Hibbert is a significant exception to the other officers, as he is a coward, a weak and repellent man. He complains about a pain in his eye.
"I don't think I can manage any supper tonight, Stanhope. It's this beastly neuralgia. . .the beastly pain gets worse every day"
Stanhope allows him to turn in for the night but once Hibbert is out of sight Stanhope makes a hypocritical remark to Osborne.
“Another little worm trying to wriggle home…”
We can gather that Stanhope doesn't believe what Hibbert is saying and merely sees it as an excuse to hide his cowardliness. This shows that Stanhope believes in the honour of fighting. The hypocritical nature to Stanhope is introduced by Sherriff to make his character seem realistic. Although fear was accepted by the soldiers, actual cowardice was treated with disgust. Cowards were often regarded in some ways as morally and physically unfit for manly existence. Hibbert is devious and deceitful, lacks sensitivity towards others, and is often pre-occupied with other things.
When Osborne and Raleigh are sent down to the raid, a positive impression of Osborne’s character is steadily built up, firstly by the removal of his wedding ring.
“Yes. I'm-I'm leaving it here. I don't want the risk of losing it.”
Although Osborne doesn't directly mention he is leaving the ring for his wife, the audience will know different. We can see that Osborne is merely accepting his own death yet he avoids talking about it. I feel great sympathy towards Osborne at this point as he is now feeling the strains of war. He had been the one to sympathise with everyone else and disguise the horror of war by supporting the officers through the situation, however his true feelings are now being shown and we can clearly see he is missing his family and prays for a life away from war. This courage convincingly show the audience that Osborne is a character to admire and his death is greatly upsetting for both his fellow soldiers and the audience.
After Osbornes death we would normally expect Stanhope to be in mourning and deeply distressed by the death however Stanhope continues to drink. He says:
“To forget you little fool - to forget!”
We can determine that his reasoning behind this is so that he doesn't drag up all memories but can put the death to the back of his mind. This shows great bravery in Stanhope but Sherriff is also trying to show us that it would only weaken morale even further if the soldiers dwelled upon the death of another.
Stanhope starts getting onto Raleigh for not coming down to dinner. This angers Raleigh who inevitably blurts out:
"Good God! Don't you understand? How can I sit down and eat - when -- when Osborne's - lying - out there."
They then go into a fight about who feels the most hurt about Osborne's death. This reveals that Stanhope considered Osborne as his only trustworthy friend and a father like war figure to him, Stanhope then tells Raleigh to leave and the scene ends with Stanhope sitting by himself.
The conversations between the characters build up drama and tension. The relationship that builds up tension and drama the most is the one between Stanhope and Raleigh, especially in the final scene where Raleigh is dying. It finally allows us to see how Stanhope feels about Raleigh. He says to him:
"I'm going to have you taken away... Down to the dressing station - then hospital - then home."
Stanhope must have truly thought of Raleigh as his friend, otherwise he wouldn't have sat next to him when he was dying and tried to comfort him. Stanhope stays by Raleigh even minutes after his death.
At the end of the play I finally realised the brutality of war, it was very moving as many soldiers died when the trench collapsed including Raleigh. However we are still unsure what happened to Stanhope, Hibbert or Trotter. The death of Raleigh symbolises the appalling waste of lives during the First World War. The audience probably warmed to Raleigh because of his eagerness and excitement, however he never realised the full extent of the war until the raid. I think that Sherriff's message was to show people the effects of war on soldier's minds.
I also feel that Sherriff had a hidden message of wanting to convey the full scale horror of war, both physically and mentally. A small disagreement between two countries or two opposing sides can result in a massive loss of life.