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Journey’s End is a well received play written in 1928, by R.C
Sherriff. The play is set in a trench system, which were used during
most of the Great War. In the play we get an insight into a
fascinating relationship between a Junior officer, Raleigh, and the
commanding officer, Stanhope. The relationship shows us some effects
of the war and it has many ups and down which are well portrayed.
During this essay I will comment about the ever changing relationship
between young Raleigh and Stanhope.
Commanding officer Stanhope is the company commander and is therefore
under constant pressure, as he had to make tactical decisions and is
also responsible for the welfare for a number of officers. Stanhope is
considered as one of the best infantry commanders, ‘ He’s a long way
the best company commander we’ve got’, Osborne (Pg 4). Stanhope forms
a strong bond the officers, he is seen as hard working and passionate,
‘His commanded this company for a year – in and out of the front line.
He’s never had a rest. Other men come over here and go home again ill,
young Stanhope goes on sticking it, mouth in, mouth out’, Osborne
Stanhope particularly forms a strong bond with Officer Osborne,
Stanhope has been involved in war activities since the war started and
we see that during this time Stanhope has grown a close relationship
with Osborne, and sees him as an ‘Uncle-figure’. Numerous times we see
that Stanhope refers to Osborne as, ‘Uncle’.
The character of Stanhope also shows the dread and stress of war, we
learn of commander Stanhope drinking vice, often he is reduced to
endless bottles of whisky to revert from the stress of war, it shows
how badly men were affected. His problem with drinking is seen to a
large extent, the reason why the relationship between himself and
Raleigh is never stable and is continually changing. His drinking
problem is highlighted throughout the play, ‘ Drinking as a fish as
usual’, (pg 4). He is seen as a workaholic, ‘ I’ve seen him on his
back all day with trench fever – then on duty all night’, (pg 6) and
it seems as of he is not coping well at all, ‘ Lost control of
himself; and the he – sort of - came to – and cried’, (pg 6).
Raleigh is a young officer, drafted out from England into commander
Stanhope’s infantry. Raleigh is a very inexperienced soldier, having
just been transported from England and the prospect of being one of
Stanhope’s officers is a momentous boost to his fragile confidence.
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Raleigh is a very enthusiastic character as, we can see, ‘ Yes rather!
We were at school together – at least – of course – I was only a kid
and he was one of the big fellows’, Raleigh (pg 11). And his
enthusiasm and confidence is greatly amplified by the fact that he is
in Stanhope’s infantry and that himself and Stanhope were the best of
friends back in England.
Before Raleigh and Stanhope acquaint themselves Raleigh tells Osborne
of his friendship with Stanhope back in England, with great
enthusiasm. He tells Osborne of how their fathers were great friends
and that ‘Dennis’ (Stanhope) used to stay with Raleigh in the
holidays. Raleigh seems extremely vibrant and tells Osborne of how
they were ‘great pals’, and we also learn that Stanhope has a more
precious bond with Raleigh’s sister.
With their past friendship and the fact that amazingly Raleigh was
sent to Stanhope’s infantry, it seems as if they are set for a close,
strong relationship, but as we know it is not that simple. We see from
the offset that the relationship takes a twist, and the relationship
from that point onwards is never the same.
Raleigh is bubbling with excitement because of the prospect of once
again meeting his good friend Stanhope. Stanhope comes into the play
after a brief conversation between Raleigh and Osborne, and straight
away we see the tension between Stanhope and Raleigh. As Stanhope
acquaints himself with Raleigh there seems to be a dry, quiet
atmosphere, ‘ he turns and peers into the dim corner where Raleigh
stands, smiling awkwardly’, Raleigh looks at Stanhope and
enthusiastically and says, ‘ Hullo, Stanhope!’, while Stanhope looks
at Raleigh and with a low voice says, ‘ How did you – get here?’ (pg
18). Straight away we can perceive that Stanhope is different (which
Osborne had earlier warned Raleigh). The tone in which he answers
Raleigh seems to suggest he doesn’t want Raleigh there and he seems
surprised. Sentences such as, ‘Oh. I see. Rather a coincidence’ and
‘When did you get here. I see’, seem to suggest this. It seems he
doesn’t want Raleigh there, this may be because he doesn’t want to
show Raleigh what he has become (due to his drink problem caused by
the stress and pressure) and also he has to cope with an extra
officer, the officer being young means he is under more pressure to
perform and educate ( Raleigh sees Stanhope as a heroic figure). It
seems he is angry that Raleigh has joined his battalion, considering
there were 180,000 altogether.
