very close.
When Hardy starts to complain about Stanhope and calling him a drunkard, Osborne immediately jumps on the side of Stanhope and says that he is not a drunkard but just needs a few drinks to settle his nerves. The way he says this with a lot of anger, it shows that Osborne is trying to defend him even though he knows that Hardy is right. Osborne is always the one who tells the new soldiers everything they need to learn about what to do etc. For example when Raleigh arrives for the first time, Osborne is the first to speak to him. He has a long conversation with Raleigh about things such as the ‘Very lights’ and ‘Lancer’s alley’.
The Very lights are the lights that both sides use to see if there are going to be any raids in the dark from the opposition. Lancers alley is a long, winding path which leads the British towards the trenches. He tells Raleigh not to take his uniform off so that when the Germans attack, they can get to the trench quicker and do not have to get changed first. They then have a conversation about what they do back home. Osborne purposely tries to get the conversation off the war for his sake and Raleigh’s. He talks about things which Raleigh is obviously interested in, which is mainly sports including ‘rugger’ and cricket.
He copes with the war like this unlike Stanhope who turns to his drinking. Osborne is also a fighter. When he has to fight he does not complain, in fact he never complains unless it is in a joked format such as when they have no pepper. Near the end of the play, Osborne gets killed by a stray hand grenade. He died bravely when he was waiting for Raleigh. However, the Sergeant Major does not seem particularly bothered about him dying. Stanhope is then very sarcastic, the only time we see him do this in the play and says “Well as long as the brigadier is happy” He was obviously very upset.
Osborne had left him. Without Osborne, Stanhope now felt that he was lost and didn’t have anyone to turn to. However, he did not dwell on it, but instead drank champagne and smoked cigars that they had got for doing the raid which killed Osborne. Raleigh is completely different to all of the other people in the battalion. He seems to be very nai?? ve when it comes to fighting in the war. This is because he is new. He is very enthusiastic and always going on about the war, asking questions etc. Although other people do not want him to i. e.
Osborne, he still talks about the war as often as possible, and is always keen to find out more. His childhood hero is Stanhope. They were friends at school and Raleigh has liked him ever since then. He always admired him in lots of different ways and he really could not fault him. The bad thing is that because of this, Stanhope seems to drift further away from him because he cannot be bothered with him and he also believes that anything he says wrong will instantly be sent back to Raleigh’s sister who he obviously loves dearly. So, he does not really want to talk to Raleigh and he actually treats him harsher because of this.
As we get further into the play, Raleigh realises that Stanhope is not quite as courageous as he first thought. He thinks that without all of the drink, it is unlikely that Stanhope will be able to cope with war. This shatters his dreams, but Raleigh is a very enthusiastic person and boldly carries on anyway ignoring his concerns. Stanhope is ashamed of his drunkenness but still does not manage to stop leaving Raleigh disappointed. During the whole of the play, Raleigh never seems to be scared of the war, just curious. I think the only thing about the war which changes him, is that he realises Stanhope isn’t perfect.
During the short time that Raleigh is there, I think he grows up a lot. His curiosity starts to subside and he is a much stronger man because of it. He is affected by Osborne’s death, but not as much as the others. This is because he didn’t know Osborne very well. He thinks that you should mourn for a person when the die, but the others just treat it completely differently. They do not get upset because they have seen so many other people die before and know that it will happen to many people in the future, possibly them. When Raleigh dies, he is very brave.
He does not get upset and tries to get up, even though he can not feel his legs. He asked for ‘a drop of water’ and after that he asks Stanhope to go saying that he would be okay. I think this requires a lot of bravery as when you are about to die, you would want people to be around you. Raleigh wanted Stanhope to continue with his job and not worry about him. Stanhope stayed with Raleigh right until the end which Raleigh, sub consciously probably wanted him to stay and comfort him. Raleigh blamed himself for getting hit and called himself “stupid”.
