Journey’s End and The Accrington Pals

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Both R. C Sherriff and Peter Whelan in `Journey’s End` and `The Accrington Pals` use the characters Stanhope and Hackford to present the way war is perceived on stage through the perceptions of other characters and of stage through the perception of the audience. Stanhope and Hackford are also used to affect the way the audience perceives the Great War. The main themes that are presented in both plays through Stanhope and Hackford concern the devaluation of the lives of the soldiers serving in the frontline. Whelan and Sherriff use Stanhope and Hackford to present anti-heroism.

Stanhope’s character is more credible than Hackford’s. This is because Stanhope’s character is far more authentic than Hackford’s. Hackford is a naive young man who believes that The Great War is beneficial for the needs of society to become more cooperative although Hackford is unaware of the cost the Great War will bring; the death of many. On the other hand Stanhope is an officer who is renowned for his experience on the frontline. Stanhope knows of the costs this war brings to the other soldiers around him and the cost this war has on his own well-being.

Sherriff presents Stanhope as an unsettled character, through the presentation of the setting. `Except for the table, beds, and seats, there is no furniture save the bottles holding the candles. ` The setting is used as a device to educate the audience about the living conditions in the front line. Many people in the audience would not know what the frontline would have looked like, due to censorship. The simplicity of the setting is symbolic of Stanhope’s loss of sophistication because of the basic necessities provided in the setting.

The dim setting and the few possessions create a feeling of claustrophobia. Sherriff has created such a scene to make the audience feel uneasy. The scene is continuous, so Stanhope is confined in the dugout in the same way the audience feels confined. The lack of change in the setting is symbolic of the lack of change during the Great War because of the strategy of attrition. In the same way the war is wearing away Stanhope. `And because he’s stuck it till his nerves have got battered to bits, he’s called a drunkard. This can be seen; in the slow dismantle of Stanhope’s reputation as he becomes renowned for his drinking. This can be seen in Stanhope’s loss of sensibility as he is drunk through intervals of the play.

Therefore the set effectively illustrates the hardship of war. Similarly Whelan uses his setting to present Hackford as a transparent. The setting is informative to the audience. `Sound of guns in a series of faint echoes. The stage darkens. A flare going off in the distance bathes the edge of the stage in white light. Whelan like Sherriff uses setting to present as authentically as he can, the reality of frontline warfare; Whelan contradicts the methods of censorship. In the same way Hackford’s character does not conceal any of his own thoughts and beliefs. As he openly argues his socialist beliefs, and he openly pursues May Hassall. The Clear `sound of guns` and flashing of ` white light` is similar to Hackford’s characterisation; for he is openly expressive. Much like the` white light` Hackford’s character is symbolic of innocence; he has not experienced the reality of war.

Hackford’s innocence will not benefit his service as a soldier because the image Hackford has of the war is at variance to the reality of the war. Hackford will be taken aback by the true hardship fighting in the frontline brings. Like Stanhope, Hackford will experience the strain of war although Hackford did not live through the war long enough for his character to become like Stanhope’s. Whelan makes clear to the audience that Hackford is out of place on the western front although Hackford desires to go to war. Hackford’s dilemma is a result of his own choice, whereas for Stanhope, the war is to blame for his misery.

Stanhope has experienced the hardship that war brings and is very much against the idea of the war because from Stanhope’s perspective the war has damaged him and the other’s around him for example Hibbert therefore Stanhope’s considers the thoughts and feelings of others rather than his own. `We all feel like you do sometimes, if you only knew. I hate and loathe it all. ` Stanhope shows his conscience because he can sympathize with those who cannot cope with the difficulties war brings for example the character Hibbert.

Stanhope can understand living in this war can be emotionally strenuous because he himself has experienced the strain that this war brings. Stanhope’s understanding makes his argument more credible because he is able to support his claim as he himself has had years of service in the frontline. His argument is made more credible because other characters around him share the same perspective. On the other hand Hackford, because of his expressive character, is able to deliver with confidence, his positive perspective concerning the war although Hackford lacks the experience to support his beliefs; as a result his argument suffers.

