Journey's End by RC Sheriff

Journey's End by RC Sheriff

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Journey’s End

R.C Sheriff wrote Journey’s end in 1928. The play was written 10 years
after the war had finished to let people’s emotions feelings and
emotions about the war settle down.

The play is set near the end of the war, in 1918, along the western
front in France. Sheriff set the whole play in one setting so it is
easier to stage, it personalizes it, and it creates a sense of

The whole play is set in the trenches, which are very confined, damp
and cold. They were most likely inhabited by rats and the dugouts most
likely smelled.

The final scene is set in the dugout, at dawn just before a German
attack is expected. At he beginning of the scene

“There is no sound except the distant mutter of the guns.” But later
on in the scene

“There comes the faint whistle and thud of falling shells.” Towards
the end pf the scene the noise from the shells being dropped
intensifies and continues like this until the end of the play.

R.C Sheriff uses comedy in the play to lighten the mood and to add
relief from the depression of war. The party scene was a scene where
everyone forgot about the war and started to lighten up.

At the beginning of this scene the audience most likely expects the
mood to be unsettled and things to be tense between the characters,
this is because of the arguments that happened between the characters
the night before.

“Towards dawn, the candles are no longer burning.”

Mason is framed in the doorway against the very lights.

“There comes the rasp of a striking match-a tiny flame- and a candle

Mason the wakes Stanhope up. This depicting the way he is breaking the
tension from the previous night’s argument and how he is lightening
the mood, be it with a hot cup of tea or with his tactful handling of
Hibbert later on.

In “Journey’s End” the lighting is very important because it outlines
what kind of mood different parts of the scene are. For example, at
the start of Act 3 Scene 3, it is half past five on the morning the
attack is expected. The lighting would be very dark, creating a
depressing atmosphere. Near the end of the scene, as Raleigh is dying,

“The faint rosy glow of the dawn is deepening to an angry red.”

At this point the lights would slowly turn red, representing death,
blood and pain.

The audience think Hibbert is a coward, mainly because he tried to o
home, complaining of neuralgia, when he was fine at the party, and he
takes his time over everything he does.

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In Act 3 Scene 3 Hibbert
attempts to delay as much time as possible before being forced to do

“He is a picture of misery.”

Mason manages to persuade Hibbert y saying

“I aint bin up in this part of the line. Don’t want to get lorst.”

Then Stanhope turns to Hibbert and says


Leaving Hibbert no choice but to go with mason.

When the Sergeant Major enters he is very out of breath. The comings
and goings of characters causes a build up of tension in the small
dugout, in turn making the audience fell excited and nervous.

The Sergeant Major informs Stanhope that only Corporal Ross has been
hit and that the attack is very much in full flow. The pace of the
conversation is very fast, displaying to the audience a definite sense
of urgency. It also shows the nervousness of both characters.

Stanhope checks that there has only been one injury so far, showing
his concern and comradeship between fellow officers and men.

Comradeship is a theme carried out throughout the play, mainly upon
Stanhope’s shoulders.

When the word “stretcher bearers” are shouted for the second time,
Stanhope and the Sergeant Major look at each other as if they know
what is running through each other’s minds. This indicates to the
audience that both characters are expecting the worst, therefore so
must they.

The Sergeant Major goes into the trenches to find out who has been hit
whilst Stanhope prepares himself for battle.

“Flying fragments of shell whistle and hiss and moan overhead.”

The tension mounts as the audience waits in anticipation to see if the
Sergeant Major returns, and if so, with what news.

“The Sergeant Major reappears and comes hurrying down the steps.”

Stanhope immediately turns to see what is wrong, showing true
compassion for his colleagues.

When the Sergeant Major informs Stanhope that it is Raleigh who has
been injured, Stanhope is shocked and requests that he be bought into
the dugout. The Sergeant Major fights off this action by questioning
Stanhope in disbelief, but Stanhope makes it an order, so the Sergeant

On hearing the news about Raleigh, the audience feel sorry for him
because in the previous scene Raleigh thought the raid was all
“Frightfully exciting.” This just illuminate show naïve and innocent
he is to the audience.

