How does R C Sherriff use dramatic devices to effectively recreate the horror and reality of the war upon the stage

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The prime purpose of this assignment is to show how the author of “journeys end” has used dramatic devices to effectively recreate the horror and the reality of the war. Journeys End, is a play based on the real-life experiences of R.C Sherriff during the First World War. In the play R.C Sherriff has used the setting for the play as a dug-out in the British trenches. Overall, the play reflects the life style of the people in one particular dug-out. The main Characters (people living in this dug-out) of this play include Stanhope – the commander of that infantry Company, Osborne, Trotter, Hibbert and Raleigh – officers of the company, and Mason – the officers’ cook.

Recreation of the physical horrors of war on stage is an arduous task. These horrors that R.C Sherriff has confronted within the play briefly consist of – death, home sickness, families destroyed, mental disease, living conditions, suspense, Mal-nourishment and the way in which the Characters gradually change. Unable to realistically create such horrors, R.C Sherriff has relied on alternative techniques and methods which focus on the mental torture and suffering of the men through techniques including were mainly, the lighting in the stage, the way the characters act in certain circumstances and how other characters attitude are towards them.

In this assignment I have considered scene 3 in act 3 which ranges from page 92 to page 103. The particular reason for my choice is that this is in my opinion the most emotional scene in the play as it also includes the event where Raleigh dies after having an immensely deep conversation with Stanhope. I think this event is by far the most emotional event throughout the whole play as it effortlessly creates the horror and the reality of the war. This scene also includes minor events which show the audience the horror and the reality of the war, for example – the event where Hibbert is horribly terrified as he is to go out of the trenches for battle.

At the beginning of the scene the audience could realize that living in the trenches is tiresome and even gruesome at times. One fact in this regard that R.C Sherriff emphasises is that the men did not have enough time to have a full nights sleep. And even if they had time the conditions in the trenches were not suitable for sleeping [I keep on waking up. It’s so frightfully cold in here]. [Stanhope rises stiffly from his bed, shudders form the cold] reinforces the theory that the conditions in the trenches were appalling.

However, even in these circumstances Trotter is very optimistic. This optimism is shown in the way he talks to others [I’ad a good decent sleep] and is also shown at the beginning of page 94 where he sings as he is getting ready to go out into battle. This is a very unusual thing to do because he would have understood that these could well have been the last few hours of his life as he had more of a chance of dying than living on that particular day. I think that Hibbert symbolises happiness and optimism in this play.

In contrast to this, Hibbert, who is often referred to as highly pessimistic, deals with the same situation in the most contrasting way. He was surely expecting Stanhope to tell him to go up but acts like he did not know that he had to go up now [you want me to go up now?]. He may have even asked this in sheer optimism because he desperately did not want to go, maybe just if Stanhope said “no” to his question. He was even pale [Hibbert appears, his is very pale; he moves as he is half asleep] this maybe because of his fear to go up out of the trenches. He could have thought that if he went to the battle he would die. From another perspective this might have even been another trick from Hibbert to stop him go up into the battle.

After Stanhope had said that he had to go [Of course I do. The others have gone.] Hibbert’s hopes were ruined. Nevertheless he quickly thinks of some other excuse to delay himself from going – he asks Stanhope for water [got a drop of water] (Plan A did not work and because of this he switched into plan B). Then when Stanhope asked why it is for, he said that his mouth was dried up by the champagne [I’m so frightfully thirsty. All the champagne and the stuff – dried my mouth up]. I think that Hibbert was lying as he just did not want to go. When Stanhope asks if he has not had tea he makes up yet another lame excuse [Yes. It was a bit a bit sweet, though]. Then after this he deliberately rinses his mouth while he is drinking [Hibbert sips his water very slowly, rinsing his moth deliberately with each sip].

When Stanhope tells him [the longer you stay, the harder it’ll be to go up] Hibbert replies as if he did not know that he had to go up [Good Lord! You don’t think I’m-]. I think he said it in absolute optimism, identical to the part where he says that if he had to go up now [you want me to go up now].

After Mason comes Stanhope tells Mason to go up with Hibbert [All right, Mason. Mr. Hibbert is coming up now. You can go along with him]. I think this was a cunning ploy from Stanhope as he had no other way to send Hibbert. He should have realized that Hibbert had nothing else to do but go because he does not want to admit that he is scared of going out in front of their cook. Hibbert looks at Stanhope for a moment and then smiles, just as if he wants to say “you got me there”.

All these actions from Hibbert shows that he is a “short sighted man”; someone who does not look at the future. A perfect example for this is that he deliberately wasted his time as he was drinking the water while he knew that the longer he stayed there, the harder for him it would be to go out of the trenches. But from another perspective he could be called a normal man because most people when faced with this situation will do the same thing as Hibbert. I think he symbolises in this play for weakness and pessimism.

Comparing to the characters Hibbert and Trotter, I think that Raleigh falls in between as he is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. However, he is a unique character like every other character in this play. I think he still regards Stanhope as a hero even though Stanhope had treated him badly. This fact can be reinforced because Raleigh spoke to Stanhope politely after Stanhope had an argument with him yesterday. I think that Stanhope had recognized that he did the wrong thing yesterday. Because of this he could not even look at Raleigh’s face [(without looking up) Yes. Trotter’s gone.].

