In what ways does the writer use the character of Raleigh in this play

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In Journey’s End we follow the character of Raleigh for a very good reason. Raleigh is the inexperienced new boy figure, thrust into a public school dormitory that has undergone a foul mutation at the hands of the great war. The characters have adapted to their more than difficult situation and have become entangled in their public school roots as a solace from the violence of the conflict. The charcters are so lost within these roles that it takes the addition of a fresh faced character with a name synonymous with exploration to give us a glimpse into their lives.

The play sets each charcter up nicely and we are encouraged to liken Raleigh to a “new boy” figure, as he seems to be the subject of much banter, curiosity, and judjement from the other officers. Trotter is the cohesive element in the group, who keeps things together, and is very much an everyman figure. In my view it is Trotter who takes Raleigh under his wing more than anyone else , openly defends and supports him. We also see Trotter guide the new boy around the trench and attempt to educate him towards the new environment.

Oswald, although serving under Stanhope is more of a headmaster figure, portrayed as wise his whisky is written instead of distilled. Oswald prefers distance, and abstract musing. Oswalds actions are considered and thoughtful. Very much the dad of the group he is the antithesis of Raleigh, and we are encoraged to view Oswald as experience and Raleigh as inncocence. Perhaps the most telling sign of Oswalds experience is his removal of his wedding ring before the raid. His death is so moving because the sudden, brutal raid that cost him his life is a direct contrast to his thoughtful, consistent and reasoned state of mind within the trench.

His death leads the boys fatherless, and confused. Stanhope represents the school hero, head boy and his main concern is whether he appears as a good person to others (the men and his lady). Just as Oswald has his rabbit hole, and Trotter his food Stanhope escapes to a world of whisky. Frequently shown as his method for dealing with unwanted emotions, he repeatedly offers the other characters alcohol during trying times, most notably Oswald before the raid. Despite this crutch he shows great, if somehwhat dictatory power over the men.

Raleighs entrance into the trench is so troubling to Stanhope because like all great heroes he is concerned with image. This new entrant threatens his relationships at home as well as his one with the men. The introduction of Raleigh can be seen very much as a “sobering up” of life in the trenches. Raleighs entrance into officers quaters cuts through the mugg caused by alchohol, escapism, and food and takes the audience almost of a sight-seeing tour of the trenches, fueled by public school enrollment programs.

I though it was interesting to see how towards the end of the play, each character was gradually forced to exit their vice and open up to the grim reality it had been hiding from them. This almost poetic occurance foreshadowed the death of each character: In the ending stages of the play Stanhope is forced to “sober up” as his alchohol supply is dried up soon before the German onslaught, we, as an audience equate Stanhope with alchohol and so his death is the natural progression of this event.

It is blackly amusing therefore that the last thing Stanhope does for anyone else in the play is find them some water, when all along he has done nothing but offer whisky. Similarly Oswald is forced to leave his reasoned, articulate fantasy world behind in the grim reality of the raid. We feel sympathy for him as he desperately clings on to the New Forest moments before he is required to shoot to kill. We also see Trotter settle for a sandwhich as the last thing he does before his death in the trenches.

Gone are the cooked meals with knives and forks that he can cricicise to take his mind off things- enter the finger food. The cook leaves his kitchen, stepping out of his role as a meal provider and into the unfamiliar yet required role of a soldier. Perhaps most interestingly we see Raleigh loose his role as an explorer, and a new-boy as the raid soils his thinking, he becomes a muddy faced veteran like all the others and looses his crutch, his claim to innocence, and he too meets his journeys end.

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