boy with enthusiasm.’ The Colonel treats Raleigh as if he has no emotion over Osborne’s death but he is clearly wrong as the
Colonel says, “Very well done, Raleigh. Well done, my boy. I’ll get you a military cross for this! Splendid!” Raleigh however does not want to hear the Colonel’s words of praise, as he is too shell-shocked to say anything. Raleigh knows that he is not the one that deserves a Military Cross and that Osborne's death was incredibly heroic because he waited for Raleigh as he could have saved himself.
The Colonel comforts Raleigh as a father to a son by saying “sit down here, my boy” and “have a good rest” almost to make-up for his thoughtless mistake with Stanhope earlier, but the Colonel clearly has no idea how to treat Raleigh as he is clearly in a lot of agony.
After the Colonel leaves there is a long silence almost to remember the life of Osborne and how this whole situation would have been different if he was with them, Stanhope eventually speaks in a bitter tone; “Must you sit on Osborne’s bed?” This tells you that Stanhope has a lot of respect for Osborne and is cracking under the pressure without him, the scene ends with, “heavy guns are booming miles away” as a reminder that after all of the drama inside, there is also the horror of war always in the background.
In this key scene by R.C. Sherriff explains that the soldiers show mutual respect for one another in an act of bravery and heroism that only people who were involved in the fighting understood.
The second extract is also from act three, and it begins on page 88 with the words “Mason brings a plate of steaming food”, It continues until the end of scene 2. The scene includes only Stanhope and Raleigh.
As the key scene begins, the audience experience the awkwardness that Raleigh experiences when facing his problems with Stanhope, because the audience know what sort of mood Stanhope is in after losing Osborne. Stanhope continues in his resentful tone to Raleigh by saying “I thought I told you to come down to dinner at eight o’clock?” Stanhope immediately puts Raleigh in the same situation as the Colonel was in and replies hesitantly by stammering, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t think you – er –” Raleigh never realized that Stanhope was frustrated about his absence during dinner.
Stanhope then tries to compose himself by talking to Raleigh in a calm manner, but he soon returns to his inevitable anger when he realizes that Raleigh had already eaten with the “men” (ordinary soldiers). One of the main reasons why Stanhope reacts to this is because he took orders from another sergeant who was a subordinate and also the fact that Raleigh has taken other men’s rations whilst he had a hot plate of food waiting for him at dinner.
As soon as Raleigh comes up with a reasonable explanation for mixing with the lower classes, Stanhope hits him with a rhetorical question; “So you know more about my men than I do?” Raleigh does not think this and did not realize that he has upset Stanhope by eating with the men, but he remains silent. After shouting at Raleigh, Stanhope tries to keep calm again by talking in a quiet voice to Raleigh about his preferred company of ‘the men’ rather than the officers, In his mind, Stanhope is trying to be reasonable to Raleigh by occasionally talking to him in a calm manner however Stanhope cannot control his rage at Raleigh.
Raleigh’s shock at the question is explained by Stanhope saying that Hibbert believed this was true, yet Raleigh persists in that he is telling the truth. Raleigh, realizing the anger on Stanhope’s face, tries to make the situation a bit easier by denying that he had told anyone anything. Stanhope also asks why Raleigh offended Trotter and Hibbert by not showing up for supper. Raleigh begins to hesitate again before eventually coming out with “I – I wasn’t hungry. I had rather a headache. It’s cooler up there.” The three excuses that Raleigh gives prove that none of those were his actual reasons. Stanhope’s accusations continue and Raleigh becomes more wary about why Stanhope is in such a foul mood, Raleigh ignores Stanhope’s question because of his thinking. Until Stanhope repeats himself louder “I say – you know now, don’t you?” Raleigh was probably thinking of what he should do and if he should be submissive towards Stanhope.
Raleigh apologizes for offending Trotter and Hibbert but still does not realize the effect that Osborne’s death has had on Stanhope as we can see in the line, “his hand trembles so violently that he can scarcely take the cigar between his teeth” This may also be because of the fact that he is angry, but this also shows his depression, that he cannot cope without Osborne.
