Characters in Journey's End - R.C Sherriff

  • Created by: jocastle
  • Created on: 15-04-17 14:40

Roles

Sherriff originally wanted to write a novel simply about two men, Dennis Stanhope and Jimmy Raleigh- he struggled with writing it until he had the idea to write it as a play set in the trenches of World War One instead, as he himself had served in the war and 'knew them as well as the room I was working in' (source: https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/english-association/publications/bookmarks/WW1/2JourneysEnd.pdf).  As such, the play can be interpreted both as a war conflict and an interpersonal conflict, with the increasing tension between Stanhope and Raleigh as the crux of the latter.  There is no clear-cut protagonist for the play to follow- instead, it stays set in the dugout, and the men enter and leave accordingly.  

Arguably the narrative favours Stanhope and Raleigh in the spirit of Sherriff's original idea.  Raleigh's introduction as a new officer is reminiscent of other war narratives that follow one soldier from the beginning of the war to the end, for example, and Stanhope (alongside Osborne) takes up a lot of the dialogue- even offstage, as his alcoholism makes him a target for gossip.  The play's short timeframe of a few days doesn't leave much time for most of the cast to develop or change in meaningful ways; Stanhope's development is the closest the play gets to this, as he's forced to overcome his hostility and paranoia towards Raleigh when he's injured and for the first time in the whole play addresses him as Jimmy again.  

Osborne and Captain Hardy are the first characters to be introduced, though Captain Hardy leaves in the middle of Act 1.  Osborne's role in the play is mostly to be a father figure to the other men- 'You'll find the other officers call me 'Uncle''- though he also serves as a mediator of the interpersonal conflict the play focuses on, defending Hibbert's neuralgia and preventing Stanhope from opening Raleigh's letter home.  Osborne's role in the play is a representation of peace; his background as a schoolmaster and one-time English rugby player give him associations of home, and is the only character to have this much backstory besides Stanhope and Raleigh.  His offstage…

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