The relationship as we can see gets off to a bad start and eventually
gets even worse.
Stanhope’s drink problem is one of the reasons for Stanhope’s change.
He has been reduced to drink due to the long hours and immense
pressure, ‘ you must remember he’s commanded this company for a long
time – through all sorts of rotten times. It’s - it’s a big strain on
a man’, Osborne (pg 13). Throughout the play he consumes large amounts
of whisky, we see his urgency for drink in a number of cases. When
Raleigh and Stanhope are reacquainted we see how Raleigh is unwanted
by Stanhope, this is determined from the tone of Stanhope’s sentences,
ie ‘ how did you – get here?’. And straight after Mason (the officers
cook) brings in whisky and Stanhope suddenly comes to life, ‘ (with a
sudden force gaiety) Come along, uncle! Come and sit here!’, (pg 18).
More pressure falls on Stanhope when Raleigh arrives, Stanhope must
now hide his drink problem (and therefore stop Raleigh from seeing
what he has become), he fears Raleigh will tell his sister what he has
become, ‘oh, for lords sake don’t be a damned fool. You know! You know
he’ll write and tell (his sister) I reek of whisky all day’, and we
later see this anger is released and shown in a second confrontation,
which makes the relationship become more unstable. There is an evident
change with Stanhope, he seems frustrated, stressed and much more
short-fused than we imagined him, ‘ Hero-worship be dammed! You know
uncle, im an awful fool. I’m a captain of a company. What’s that
bloody little prig of a boy matter? D’you see? He’s a little prig.
Wants to write home and tell Madge (Raleigh’s sister) about me.
Censorship! I censor his letters – cross out all he says about me.’
The stress is clear, he uses words such as ‘ damned’ and ‘little
prig’, even though he and Raleigh supposedly have a strong past and
are very dear friends. Stanhope does not see himself as a hero anymore
because he has become a drunk and so that’s why he despises Raleigh
presence. But he is somewhat justified in his actions as it would be
difficult for a person back home (ie Raleigh’s sister) to understand
the real strains of war.
He fulfils his threat of censoring letters, Raleigh enters with his
letter and Stanhope immediately tells Raleigh of his ‘censoring
letters policy’ ie that Stanhope has to censor all letters (when
infact he doesn’t, he is just checking that Raleigh is not telling his
sister of any changes). The real anger within Stanhope is unleashed
and the relationship takes a turn for the worse, and the stress within
Stanhope, which he didn’t want Raleigh to witness, is shown and we
find that there is no trust between them.
Stanhope repeatedly asks for the letter and Raleigh is young and
inexperienced, he is lost for words as he confused by Stanhope’s
sudden aggression and the scene becomes very tense. He doesn’t no what
to say and doesn’t want Stanhope to read the letter (as it is private
and as we later find out gives Stanhope lavish praise). Stanhope asks
for the letter a number of times, getting ever hostile, ‘ Give me that
letter’, ‘D’you understand an order, Give me that letter!’.
And Raleigh refuses, the confrontation is tense and Stanhope suddenly
‘clutches Raleigh’s hand and tears the letter from his hands’.
Raleigh is amazed by this and looks for sympathy as he is unsure what
is happening to his ‘hero’, ‘ Dennis – im -’. Stanhope answers back by
shouting, ‘ don’t “Dennis” me! Stanhope’s my name! You’re not at
school! Go an inspect your rifles!’. This sudden outburst is what
shows Stanhope’s true frustration and stress, we feel sorry for
Raleigh as he is innocent, it must be heart breaking for Raleigh for
his friend to say that to him and so there relationship heavily
Eventually Osborne reads the letter out to Stanhope, and a strong
sense of guilt kicks in. In Raleigh’s letter he writes how amazing
Stanhope is, how he is considered the best and works ‘ so frightfully
hard’. Raleigh says of how the ‘men love him’ and how ‘ awfully
proud I am to be his friend’. This is a real blow to Stanhope, he
feels a great amount of guilt, he knows he was in the wrong as Raleigh
is only young and that he should be setting an example.
