R.C Sheriff’s Message in Journey's End
‘Journey’s End’ is a play written by R.C Sheriff. It is written based
on the author’s own experiences during WW1. The play is set in trench
warfare in 1918, but was written in 1928 which was the 10 year
anniversary of the Armistice (the agreement to end the war).
Britain declared war on Germany in August of 1914 and the mood in
Britain was one of heroic optimism. Millions of young men enlisted in
the army with the firm belief that they’d be home for Christmas; but
World War 1 lasted for four years. By Christmas 1914, millions of men
were dug into trenches in France either side of no-mans land.
Thousands of men died.
‘Journey’s End’ is an anti-war play written by Sheriff to try and
bring home the experience of war and show what a waste of valuable
lives it was. ‘Journey’s End’, as well as other war literature of the
time, helped to change people’s attitudes from Victorian attitudes to
more modern and aware ones.
The confrontation of Stanhope and Hibbert in act 2 scene 2 is key in
our understanding of the characters and Sheriff’s anti-war message.
The attempt by Hibbert to escape from the war by faking neuralgia is
thwarted when the character of Stanhope reveals his own fears about
When the character of Hibbert attempts to leave, Stanhope threatens to
shoot him ‘accidentally’ to spare him the shame of being shot as a
deserter. “I swear I'll never go in those trenches again! Shoot!” this
is a very good example of dramatic tension in the play, as the
audience is left in suspense to see if Stanhope actually does shoot
him. He counts down "10…5", the anticipation is building and finally
reaches its peak, until Stanhope congratulates Hibbert "Good man,
Hibbert. I liked the way that you stuck that". In this scene R.C
Sheriff lets his audience see what he thought of deserters. It is very
thrilling, yet at the same time, it is very emotive. The audience in
1928 would have recognised Hibbert as a deserter and their pity for
him would be reduced, yet at the same time they would possibly have
sympathy, as they would now realise what war has done to Hibbert, and
he can't take any more waiting to see if he will die, and he is even
prepared to be shot rather than go "over the top" and risk being
killed by the Germans. This shows how desperate the soldiers were to
escape the war and how terrible it was for them if they’d rather die
than go out into the warfare.
Another dramatically tense moment in the play is when Osborne and
Raleigh have been chosen to go "over the top" to raid the German
trench for a prisoner. Raleigh as usual is in high spirits and is very
excited about the attack. Osborne however is more understanding to the
situation and does not underestimate the task ahead. He leaves his
ring behind "…in case anything should happen"...