When Raleigh is caught staring at Stanhope he shows that he is horrified at the way Stanhope has changed after the loss of his companions. Stanhope then continues his fury by murmuring “What are you looking at?” Stanhope must be furious if he asks that he is not allowed to have eye contact by Raleigh, this proves that Stanhope is clearly the dominant character in this argument.
Raleigh remains defeated and defenceless as he lowers his head and sighs “Nothing.” But he is hiding his feelings from Stanhope and doesn’t hold it for much longer, Raleigh is pretty much underestimating the situation here because he still treats Stanhope as he would have done before the war. When Raleigh blurts out his feelings, “I’m awfully sorry, Dennis, if – if I annoyed you by coming to your company” Stanhope is taken aback by this, he doesn’t know how to respond and ends up saying that he is a ‘damn fool’, Stanhope is put on the spot as Raleigh is right because as soon as Raleigh joined Stanhope, he never wanted him in his company because he was frightened about his partner finding out about his drink problem which may be suggested that Stanhope isn’t a great hero.
Raleigh still doesn’t understand the anger of Stanhope as he declines an order to eat his dinner, “I’m not hungry, thanks.” This upsets Stanhope a great deal more than he already was. The true reason that he can’t eat his dinner is because he feels so guilty, sad and mourning which he later explains towards Stanhope.
Raleigh believes that Stanhope doesn’t care about Osborne however his thoughts are very misconceived. Stanhope is so angry that he is fighting for breath. He eventually controls himself enough to yell out, “My God! You bloody little swine! You think I don’t care – you think you’re the only soul that cares!” Stanhope is very insulted after Raleigh’s claim and that is partially the reason why Stanhope turns so violently on Raleigh, who was in my opinion was a bit guilty of mindlessness about Stanhope considering Raleigh knows how much Osborne meant to Stanhope. He has been frightened by Stanhope’s heated words.
Raleigh shows some resistance and bravely replies, “And
yet you can sit there and drink champagne – and smoke cigars –” Raleigh classes this conversation as an argument however Stanhope believes he has no right to argue with an officer, this shows that Stanhope’s friendship with Raleigh has dissolved and . Stanhope who is very frustrated, reflects on the good times with Raleigh, and how he trusted Raleigh even in the midst of all the drama, he tries to persuade Raleigh that he does care even though it is fairly obvious, this makes Raleigh think longer and he is starting to realize why Stanhope is so agitated .
Raleigh, who is still confused, asks, “but how can you when –” until Stanhope interrupts and verbally attacks Raleigh again as he is so frustrated because of Raleigh's ignorance towards Stanhope by crying; “To forget, you little fool – to forget! D’you understand? To forget! You think there’s no limit to what a man can bear?” Stanhope has reached melting point with Raleigh and walks away to cool down.
Still, however Raleigh goes on, trying to apologize to Stanhope because he never knew that Stanhope was trying to forget Osborne Raleigh then reveals, “You don’t know how – I –” The reader could suggest that Raleigh was about to say ‘feel’ because he feels very guilty over the death of Osborne but then Stanhope turns wildly upon Raleigh shouting “Oh, get out! For god’s sake, get out!”
At the very end of scene 2, there is the words, “the impatient rumble of gunfire that never dies away” which has been repeated from the first scene, it shows that the war is never far away from them and that after all of the drama, the war goes on regardless. R.C Sherriff’s second extract explains that war isn’t all about going, shooting and coming home, and there is actually a lot more to the war such as the drama, food, morale, homesickness and many many more.
The third and final extract that I have chosen is from act three and starts on page 99 with Stanhope saying “Only Corporal Ross hit?” right until the end of the play.
The key scene begins with immediate action on a German offensive. R.C Sherriff explains how intense the attack is by using phrases like “flying fragments of shell whistle and hiss and moan overhead.” and “the boom of the minenwerfer mingle together in a muffled roar” This proves that the men are constantly under threat and there could be an accident any time soon.
