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How does R. C. Sheriff convey his feelings about war in his play 'Journey's End'?

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Introduction

How does R. C. Sheriff convey his feelings about war in his play 'Journey's End'? 'Journey's End' is R. C. Sheriff's portrayal of life during the First World War. First performed in 1928, the play is based on his own experiences serving in the army during wartime. In the play, he revives the conditions that he and his comrades lived and fought in and the challenges they had to face. Unlike authors of novels or other fictitious texts, playwrights such as Sheriff have to come up with different methods to convey their ideas. To achieve this, a playwright utilizes the resources available to him or her such as stage directions, settings, character appearances, entrances and exits and actors' skill. Effectively using these dramatic devices will result in the audience being drawn into the 'world' created by the playwright on stage. An array of characters appear in 'Journey's End', each carefully chosen by Sheriff and representing a different background and personality. As the play progresses, the characters each develop different ways to deal with life in the trenches and the hardships of war itself. Respected and heroic, Stanhope is the company's commander. Heavy responsibility and prolonged time in the trenches has made him dependent on whisky. Alcohol helps him forget the present and without it, he says he will "go mad with fright". ...read more.

Middle

The tension and pressures in the trenches frightens them. The have to be constantly alert from enemy fire and at the same time deal with personal problems such as losing fellow comrades. Sheriff emphasizes that the ability to cope with war varies from soldier to soldier. For example, Trotter deals with the war better because he is less sensitive or as Stanhope puts it "has no imagination". His 'circle chart' is an example of the things Trotter will do to pass the time away. Stanhope however, is affected so much by the war that he has turned to whisky to drown his fears. Another character, Hibberd cannot take the war any longer and is prepared to abandon his company and friends. Using neuralgia as an excuse, Hibberd shamelessly asks to be sent down the line to be treated. Sheriff expresses that regardless of their background, positions, or characteristics, all men are affected by war. One reason why 'Journey's End' has been so successful over the years is its accurate description of war and portrayal of the atmosphere within the trenches. Sheriff achieves this b using a playwright's tools of trade - dramatic devices. By carefully manipulating stage directions, entrances and exits, character appearances and on stage sound effects, Sheriff introduces a detailed and accurate picture of war on stage. ...read more.

Conclusion

Understatements are a common feature in 'Journey's End'. For example, at the beginning of the play, Osborne tells Raleigh that Stanhope is "a bit quick tempered" or "if you notice a difference Stanhope, it's only the strain". Understatements such as these create a sense of anticipation for the audience. They would want find out more about the character. Sheriff uses different language techniques to highlight the men of different classes fighting in the war. He shows that there was a feeling of comradeship in the trenches and that all men fight side by side regardless of background or class. Britons have always been passionate about wars. Reliving time in the trenches stirs up plenty of emotions. This is one of the reasons why 'Journey's End' has captivated audiences across the country for so long. Its accurate description of the war and portrayal of life in the trenches keeps the audience fascinated and makes them feel as if they themselves were fighting in the war. It is difficult to argue about Sheriff's ideas of war because they are not exaggerated and they come from genuine past experiences. He presents a realistic picture of life in the trenches as he has known it and a fantastic portrayal of the horrors of war. 'Journey's End' has all the elements to make it a successful play: a handful of interesting characters, some humour, a flawed hero, an emotional death scene and a shattering climax. Jaidip Gill English Coursework - 1 - ...read more.

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