In this scene Stanhope goes through what can be called as a “metamorphosis” From the beginning of the play to the latter parts of this scene the audience would see Stanhope as a very strong person. This fact is reinforced in this scene; when the Sergeant Major reports the death of Corporal Ross, Stanhope does not panic

Stanhope: Who’s just been hit?

Soldier: Corporal Ross, I think it was sir. Minnie dropped in the corner-just as I come away.

Stanhope: (to the soldier) All right, thanks

This may even be because Stanhope knew that some of their soldiers would die during this battle. Therefore, the news that Corporal Ross was hit was not a surprise or a shock for him. I think that this incident shows the horror and futility of the war to the extreme.

After the Sergeant Major reports that Raleigh was hit another side of Stanhope’s character is revealed. It can be evidently seen that he is a very commanding man and wants to fulfil his desire no matter what. This can been seen when Stanhope tells the sergeant Major to bring two men up with a stretcher:

Stanhope Have they dressed the wound?

S.-M They’ve put on a pad on it, sir. Can’t do any more.

Stanhope Go at once and bring two men with a stretcher

S.-M We’ll never get I’m down, sir, with them shells falling over Lancer’s . alley.

Stanhope Did you hear what I said? Go and get two men with a stretcher.

S.-M (after a moments hesitation) Very good, sir.

I think that the metamorphosis that Stanhope undergoes starts from this incident on. The kind and gentle side of him is revealed to the audience for the first time in this whole play. This change can be evidentially seen by the audience in the conversation between Raleigh and Stanhope.

In my opinion this incident shows the horror and the reality more than any other incidents in this play. Stanhope and Raleigh have developed some kind of bond between each other, even after Stanhope had shouted at him the day before. They even called each other by their first names; Stanhope did not allow Raleigh to call him in his first name which is clearly shown in page 46 [Don’t “Dennis” me! Stanhope’s my name] and Stanhope has never called Raleigh by his first name.

I think the part that Raleigh compares his wound to an injury when playing Rugger [It happened once before-I got kicked in just the same place at Rugger; it-it soon wore of] would be both unbearable for the audience as well as Stanhope as they knew this Raleigh’s fate. Nevertheless, Stanhope was very optimistic about his wound and even predicts that he would go home [Down to the dressing station- then hospital- then home.]. I think that was because he was desperate to save Raleigh; just like the incident where Hibbert deliberately rinsed his mouth.

Raleigh blames himself – [Dennis. I feel rotten lying here-everybody else-up there]. I think what he said shows that he is a very good man even though what he said is wrong as he is unable to move – Characters like Hibbert would never say something similar to this when he is in such a situation.

A significant thing happens just before the death of Raleigh [the rosy glow of the dawn deepens into an angry red]. I think that the rose colour signified the special bond they were having just before Raleigh’s death. The angry red might symbolise for “death”. I think this was a very cleverly used dramatic device as it shows the audience that something terrible was about to happen.

The ultimate horror, brutality and reality of war is masterfully created by R.C Sherriff in the part where Stanhope speaks to the dead Raleigh [Is that better, Jimmy? (Raleigh makes no sign) Jimmy -]. The audience would be emotional to feel the horror of the war as if they were subjected to such a situation. And, these emotions would generate differently in the minds of different people. Stanhope’s sorrow is shown in the way he sits with his back to the wall, and stares across at Raleigh.

R.C Sherriff’s main idea was to show how different characters reacted differently when horror arises. He has done this very effectively by making each character’s react in contrasting ways: a good example is that in a scene when Hibbert becomes terrified as he has to go out from his dugout. For this he reacted by delaying this as much as possible. However, another character would have reacted differently; for example, Trotter was not worried at all but optimistic when he left the dugout, he was even singing while getting ready.

By doing this analysis I have learnt that being amongst the war means giving up all your life for the country fighting for. Not only that: proper food would not be given, would not have a proper place to live and would not even have sufficient time to sleep.

The analysis has also led me to understand much more deeply into dramatic devices and how they are cleverly used by R.C sheriff to bring out the reality and horror of the war. I have also learnt some new dramatic devices such as lighting which were used within this scene. For example, the event when the rose right turned to an angry red [page 102].

The dramatic devices were used expertly by R.C Sherriff as I mentioned in the earlier paragraph. He has effectively used them to show the audience an in-depth view of the character itself. He does this by only using body language, dramatic devices such as silence, the symbolism of the candle, the characters speech, lighting, and how different characters react differently when horror arises. For example an expertly done part of this scene is when Hibbert delays himself going out of the trench. In this example the dramatic devices he has used are all in the way he reacted when the horror arose upon himself.

Likewise, he has used almost the identical way to show the terror that arose within Stanhope in the part where Raleigh was dying. All of this shows that R.C Sherriff has used dramatic devices effectively to recreate the horror and the reality of war upon the stage.

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