It’s a free exchange of skills… of produce of hands or brains. That’s what’s needed. Not money. `Hackford use of short sentencing creates a sense of confidence and clear understanding which strengthens his argument. Hackford believes that there is no use in money. He believes the free exchange of skills will create a society that is more cooperative rather than a society that is autonomous. `They can’t see further than they know. Mentally stuck. ` Hackford believes that people live independently but rather should live for others.

He believes those who live autonomously are made narrow minded as he describes them as `mentally stuck. ` Hackford is only interested in his idea of free exchange that the war will bring about. Ironically he himself becomes narrow minded as he ignores the great scale of soldiers and civilians that will die as a result of the war. On the contrary Stanhope does not ignore the hardship that the war has brought. Hackford would have acknowledged the scale of fatality if he had experienced the reality of the Great War for himself. His argument suffers because of his lack of experience.

He does not have the knowledge to create a credible argument. Stanhope’s argument is more credible than Hackford’s because Stanhope has a greater understanding of the context of the Great War. Sherriff uses Satire to illustrate Stanhope’s displeasure towards the war. `They can’t have it later because of Dinner, I suppose. ` When the Colonel refuses to delay the time for the raid, Stanhope becomes unable to conceal his feelings when the colonel is approving of the raid at the expense of the lives of the majority, of the men taking part in this raid.

Stanhope believes, that the lack of empathy the colonel has for the soldiers’, is to blame for the decision to perform the raid as planned. Stanhope’s insults the colonel’s authority and shows his conscience for fellow man. Stanhope not only emphasizes the colonel lack of care for the men underneath him, in rank, but also emphasizes the military authority’s inability to adapt to needs of the men and furthermore to the needs of this war. Their understanding of the war is limited because of the lack of understanding they have for the men serving in the frontline.

The insult is hyperbolic. His exaggerated remark is symbolic of the exaggerated description of the war that is used to promote enlisting. Although Stanhope does not openly protest against the methods used to encourage men to enlist, through a blunt statement, but through his general attitude which feels that this war does not benefit the men fighting in the frontline. Yet for this reason Stanhope empathizes with the men unlike the colonel; because Stanhope like the men has experienced the hardship and the personal bereavement that war brings.

Stanhope’s care for the men will not save them from their impending deaths. Stanhope’s argument is completely futile in preventing a doomed raid compared to ending the war. Stanhope is aware that his attitudes to war are disregarded in his military service, this shows Stanhope’s maturity; he understands there is not much he can do, but never the less Stanhope cares for the men; in this way Sherriff illustrates true heroism. Like Sherriff Whelan uses satire, but instead Whelan describes Hackford’s displeasure of the authority that dictates society on the home front rather than military authority. They can’t generalise. They have to bring everything down to the particular. If you try to explain the theory of free exchange of skills they think you’re talking Chinese. ` Hackford mocks the social system put in place in Britain. Hackford is displeased because of social restrictions that do not allow society to cooperate towards a common cause. Hackford believes that the war will create the opportunity for society to come together for a common cause.

Hackford’s prediction is true because of the idea of total war; the home front aided the war effort, for example women working in munitions factories. Hackford believes that the warfront is the only place that will satisfy his need for `free exchange. ` In conclusion Stanhope and Hackford are used to criticize the war. Stanhope is the more credible than Hackford’s because his arguments are typical of the perspective shared by post war writers. Stanhope is also more credible because of the experience that he has compared to the little experience Hackford has.

Hackford’s perspective will be most definitely different if he too had experienced war as much as Stanhope. Hackford is used to present the perception of the young hopeful generation that were excited by the idea of going to war. Hackford presents the perceptions of typical of pre-war Britain. Whereas Stanhope is representative of the soldiers who have experienced the war and have become aware of the damage the Great War has inflicted. Stanhope exhibits perceptions that are typical of post war Britain.

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