In What Way Does R.C. Sheriff Recreate for His Audience the Stress and Fear Suffered by the Men at the Western Front? Essay

In what way does R. C. Sheriff recreate for his audience the stress and fear suffered by the men at the western front? ‘Journey’s End’ by R. C. Sherriff is filled with very tense scenes throughout the play. One in particular and the focus point on this essay is Act Two scene One, which endeavours to educate the audience about the true horrors of life at the front. Sherriff, who was wounded at Passchendaele in 1917, wrote from his experience of the war. He creates scenes that are very realistic, and because of his experiences, it helps the audience to believe the play more and understand the difficulties the soldiers faced.

The title, ‘Journey’s End’ creates a negative image immediately. It implies death, the end of life and the loss of innocence. Act Two Scene one shows this in great depth, as Sherriff uses methods to re-create the overwhelming stress of trench warfare. He describes every aspect of the trenches, the guns and the whole life to emphasises the tragedy. With this understanding of the trenches, the reader are helped in imagining what it must have been like to live there. In the play, R. C Sheriff looks into the characters in the dug out.

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Fear within this play takes a dramatic impact on most of the play it also shows how different people in the same situation coped in the first world war, with humour, alcohol, focusing on normality before the war. Act Two scene One looks into the emotions of the characters; the officers, Stanhope, Osborne, Raleigh, Trotter, Hibbert . An example of this is Trotter he hides his emotions by being humorous with Mason as he keeps his mind on food ‘Trotter: well there’s nothing like a good fat bacon rasher when your as empty as I am, Mason: I’m glad you like it fat sir.

Trotter: well, I like a bit O’ lean, too’, this shows that the writer is showing the reader that people dealt with stress and fear in different ways. The humour keeps every one occupied which keeps the soldiers minds of the war and into their comfort zone. However when comparing this to Stanhope, he copes with all this stress and fear by drinking ‘sitting on the bed was Stanhope drinking a whisky’ this shows the audience how people dealt with stress and fear completely different ways. R. C.

Sheriff uses the character Osborne to show bravery and courage as he struggles to hide his fear, which then allows the writer to show the characters fear and stress in which he is currently going through. Typically of having a conversation on war he will suddenly try to drag the conversation on to something else, as it will remind him of normality, and his life before the war ‘made me think about my garden of an evening – walking around in me slippers after smoking me pipe, Osborne: you keen on gardening?

Trotter: geraniums, lobelia and calceolaria – you know, red ,white and blue looked rather nice in the summer‘, this reminds Osborne and Trotter of normality, as it helps keep their minds off the war currently happening, and shows them that there is more than just the war, by showing this conversation it shows the audience, what the characters will be going back to, it also shows what they are fighting for, it shows the contrast of before and after.

R. C. Sheriff also shows fear by using stage directions such as the ‘pause’ this shows the tension within the characters and the dug out as it builds upon the characters emotions which then links on to show what life was like during the first world war. The silence also refers to the actual normality of the war going on around them, which also gets the reader to think about what is going on around them.

And what they are actually facing in the near future. R. C. Sheriff introduces the issue of early 20th century social classes, the social classes. Within this play ‘ Journeys end’ for example Trotter he is from a lower working class compared to all his fellow officers ‘when I was in the ranks’ this then shows that he has worked up through the ranks unlike all the other officers that were upper class and were automatically made officers.

However when looking at the Character Hibbert R. C. Sheriff shows a completely different side to fear and stress, it looks into the most common illness of the war ‘shell shock’. Sheriff shows the audience just how terrifying the First World War was and how many officers and soldiers actually got it, ‘ go on then shoot you wont let me go to hospital I swear I’ll never go into these trenches again’ this just goes to show how esperate Hibbert was when Stanhope was threatening to kill Hibbert right on the spot due to cowardice, this is showing that Hibbert does have courage and that he is not weak in any way or form because he stuck it out with the gun. But Stanhope confesses to Hibbert that he feels terrified but he has his duties as an officer to his men, because Stanhope confesses to this type of ‘shell shock’ he then encourages Hibbert to do exactly the same. The characters emotions in ‘ Journey’s End’ are the main focus of action in the dug out.

This is illustrated through the conversation which the characters Stanhope and Osborne have ‘Stanhope: I was looking across at the Boche trenches and right beyond not a sound or soul…yet you knew thousands of guns were hidden there Osborne: i never knew the sun could rise in many different ways’ this shows the idea that Osborne purposely decides to change the subject when Stanhope brings up the Germans and the war in which they are currently talking about . This is how R. C. Sheriff makes the character cope with the stress and fear . This may be for Osborne him self and to help others along at the same time to try and get sense of normality.

Osborne keeps his mind on gardening as this is what he enjoys instead of thinking the reality and how long they have to live. This can also be shown through another character in which shows a different approach, Trotter’s way of showing his six days at the front line is to draw small circles and colour them in black once the hour has past, along with food this keeps Trotter’s fear and stress edge away,’ im going to draw a picture of Trotter being blown up’ this shows that Stanhope does not enjoy the idea of Trotter counting down till his death.

Stanhope states that Trotter must feel how we feel drunk as if he does not care about anything going on. Overall the Author R. C. Sheriff shows how many soldiers and officers struggled through the war with stress and fear and this is shown clearly through the characters in this play, although it is not a happy play ’Journeys end’ emphasises the horror and terror of the war, and that many people dealt with it in many ways.

Stanhope who drank and smoked to keep his mind off the war, and Trotter with his food to keep him going, R. C. Sheriff re-creates the horrors through the characters emotions and how every one dealt with it in their own way, Sheriff does this in a very good way and it brings horror to one to actually know what people lost and suffered through out the first World War at the front line. Word count: 1265 Hannah Bennett 10L1 English


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