In the final part of the scene, we see how the relationship between
Stanhope and Raleigh is more than just professional. As Stanhope hears
of men getting wounded, he acts calmly and plans the best course of
action to help them, but when he hears of Raleigh’s injury, he is
affected by his friendship with Raleigh, and orders him to be bought
down to the dugout.

The stage directions in Act 3 Scene 3 intensify towards the end
because there is more going on in this scene than in the previous
scenes. When the words “stretcher bearers” are shouted from the
trenches, the Sergeant Major leaves the dugout, leaving Stanhope
alone. Here Stanhope shows signs of anticipation because he starts to
prepare to go up in the trenches, as he waits for Sergeant Major to

When Stanhope is alone for the second time, he shows concern and
comradeship for Raleigh by laying out his own blanket for Raleigh.
When the Sergeant Major returns “carrying Raleigh like a child in his
huge arms”, Stanhope has a blanket ready and tells the Sergeant Major
to lay him down. The stage directions refer to Raleigh as a boy. This
shows Raleigh’s youth. Then the Sergeant Major “Draws away his hands,
looks furtively at his palms, and wipes the blood on the sides of is

This stage direction shows the audience that Raleigh is injured and

The silence is held for as long as possible before the audience begins
to get restless. This builds up tension of the play for the audience.
R.C Sheriff brings the raid to life by using sound affects; this means
the audience will have to use their imagination to picture what might
be happening outside the dugout.

The stage directions at the end of Act 3 Scene 3 are very emotionally
charged. R.C Sheriff refers a lot to the candle at this point, because
the candle being lit is a symbol of life.

Stanhope and the audience feel sorry for Raleigh as his life is slowly
nearing an end. When Raleigh dies, because he was so young, the
audience and Stanhope think it is a waste of life, and he didn’t
deserve to die in pain.

At the end of the play

“The shelling has risen to a great fury”

As Stanhope is leaving the dugout for the last time, the candle

“Burns with a steady flame”

And Raleigh lies in the shadows.

“Suddenly a shell bursts on the dugout roof and the timber props of
the door slowly cave in.”

The passage into the trenches has been blocked, entombing Raleigh’s
lifeless body. The candle, which has been a symbol of life and hope
throughout the whole play, is stabbed out by the shock, ending the
hope and life the soldiers had.

The audience knows that hope for the soldiers is now gone, and they
assume that the rest of the company is going to die. The audience may
assume the soldiers will die because their journey is coming to an
end, hence the title.

I think this scene is very emotionally charged for Stanhope, with the
deaths of Raleigh and Osbourne, who died in the previous scene. He
shows true compassion for his company, he has relationships
professionally, and personally with them.

Comradeship is a theme that is carried out throughout the whole play
because all the soldiers are very close, mainly because they have to
spend all their time with each other.

All the characters in Journeys End have very different roles. Osbourne
plays the father figure, the rest of the company look up to him as one
they can turn to. Hibbert is the scared child because he is scared of
what is going on. Trotter is the dark figure; he shows no emotions to
anything, we don’t really get to know anything about him in the play.
Mason plays the relief figure, because he is always there to lighten
the moment when there has been an argument. Raleigh is the youth of
the company, he doesn’t have any experience compared to the rest of
the characters, and he thinks it’s all a game. Then there is Stanhope,
he is the hero of the company, but he is scared underneath.

The structure of ‘Journey’s End’ is to have many conversations between
the different characters, before and after each progression of the
plot, such as an attack. The effect of this is to build suspense and
expectancy before action and emphasise the repercussion of battle
after the event, it also shows to the audience that most of the time
would be spent waiting for something to happen, and then when it did
it would be over fairly quickly. The audience being an extension of
the stage means that they get to experience the waiting and suspense,
more than if they were separate to the stage.

The plot in ‘Journey’s End’ is to show the depressing inevitably and
intense waiting of trench life. The audience know that the big attack
is coming and it is most likely that most of the characters are going
to die. However, this inevitability is not a bad thing because it
builds a sense of expectancy, therefore adding suspense- the audience
will be waiting for the inevitable things to happen, just like the
soldiers in World War I were. ‘Journey’s End’ portrays to the audience
how the soldiers would know that they could die any day, whether it
was from a sniper, or in an attack. Everyday would be the same with
the main emotional factor being boredom due to the intense waiting.
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