From that point onwards the relationship crumbles, the two do not
readily converse. Raleigh wants to keep far away from Stanhope as he
feels unwanted and he is confused. Instead he becomes more friendly
with Osborne and the two converse and talk about home which makes them
feel better and boosts their moral.
In act 2 scene 2 we learn of a raid taking place and how Osborne would
be chosen for duty. But we also learn of the sergeant-majors idea to
pick Raleigh to give him experience, even though there is a
possibility that he may lose his life. And Stanhope reacts to this, he
feels guilty with what happened over the letter fiasco and tries to
talk the major out of it, ‘ his awfully new to this. It’s rotten to
send a fellow who’s only just arrived’, this does show that Stanhope
genuinely cares for young Raleigh, but ultimately Raleigh ad Osborne
are chosen, along with ten men for the raid.
Stanhope tells both officers about the raid, Osborne is obviously
disappointed, and Stanhope too as there was no guarantee of survival,
‘the colonel picked you to direct and Raleigh to dash in. I’m damn
sorry’. Raleigh though is extremely excited, but he is young and does
not know what he is in for.
During the build up to the raid the suspense is high, which is clever
by R.C Sherriff, the audience hang on and are gripped, they don’t want
to see young Raleigh die. Both officers are nervous and eventually
make their way up, ‘ we must put up a good show’, says Raleigh
‘Im very sorry. Poor Osborne!’.
The raid ultimately brings sadness, unfortunately Osborne is lost in
the raid, and this bears toll on all the men, especially Stanhope as
he has lost his best friend. This inevitably leads to another
disagreement between Raleigh and Stanhope, just as it had looked liked
the two would rebuild their relationship and work through Osborne’s
After having learnt of Osborne’s death, the men are grieving and once
again drown their sorrows in alcohol and cigars. To Raleigh’s outrage
the men wine and dine as if to celebrate, Raleigh is irritated by
this, he asks Stanhope why he resents him being there, it is clear
that Raleigh knows Stanhope has changed and that Stanhope has been
reduced to whisky all day. Stanhope would obviously be unhappy about
this as he would wanted to avoid this discovery, as it could
jeopardise his relationship with Raleigh sister.
The men become extremely rowdy and do enjoy themselves, but this is
only because they must go on with their lives and to forget about
Osborne’s tragedy, Raleigh does not understand this.
Raleigh asks why Stanhope resent’s him being there, Stanhope in a
frenzy tells Raleigh that he resents him being a ‘damn fool’ and to go
and eat his dinner. We see the next part is critical in the
relationship in which Raleigh questions Stanhope’s decency. We see
that Stanhope reacts in fury and rage and his anger is once again
Raleigh asks Stanhope how he can ‘ sit there an drink champagne and
smoke cigars’, (pg 91) even though Osborne is lying out there.
Stanhope is enraged, Raleigh is young and does not have the slightest
clue and Stanhope reacts with anger as he tells Raleigh he must
forget, ‘ to forget, you little fool – to forget! D’you understand? To
forget, do you think there no limit to what a man can take’.
Stanhope is entitled to this act of rage, Raleigh does not understand
as he is young and so feels bad after the event. Stanhope is tired,
depressed and stressed and on top of that he has lost his ‘ best
friend’, the only man he could ‘ talk to’, and so therefore he is
emotionally shattered. It is a very tense and emotional scene as they
try to discuss matters, but once again Stanhope’s wrath is released,
but we can understand this outburst, Raleigh does not understand what
Stanhope is going through.
Throughout the story we see how the relationship seems to crumble at
every confrontation (between Raleigh and Stanhope). The relationship
however ends on a much higher note, but a very distressing,
heartbreaking one too.
In the final scene we see that the relationship ends on a high, and it
does seem as if parts of their old friendship treacle through. At the
start of the final scene, everything seems normal and calm, there is
no tension and a sense of tranquillity. There is a clean, quiet
atmosphere and the men, after a long night of drinking are enhanced,
it seems as if they have moved on from Osborne’s fatal tragedy. But we
still see signs of grieving – Stanhope rises stiffly from his bed,
shudders from the cold, and slowly begins to put his equipment on.
It already seems that Raleigh and Stanhope have sorted out their
situation and we do see signs of the relationship becoming more stable
and like it was in those few years back at school,
Raleigh : ‘ Right. Cheero – Stanhope’.