He wanted to continue fighting even though he was going to die. This was very brave. He dies and leaves Stanhope to go over how awful he had been to Raleigh. Another main character in the play is Mason, the cook. He always seems to be busy, as he is a soldier as well as a cook. He is always happy, which shows that, because he is so busy, it keeps his mind off the war. Although the food is awful, he always tries to make the best of a bad situation. I do not think the other soldiers in the regiment really notice how hard Mason is working; they just take him for granted.
I do not think the war will have changed him much at all as his attitude does not change at all during the whole of the play. He sometimes jokes about the Germans etc but apart from that he does not really make conversation with the other members of the battalion. This could be because of the fact that he is much lower down in the pecking order than the others. Hibbert is also in the C Company. He seems to be a bit of a wimp and the war effects him a lot because of it. A couple of times he complains about his neuralgia (a disease to do with your eyes), and tries to get out of fighting when the German attack will start.
This shows that he can not take it anymore. He says to Stanhope, “I’m awfully sorry, I’m afraid I can not stick it any longer”. Stanhope sees straight through this and confronts Hibbert about it. They have a heated confrontation, and Stanhope admits that he is finding the war difficult as well. He tries to get out to see the doctor, however, Stanhope stops him. Hibbert shows how desperate he is by trying to hit Stanhope with a stick. This only angers Stanhope more and makes him more determined to not let Hibbert go. Then Hibbert breaks down and sobs hysterically.
He says that he cannot cope anymore. He has obviously had a really hard time and feels he cannot take it anymore. Stanhope takes pity on him. This shows another side to Stanhope, one of compassion and empathy, which could have been a lot more frequent had he not been in the war. He finally calms Hibbert down and says that they will get through it together. This comforts Hibbert a lot and he finally get things together. As we do not meet Hibbert until later on in the play we cannot really judge how much he has changed because of the war.
However, it is obvious that he hates it and it has made a difference. Except for Stanhope, the war has probably changed and affected Hibbert the most. Trotter is also in the C Company. He seems to be from a lower social class than the others. He is a very talkative person and he likes his food a lot. Trotter is an overweight individual who does not seem to have a care in the world. Osborne and Stanhope notice this and say that he has “no imagination” and Stanhope says to Trotter; “I envy you Trotter. Nothing upsets you does it? You are always the same”. This just about sums up Trotter.
In a situation like they are in at the moment, this could be a good thing as he won’t get affected by the war and is oblivious to the dangers and concerns the others have. However, this could mean that he has a very boring life, missing out on important things, both good and bad. The smaller things seem to matter to him in this war. For example, instead of complaining about the thousands of men killed a week, or the unsanitary living conditions, he complains about having no pepper at the table. He also never finds anything surprising and does not seem to show a personality, except for his strange sense of humour.
He is a carefree individual but always seems to look on the bright side of life. The only time where he seems to get down is where he says to the rest of the men “Always the same, am I. (He sighs) Little you know” This makes me think he is more sensitive than the others give him credit for. If it wasn’t for Trotter I think that the whole of the C Company would be really miserable as he is the only one who really starts to help people enjoy themselves in the evening. In summary I think everyone has been affected but some have been able to cope better than others.
Mason seems to just want to get on with the job, followed by Trotter who also ignores many of the awful conditions and problems in the trenches. The most affected is Hibbert who needs Stanhope to sort him out and Stanhope himself, who turns to drink to help him mask the reality and cope with the pressures and stress of the situation. He has the most strain on him as he is in charge of all the other officers in the play. He is the one who changes most obviously. When he walked into the dugout for the first time, he is very snappy and irritable. However, according to Osborne and especially Raleigh, he was not like this before.
This book shows how much the war changes people. It is obviously a very scary time for everybody involved, especially with as much responsibility as Stanhope. Everyone copes in different ways and this is shown in the play. Some people are not affected much at all; however, most people absolutely hate the experience and are constantly scared of injury or more importantly, losing their lives. This is why Hibbert acted so dramatically when he tried to leave. He could not take any more of it. Raleigh is the only enthusiastic one. This was because he was new and excited to be an officer.