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How does the play 'Journey's End' convey realistically the horrors of war?

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Robbie Elder February 2003 Journey's End Coursework How does the play 'Journey's End' convey realistically the horrors of war? 'Journey's End' was written in 1928, ten years after the end of the First World War. The author, R. C. Sherriff, was injured during action in World War 1 and therefore got a ticket home. Sherriff was trying to raise money for a new boat club and so decided to write this play and perform it. The other club members refused to act out this play because it was too like the World War. There had been a tendency for men returning from the front not to discuss their experiences as they were too horrific and they did not wish their womenfolk to know the truth. So Sherriff went to the 'Incorporated Stage Society'. They agreed, after a while of asking, to have one Sunday performance at the Savoy Theatre in London. They were to judge the play and see if it was successful. It was very successful and then ran for another 600 shows. Sherriff then became a full time writer and died in November 1975. After 'Journey's End', many other books and plays were written and performed about World War 1, but Journey's End had been the first. In the play Sherriff uses many ways to portray the horrors of war and because it is set in a dugout the audience is brought right to the front line for the entire play. ...read more.


This reflected class system in Britain at the time, where the classes 'knew their place'. Although it could be boring just waiting for the German's to attack, the waiting was very stressful. The war affected all five officers and the different characters coped with the war and conditions in different ways. Stanhope was the company commander and drank whisky to help cope with the pressures. Osbourne respected Stanhope 'because he's stuck it till his nerves have got battered to bits', but not for his drinking habits. Stanhope was very highly regarded by other officers and was said 'to never sleep'. This was probably because he could not sleep without the aid of whisky because he was so scared. Stanhope had been at the front for nearly three years and was aware that he may not be alive for much longer. He said to Osborne that 'There's not a man left who was here when I came'. He has seen all those men and officers die or go home. During Act 1 Stanhope talked to Osborne about how much he had changed since being in the war. Stanhope was in love with Raleigh's sister, Madge, and did not want Raleigh to find out what he had become in case 'he'll write and tell her I reek of whisky all day'. Stanhope could not bear that because the thought of Madge was the only thing keeping him sane. ...read more.


During the raid, explosions are followed by earth coming down the stairs of the dugouts, giving the audience a feel for how close the action was to the dugout. The German front lines were only 70 yards away, 'the breadth of a rugger pitch'. During the scene with the raid to capture some 'Bosh', Sherriff finds it hard to act out the scene well. Drama can be shown during a film but there are limits in a staged play to what can be affected. Only a certain area of stage can be used and the weather and scale of fighting cannot be shown on a little stage. The entire British raid was described by stage directions. When performing this, lights flashing and loud speakers making background noise could produce a good effect. Large fans, water hoses above the stage and more lights, can be used to obtain the weather effects. I thought that this play conveyed the horrors of war very realistically and I can understand why some people in 1928 did not want to be reminded of it. Sherriff uses of the stage effects, difference characters, tension before the raid and attack and the death of two characters show the true horrors of the First War World. Sherriff also portrays the fact that these were just ordinary people living in appalling conditions sometimes for years, and how these stresses affect them. This and the fact that the play is set in the dugout enables the audience to get a sense of what it must have been like. ...read more.

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