Stanhope – Cheero, Raleigh. I shall be coming up soon.
There might still be hope for the two, but ultimately there is a
miserable, heart-breaking ending, the ending is extremely emotional
and very sad indeed.
After a passionate dispute with Trotter (another of the officers),
Stanhope is about to make his way up into the boche, but suddenly
there is huge shellfire. There is large thud and a sharp ‘crack’ of
rifle grenades (onomatopoeia is used in the script). Abruptly the
sergeant-major walks in and we hear about Raleigh’s predicament, ‘ Mr.
Raleigh’s been ‘it, sir. Bit of shells got ‘im in the back’. This
creates a sense of suspense and we also feel shocked, Stanhope shows
his courage and asks for the stretch-bearers to bring him down, ‘ Yes!
Down here- quickly!’, risking their lives against the heavy shell
Raleigh is swiftly brought down and the tension mounts, the men cannot
do anymore and we feel stunned. Stanhope looks at Raleigh and says, ‘
Well, Jimmy – (he smiles) – you got one quickly’, we start to see
their friendship build and we begin to see the ‘old’ Stanhope. Raleigh
enthusiastic as ever tries to quickly get up, ‘ something – hit me in
the back – knocked me clean over – sort of – winded me – im alright
There is a subtle, poignant mood as Stanhope tells Raleigh that the
shellfire has ‘gone through’ ie that it has gone in quite a bit and so
is fairly bad wound.
Raleigh : I say – Dennis
Stanhope: Yes, old boy?
Raleigh : It – hasn’t gone through, has it?
Stanhope : Its just gone through a bit, Jimmy.
This is very emotional, they call each other by their first name, so
rank is not an issue, they once again talk as friends and we can now
seem to understand why Raleigh was so excited about being in
Stanhope’s regiment. Calling each other by heir names, ‘Jimmy’ and
‘Dennis’, shows us this friendship and it seems like they are once
again good friends.
It is heart breaking as Stanhope knows Raleigh will die (dramatic
irony) and the fact that Stanhope has been rotten to Raleigh makes
this even worse. Stanhope feels guilty that he was so rotten to
Raleigh and harsh on him, he finally realises that Raleigh is young
and inexperienced and so feels the up most guilt. What makes matters
worse for Stanhope is the fact that he was argumentative and terrible
towards Raleigh, even though Raleigh is young and that Raleigh has
only been in the regiment for a few days and already is about to lose
his life. Stanhope has been there since the start of the war, while
Raleigh only a few days and Stanhope has some how survived, while
Raleigh is about to die, Stanhope would prefer it to be him.
Slowly and painfully Raleigh becomes whiter and fades away from
Stanhope, ‘ Could we have a light? It’s – it’s so frightfully dark and
cold’. Stanhope fetches a blanket and comes back to Raleigh, Raleigh
is inactive and Stanhope takes his and there is a long silence……
Stanhope is called by a soldier, a bravely battles through all his
emotions and goes back into action, even though he has just lost a
young friend, this shows his commitment and there the story ends.
The relationship between Raleigh and Stanhope is ever changing, at
first we assumed the relationship would go well, considering that
Raleigh and Stanhope had been long friends. But then the relationship
takes a twist and breaks down, this is mainly due to Stanhope.
Stanhope is seen as hard working and intelligent, as well as being
under pressure. The war as we can see has evidently changed Stanhope
and so he turns to drink, and from then on Stanhope is never the same
and Raleigh cannot have the same bond, which they shared back in
We see the relationship gets worse and worse as Stanhope feels under
pressure to look after young Raleigh and fears Raleigh will tell his
sister what he has become. We see many outbursts by Stanhope, mainly
when Stanhope supposedly has to censor the letters and also when
Osborne dies. The relationship is never as strong as its used to be,
and the moment Stanhope sees Raleigh, we notice this change.
But in the emotional end, the relationship does end on a high note,
Raleigh’s imminent death is extremely sad and makes Stanhope realise
what a fool he has been. Stanhope feels guilty and we see how they
call each other by their first names , ‘ Jimmy ’ and ‘ Dennis’. And in
the end they do restore some of what they used to had and so we can
conclude that the relationship did improve at the end, it seems as if
it where old times once again as they call each other by their first