"Journey's End" by R.C. Sherriff - A dramatic analysis of Act three, Scene one, showing how R.C Sherriff brings the raid to life and conveys the horror of war, despite the limitations of the stage.

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“Journey’s End” by R.C. Sherriff:

A dramatic analysis of Act three, Scene one, showing how R.C Sherriff brings the raid to life and conveys the horror of war, despite the limitations of the stage.

        The author of the play R.C Sherriff, was an officer in the First World War. The play is based upon his real life experiences. He wrote several other plays, but it is for “Journey’s End” that he is best remembered. The play shows the horrific conditions in the trenches. It also shows the class divide between the officers and the men.

The scene is set in a dugout in the British trenches before St. Quentin. It is the 20th March 1918. Seven months before the end of the First World War.

The dugout is bare and gloomy with make shift seats, a bed and a large table. The walls are of bare earth with a few pictures of girls pinned to them. There are candles burning and faint sound of the war. The front line is only fifty yards away.

Act three, scene one, begins with Stanhope, the commanding officer, pacing up and down. It is dusk and a glow from the setting sun focuses the audience’s attention solely on him. His mood is agitated and anxious.

Two officers, Osbourne and Raleigh and ten other men are to go over the top of the trench to find out what is happening on the German’s front line. They hope to cross seventy yards of no-mans land, and go through the German’s wire fences. Their object is to see where the German troops are and to capture a couple of young Germans if possible. This is a very dangerous thing to do and Stanhope is worried. He would have prepared it to take place earlier in the afternoon during daylight.

Stanhope glances anxiously at his watch, nineteen minutes to go. He shouts for Mason who is his servant and therefore has a separate dugout. He asks for coffee then continues to pace restlessly to and fro.

The colonel of the regiment enters the scene by the steps into the dugout, and asks if everything is ready. The commanding officer tries to convey to the colonel that he thinks is a mistake. The atmosphere is tense. The colonel is accused of not doing enough to avoid the raid and have the plans altered. The colonel then becomes assertive. He tries to justify the raid by saying the Germans did the same to the British a few days before. Stanhope persists by saying,

“Why seven?” He implies sarcastically that any other time might have interrupted the Colonel’s dinner. The effect is that the Colonel’s priorities are wrong. He is putting his routine of meals and writing reports before the lives of men. Stanhope’s contempt of the Colonel and the situation are portrayed.

They continue to argue. Stanhope is concerned that the British mortars will not blow a hole in the German wire fence. They plan to drop smoke bombs to cover the men, Stanhope says they will not have to go over the top until the smoke is thick enough. He knows that there are a dozen machine guns trained on their dugout, just waiting.

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The Colonel and Stanhope continue their dialogue. The Colonel is concerned about any prisoners they take being ‘knocked out’ before they get them back to the British lines. He is using the words ‘knocked out’ as a euphemism for death. As though it would be bad look to actually mention death.

The Colonel then tries to persuade Stanhope that it will be all right.

“After all, its only sixty yards.” He says,

“Osbourne’s a cool, level headed chap, and Raleigh’s the very man to dash in.”

               They discuss the men who are to go with the ...

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