R.C. Sherriff's "Journey's End"
'Journey's End' by R.C. Sherriff is set in World War One. It is set in
1918 in St Quentin, when the war was coming to an end. The play was
first performed in 1928 when people were ready for a change in
society. R.C. Sherriff's portrayal of the effects of war is similar in
there to that of the poetry of Wilfred Owen Siegfried Sassoon and
would prompt audience's to question their attitudes to World War One.
The characters in the play are, Captain Dennis Stanhope of the 'c'
company and his men, Trotter, Osborne, Raleigh, Hibbert and Mason, the
chef and cleaner. All of these are officers apart from Mason.
The author's intentions in this play were to challenge the
expectations of middle-class theatregoers, concerning the truth about
war and not just propaganda. Destroying all stereotypes whether or not
the character is upper, middle or working class. As well as this
Sherriff was trying to change the views of class in society. The
officers should not be born into their rank but placed in their
rightful position. An officer needs to be loyal and hard working, and
should not be positioned there because of their wealthy background.
Sherriff creates a tense atmosphere automatically, which in turn keeps
the audience interested in the play because the backdrop to the plot
is World War One, which was traumatic enough due to all the bloodshed.
The whole of the play was performed using only one stage set, the
trench, which gives the audience a slight insight into how
claustrophobic and prison like-conditions. Also the darkness of the
dugout creates stress for the men, it makes it feel more tense and
claustrophobic, the audience will be intrigued to see how the
characters will survive under such harsh conditions.
The whole play takes place between Monday night and Thursday dawn in
March 1918, this creates tension because the play takes place over
only a few short days. Also the characters are continuously waiting
for the big attack on Thursday morning, this element of waiting
creates more stress than if the play was set over months and months,
when the audience would lose interest and expect the characters to
die, unlike Raleigh, the enthusiastic youngster who joined in the
action, goes to the front line and dies three days later.
Characterisation is another method, which Sherriff uses to involve his
audience in the play. The middle-class audience attending the play
have stereotypical views of what the officers and privates are like,
and the differences between them. Officers are from upper-class
backgrounds and privates from working-class backgrounds.
Sherriff's intentions are to destroy the audience's expectations of
officers and to show them what life was really like in a trench, and
also that life would take toll upon them.
Despite the fact that the 'Purchase System' ended in 1870, the
audience of 1928 would have expected the officers to be upper class,