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How Does Sherriff recreate for his audience the tension and fear suffered by the men at the front, in his play, 'Journey's End'?

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Introduction

How Does Sherriff recreate for his audience the tension and fear suffered by the men at the front, in his play, 'Journey's End'? 'Journey's End' by R.C. Sherriff is filled with very tense scenes throughout the play, 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. The War was the end of life as people knew it, due to the massive loss of life and the death of most of a generation. Almost everyone lost someone that they knew and the War affected people in a way that no previous wars had. The setting of the play is in the British trenches days before the massive German assault at St. Quentin, in 1918. It is against this threatening and tense backdrop that the play opens. It runs across only four days so there can be more detail put in about the day-to-day routines of the soldiers without the play becoming too prolonged. ...read more.

Middle

Early on in the play, Osborne and Hardy talk about Stanhope's drink problem. Hardy says, "I never did see a youngster put away the whisky like he does." Because of his drink problem, Stanhope sometimes gets violent, and the audience can see this when Hardy says, "he jumped up and knocked all the glasses off the table." All of the men notice Stanhope's drink problem, and Osborne says, "Because he's stuck it till his nerves have got battered to bits, he's called a drunkard," this shows that Stanhope drinks to get over his nerves and to relieve the tension and fear of fighting. Similarly, most of the other Officers have some sort of way of getting away from the fear and tension. Osborne reads a book and recites, "How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail," which is from 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland' and the audience can see that Osborne reads to take his mind off the War. The significance of 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland' is that it is also set in a surreal landscape. Secondly, when Stanhope is talking about Trotter, he says bluntly, "He's no imagination," and this is Trotter's way of keeping his thoughts away from the suffering. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is at this point that Stanhope shows Hibbert how to cope with the stress and tells him how he can't cope very well himself and has to drink to relieve himself. Stanhope's character is paralleled with Hibbert's at this point because of the fact that they are both scared of dying in battle. By far the most tense and dramatic scene is the final battle scene. When Raleigh is mortally wounded, and put on the table in the dug out, the two soldiers show their compassion for one another by calling each other by their first names, "Dennis", and, "Jimmy." After Raleigh finally dies on the table, and Stanhope has to leave to go back in to the trenches to fight, a shell lands on the roof of the dug-out and the stage directions state, "the shock stabs out the candle flame," this being an obvious symbol for the death of the soldiers and the end of the play. In conclusion, Sherriff writes from experience and mixes the depressing atmosphere and conditions with the ever-changing relationships of the characters to help recreate a realistic idea of the tension and fear that soldiers lived through in the First World War. Leo Teeney ...read more.

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