As Stanhope prepares to fight in the battle, the Sergeant-Major comes hurriedly down the steps, The audience feel the urgency in his stride and Stanhope can feel it too. Stanhope asks eagerly what happened and Sergeant-Major stumbles, “Mr. Raleigh, sir –”R.C Sherriff holds the suspense by not telling exactly what has happened to Raleigh yet. Sergeant-major then explains that Raleigh has been hit badly with a piece of shell and it has broken his spine.
Stanhope orders Sergeant-Major to bring Raleigh down into the dugout. The Sergeant-Major is in shock because he thought they would take him to the medical room, but Stanhope knows he won’t stand a chance so he has decided to bring Raleigh down here as his resting place.
Stanhope meanwhile prepares Osborne’s bed for Raleigh, he also uses his own blanket for Raleigh’s aid which means he is sorry after what he said to Raleigh at the end of the first scene and that he cares about his men which is another sign of great heroism.
As Sergeant-Major returns he notices that Raleigh has fainted, showing that Sergeant-Major was probably concentrating on dodging shells rather than seein if Raleigh was conscious. Stanhope asks Sergeant-Major if they have dressed the wound but sergeant-major says they can do nothing but put a pad on it, establishing that the injury is serious and unrecoverable. Stanhope, who is very devastated still tries to revive Raleigh with a damp handkerchief. After a while, Raleigh comes around but he seems confused and unsure as to what has happened. Stanhope explains to Raleigh what has happened without telling him anything bad.
Raleigh, feeling no pain at the moment, tries to rise. Stanhope distracts him and tells him just to lie down for a bit. Raleigh under estimates the situation by comparing the injury similar to one which he had in rugby. Stanhope doesn’t want to mention anything because he doesn’t want to upset Raleigh. This is an act of comradeship as Stanhope could have upset Raleigh as it was a sad moment.
Stanhope informs Raleigh about the German offensive and Raleigh starts to worry about the injury, “It – it hasn’t gone through, has it? It only just hit me? – and knocked me down?” Stanhope states that it has partially gone through, when in reality it has probably severely wounded him. Stanhope says he is going to take Raleigh back home after getting a ‘Blighty one’. Raleigh tries to lift himself up again but this time he feels the pain on his legs. Stanhope uses understatement to make Raleigh feel more relaxed by saying “It’s all right old chap; it’s just the shock – numbed them.”, Stanhope seems very kind to Raleigh. This could be because he feels guilty about having the argument with him in scene 2 and that he feels he ought to apologize.
Raleigh shows his heroic efforts by mentioning that he feels rotten when he is not involved in fighting for his country. Stanhope fetches Raleigh his bottle of water and helps Raleigh feel comfortable for his last remaining minutes. Stanhope goes to get Raleigh a candlelight, but when he returns he finds that Raleigh is not responding, Stanhope, who assumes that Raleigh is dead, is feeling shocked.
Outside of the dugout, you can hear the opposition causing more mayhem than before. Stanhope’s time with Raleigh is almost over, as a private soldier comes rushing in and asks if he can come urgently for Trotter. Stanhope’s silenced astonishment with Raleigh means that he waits to hear a second time to hear the order. His last contact with Raleigh is giving his hair a tussle, this symbolizes that Stanhope has always cared for Raleigh and looks at him as a member of his family. Stanhope the walks slowly to his duty, which shows how heroic Stanhope is when it comes to doing his job away leaving Raleigh and the candlelight.
Shells hit the dugout and it caves in, stabbing out the candlelight which R.C Sherriff used to represent the devastating death of Raleigh and the abrupt end to the play. The last sentence ‘Very faintly there comes the dull rattle of machine guns and the fevered spatter of rifle fire’ is very important because it shows you that the war carries on even after the end of the play, and that there were thousands of places just like this.
In conclusion I feel R.C Sherriff wanted to dispel the myths surrounding World War One, so that everyone would understand what really happened and how the officers and soldiers really felt and how their relationships developed. Sherriff showed that to fight in a war, you have to be mentally strong and prepared. After the ‘war to end all wars’ there was a bad time in the country where people were soon suspicious about the soldiers of the war and if it was really necessary for all of those men to die, Sherriff wanted people to believe that every man did their duty and died heroically. The way Sherriff constructs this to fit into a play is masterful and I thoroughly enjoyed reading his book.