The play Journey’s End is based upon the author R. C. Sherriff’s experiences during the First World War, after being seriously injured in the battle of Passchendaele in 1917 Sherriff began to write the play reflecting the way he and his comrades lived through the trench warfare. The play was written in 1928; just ten years after Sherriff had experienced the war. He is known for many other plays, novels and film scripts although it is for Journey’s End that he is most well known.
The characters have to cope somehow with the remarkable amount of anxiety which is thrown at them from the war, so Sherriff provides the audience with how the characters in the play handle their stress. Captain Stanhope, the commanding officer of the company, is referred to by the other men as ‘the best company commander [they’ve] got’ then again, from the pressure of being involved in the World War Stanhope has put himself in such a situation that could make the audience’s possible reaction ambiguous.
Firstly, the audience could refer to Stanhope as being an unstable character because of how Osborne describes him as being a potential ‘freak show exhibit’, although this has been said before Stanhope has been introduced into the play. So, afterwards when he is described as ‘his experience alone makes him worth a dozen men’ this is a positive way of referring to Stanhope but this image of him could be destroyed if he carries on with his habit of drinking.
Sherriff could have decided to make the character of Stanhope become a drinker so the audience can recognise that even the most important and successful man in any situation can have their weaknesses, so becoming important in an occupation does not mean to have no flaws and to perform with utter perfection. Not all the characters react in the same way however, Osborne had been reading an unusual book for his age and Trotter has scornful reactions to the book by saying ‘Alice in Wonderland – why, that’s a kid’s book!
‘ Although, Sherriff may have chosen this book for Osborne because the contrasts of the cheerful and high spirited book with the horrific experiences of the World War creates an oxymoron for how the major differences between the two help Osborne balance out the severity of War with the bliss from the children’s book.
The point of having a children’s book for Osborne could define his character by representing that he is quite like a child himself; although he is not juvenile he can show aspects of vulnerability, also in a conversation with Stanhope about worms Osborne shows he has an imagination like a child because he is empathising what life could be like for a worm, ‘When it’s going down I suppose the blood runs to his head and makes it throb. ‘ Having Osborne reading a book like Alice in Wonderland might make the audience feel a protective towards Osborne since he is acting in some ways like a defenceless child.