What were Sheriff's aims in writing 'Journey's End' and how successful was he in achieving those aims?

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What were Sheriff’s aims in writing ‘Journey’s End’ and how successful was he in achieving those aims?


    Drama has been with us since the times of the Greeks. It is very popular among all age groups. The main aims of a drama are to entertain and to provide a message to the audience. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is one of the most popular dramas to date. It is a romantic tragedy and is greatly appreciated, even today. It was written by one of the greats, Shakespeare, in the year 1595.  The drama that we have in discussion is set in the times of the World War 1. During World War 1, R C Sheriff was an officer in the East Surrey Regiment and was wounded in the battle of Passchendale in 1917.               R C Sheriff’s play Journey’s End is based upon his real life experiences during the war – reflecting the way he and his comrades lived and fought throughout the war. The play was first performed in 1928, which is 10 years from the First World War. At this time, people were disillusioned and were ready to face the truth about war. In Journey's End, Sheriff presents a realistic picture of life in the trenches as he had known it and a portrayal of the horrors of the War. This is an anti war story and it is trying to convey peace to the audience. As well as entertaining us, he provides a moral message of peace. There is also a personal touch to the play, as this is reality as seen by him. He manages to provide a social and moral message. In order to achieve these aims he uses literary and dramatic features.

    Journey's End is set in 1918 when the German army was preparing a massive attack against the allies once again. It is in this backdrop that the play opens. The whole play takes place in the trenches. It is basically the life of the soldiers in the trenches. The dug-out, where they spend their time when off-duty is a dark, enclosed structure. This heightens tension and also involves the audience in the events of the play. The characters are well etched to put forward Sheriff's aims. The focus is on the character of Stanhope, who shows varied emotions as the play proceeds. He is portrayed as a brave company commander out at front but within him, he is falling apart. Professionally, he is trying to control and command the company but personally, he is shattered. Sheriff uses Stanhope as a protagonist to show the long term effects of war on a person. Osborne is shown as a level-headed, mature officer who understands everyone's problem and always stays the same. But he too fears the war. This is emphasized when we see Osborne reading "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" to take his mind off the war. On various other occasions, he changes the topic so as to get it out of their minds. Acts of cowardice are cleverly shown in the character of Hibbert, who is self-centred and fears death. "Go on, then, shoot! You won’t let me go to hospital. I swear I'll never go into those trenches again. Shoot! - and thank God -" This shows just how strained Hibbert really is, how fearful he is of dying in the trenches, and yet he stands there and faces up to death. He is dealt with by Stanhope who offers his own weakness as a parallel. Sheriff portrays comradeship in a very effective manner; the officers share a special kind of bond. Acts of heroism, such as the raid, show that under extreme circumstances, people do courageous acts.

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            The main characters, the officers, are all of upper-class. They are emphasized and the 'men' are given no importance. Mason, the cook, is the source of most humour. But it still clear that Mason is of a lower rank and his job is to cook food and to wake the officers. 'Just you and me, isn't it – and ten men?' says Raleigh while discussing the raid with Osborne. This gives us a feeling that the officers thought of themselves as different from the men. Sheriff very cleverly shows the ...

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