What happens in Act 2 when Raleigh enters the dug-out with a letter for home and meets Osborne and Stanhope
When Raleigh enters the dugout, he stops short at the ‘abrupt silence’ that greets his entrance. He apologises as he thinks he has perhaps interrupted some private conversation. Raleigh is polite, conscious of himself, well-mannered, even-tempered and obedient. Osborne then reassures him by saying ‘It’s all right’, before he begins to talk to Raleigh about how to inspect the rifles, and what to check. This shows that Osborne is friendly, easy-going and helpful; Raleigh is inexperienced and willing to take advice. Raleigh then asks where the ‘letters to be collected’ are to be put, and Osborne tells him the table is fine.
Just as Raleigh is about to seal the envelope, Stanhope quietly tells him to leave it open, as he has to ‘censor all letters’. Stanhope gives me the impression of quiet threat. It also shows that he is sensitive and he is insensitive to the feelings of others. Raleigh is surprised, stammers that he has not revealed military secrets or confidential stuff. Stanhope states that ‘letters must be read’. To that, Raleigh ‘nervously’ replies that he had not realised that, and decides that he will keep it, and not send it. Here, Stanhope is featured as one who is quietly authoritative and insistent.
He is rather cold at this point in time. Stanhope ‘rises, slowly crosses and faces Raleigh’. He shouts at Raleigh, ‘Give me that letter! ‘ Raleigh is ‘astonished’, starts to speak, calling Stanhope ‘Dennis’. Stanhope again shouts and orders Raleigh to give him his letter. He is trembling. Stanhope is unexpectedly agitated and seems unable to control his emotions. Raleigh is shocked and surprised at what he sees. Raleigh tries to explain that the letter is ‘private’, and Stanhope again yells at him, interrupting him, and asks him if he understands ‘an order’.
Again, he orders Raleigh to give him the letter. Raleigh seems rather helpless and tries to explain his stand. Stanhope abuses his authority in ordering Raleigh to give him the letter. He seems unreasonable. As Raleigh again tries to tell Stanhope that the letter is private, he is interrupted yet again when Stanhope ‘clutches Raleigh’s wrist and ‘tears the letter from his hand’. Raleigh addresses Stanhope by his first name, ‘Dennis’ again, and Stanhope yells at him to stop using his first name, and to address him as ‘Stanhope’ instead.
He loudly reminds Raleigh that the latter is not ‘at school’, and orders the latter to ‘go and inspect his rifles’. Stanhope is physically violent here and uses his authority as a commander to order Raleigh to leave, making him irrational. Raleigh stands ‘amazed’; Stanhope shouts if he understands an order. Raleigh stares at Stanhope, who is ‘trembling and breathing heavily’, then he leaves quietly after saying ‘Right’ softly. Raleigh seems to have accepted the situation or his ability to do much about it. He appears to be trying to absorb the situation and its implications.
Stanhope here is frightening and we can see him barely in control of himself. He is emotionally wrought and is extremely agitated. Osborne exclaims ‘Good heavens, Stanhope! ‘, and Stanhope turns ‘furiously’ on him and again asserts his authority, proclaiming that he is the commander of this company, and will ‘ask for advice’ when he wants it. Osborne only speaks now. He is probably stunned into silence earlier on. He is probably quite close to Stanhope to be able to show his astonishment in such a manner. Stanhope perhaps feels vulnerable and is not calm yet.
He is still agitated and rather unreasonable. He abuses authority again and pulls rank here. Osborne shuts up, and Stanhope sits at the table, holding the letter. After a brief moment of silence, he throws the letter on the table, and holds his head in his hands. Osborne is sensitive and realises this is not the right time to say anything. Stanhope seems unable to think and seems calmer now. He appears to be emotionally confused and does not know what to do next. Stanhope says he does not want to read ‘the blasted thing’.
Osborne asks if Stanhope will let the letter go without censorship; Stanhope says he does not care. Osborne then offers to ‘glance through’ the letter for Stanhope, not because he wants to; Stanhope lets Osborne do it because he cannot bring himself to do it. Here, Osborne is trying to be helpful. He understands that Stanhope is unable to do what he earlier stated he had to do. He is also sensitive and accepting. Stanhope must trust him a lot to expose his vulnerable side to him. Stanhope cannot bear to read the letter, perhaps afraid of what he will find.
As Osborne reads the letter, Stanhope toys with a pencil and a magazine. Then Osborne asks if Stanhope wants to know the letter’s contents, and Stanhope says he supposed he had ‘better know’. Stanhope appears reluctant, but still curious. Osborne states that Raleigh did not mention the names of any places, and then goes on to tell Stanhope about the last bit of the letter, which is about Stanhope. In the letter, Raleigh states that when he realised he was to report to Stanhope’s ‘C’ Company, he was glad. The letter also states that Raleigh met Osborne, and then ‘Dennis’, who looked ‘tired’.
The letter also states Raleigh’s opinion that Stanhope worked ‘frightfully hard’, and had great ‘responsibility’ as a commander. In the letter, Raleigh goes on to write about what a sergeant told him about Stanhope – that Stanhope was ‘the finest officer in the battalion’, that ‘the men simply love him’. He goes on to write about how Stanhope hardly ever ‘sleeps’ in the dug-out as he’s always ‘up in the front line cheering them on with jokes’. He says Stanhope makes the men ‘keen about things’, just like he did back in school. Then he finally ends the letter by writing ‘I’m awfully proud to think he’s my friend’.
Osborne knows what to focus on – the essential bits of the letter that will reassure Stanhope. He does not tell Stanhope directly the letter’s contents – he reads out the important parts and lets Stanhope judge for himself. From the letter, you can tell that Raleigh is full of admiration for Stanhope. He sees only the good and positive in Stanhope, although he must have seen some ugly stuff in the short time he has been in the company. Raleigh does not judge and seems rather accepting. He seems to ‘worship’ Stanhope and considers Stanhope his friend.
Stanhope appears to be a good leader, who cares for his men, and who tries his utmost to motivate them, just like he motivated students back at school. He works hard, carries our duties to the best of his abilities and has a good reputation. Stanhope does not move. He sits with lowered head. Osborne asks if he should seal it. Stanhope ‘murmurs’ a ‘yes’, rises heavily and goes to the shadows by Osborne’s bed. Stanhope is perhaps ashamed by his own actions and the realisation that he has overreacted and shocked by what he has heard in Raleigh’s letter. He tries to ‘hide’ himself and tries to be apart from Osborne – hides in the shadows.