Close analysis of key scenes in "Journey's End"

Journeys End is a play that creates a lot of dramatic tension throughout it, and there are several ways in which the author, R. C. Sheriff, creates and maintains tension. Not only is tension created by the characters on stage, but also by various techniques including the lighting, sound and stage directions. I understand dramatic tension as the art of making the audience interested in the play that’s going them on and keeping them enthralled with the story line. It is when the playwright has the ability to keep the story line fast and exciting as to keep the readers attention in the play.

It makes the audience sit on the edge of their seats, eager to know what is taking place on stage. Tension is created with the general feeling of not knowing what is going to happen and not knowing characters reactions. I am also going to be writing about the context of the play. This is the background or setting of the time the piece of work was created.

This will affect the content and also the values that are expressed. Before the play starts, there is a large section of stage directions which set the scene for the play. The lightning on the stage is very dim and it is very dark.

This adds tension as; if we refer to the common inference, of black signifying evil, death and despair that something terrible is to happen in this play. I can also assume that there is a large amount of noise, for example, guns and planes.

Get quality help now
Doctor Jennifer

Proficient in: Conversation

5 (893)

“ Thank you so much for accepting my assignment the night before it was due. I look forward to working with you moving forward ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

The standard background of the war as we know it. The first scene I am going to start with is Act I p16. This scene is the part where Raleigh is first introduced to Osborne, the company and to the audience. From the talk between Osborne and Hardy a few moments earlier, the audience has already learned of Stanhope’s problems and two different opinions of him.

This creates dramatic tension within the audience as this new character sounds exciting and thrilling. It is clear to see that this character will contribute interest to the play. However the tension is greatly increased when we meet Raleigh, and his perceptions of Stanhope. Raleigh is living off the good memories he has of Stanhope when they were young. One could argue that Raleigh is quite naive as he refuses to believe that Stanhope can change because of the effects of the war. This can also add tension as we don’t know how Raleigh will cope with the fighting and despair.

He is so very optimistic and this creates dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is where the audience knows something that has happened previously in the play, but is still unknown to one or several of the characters. We as the audience know of Stanhope’s problems and as the conversation between Raleigh and Osborne continues, the tension builds up again as we hear Osborne trying to break the news lightly to Raleigh about the changes in Stanhope. On page 19, Osborne says to Raleigh: “If you notice a – difference in Stanhope – you’ll know it’s only the strain -”

We as an audience know that this statement is only being said to comfort and try and ease the blow to Raleigh and the tension is increased as Raleigh’s interpretation of Stanhope does not change. We are all aware of how Raleigh will react to seeing Stanhope. The pauses in the speech also add to the dramatic tension because of the delays and the eagerness to find out what Osborne is going to say about Stanhope. Also it shows that Osborne doesn’t know how to describe Stanhope to Raleigh, and this gives the impression that Stanhope has a flaw that Osborne is finding hard to convey to Raleigh.

The next scene I am going to compare is the one in which Stanhope first meets Raleigh and understands that Raleigh will be joining his company. The dramatic tension is created as soon as Stanhope enters the room, and as he takes his time to unpack and introduce himself to the audience, the tension builds and builds as the audience is really eager to see Stanhopes reaction to Raleigh. This tension stays throughout Stanhopes conversation with Trotter as the delay is increased.

As Stanhope first sees Raleigh, the tension is slightly decreased but then quickly raised as Stanhopes reaction to Raleigh is: How did you – get here” This reaction is incredibly unfriendly and not what the audience was expecting. Therefore the tension is built back up as we wish to learn why Stanhope is not happy to see Raleigh standing in the dug out. Stanhope is worried about Raleigh as he is a link back home and this alone could ruin what he has set up in the lack of home contact, in order to hide all his problems. The silences in the slightly broken conversation also add to the tension because each silence makes the audience more confident that Stanhope is not happy about Raleigh’s appearance.

Stanhope also uses very short sentences, these make him seem very snappy and unwilling to talk. The next part of the play I will evaluate is that on page 30 to 35 in which Osborne and Stanhope talk about Raleigh. The scene starts off with Stanhope and Osborne arguing about Raleigh and the tension is present as we as the audience do not know how badly Stanhope is going to react. We are unsure of whether or not Stanhope will yell at Osborne, or Raleigh, or let the whole thing pass smoothly. As I have said before, Stanhope is worried about Raleigh and the ties he has back home.

The tension is very high at this point because we can see Stanhope feeling guilty and struggling to hide from Raleigh. We don’t know if Raleigh will work everything out or stay clueless. Also we are unsure of Raleigh’s loyalties. Stanhope feels incredibly guilty as he knows that he will upset people back home, and let them down. But he also feels guilty in the sense that he is Raleigh’s hero. And he is secretly afraid of Raleigh’s judgement as Raleigh knows what Stanhope was like before, and therefore will notice a change in Stanhope easily.

The tension stays high because we don’t know any ones reactions. The conversation is incredibly quick and snappy which keeps the audience more enthralled and makes them listen a lot more carefully in case they miss anything important. The language in this section is quite short and snappy, especially on Stanhopes part, which proves he is irritated and annoyed. This can be shown in examples like this: “Stanhope – yes. Small boys at school do. ” “Osborne – Often it goes on as long as -” “Stanhope – as long as the hero’s a hero. ”

The tension throughout this part is continuously raised and dropped. It drops when Osborne compliments Stanhope, for example: “[Looking at the picture] she’s an awfully nice-looking girl. ” “Only [The Colonel] can’t spare you! ” This puts the audience into a false sense of security that Stanhope will calm down and appreciate the comments that Osborne is making, however the tension rapidly raises again when Stanhope does not react the way we expect him to. He is incredibly negative and this puts a whole new perspective on Stanhope as what we have been told about him, i. . , that he is deeply in love with Raleigh’s sister and that he is one of the colonels strongest men, is denied by Stanhope in the argument. Stanhope also says: “Yes, she is waiting for me – and she doesn’t know. ” This immediately raises the dramatic tension as we are trying to either find out what it is that Raleigh’s sister doesn’t know, or why she doesn’t know. The only possible reasoning I can think of for Stanhopes behaviour is that Stanhope wants her to think good of him, or that she wouldn’t think Stanhope very brave or courageous.

This brings me to the very important aspect of Stanhopes character which is repeated throughout the play. Stanhopes expectations of him and of others are extremely high. This is the reason Stanhope chose drinking over pretending to be ill, his reason for not telling his family or Raleigh’s sister what is happening, and his reason for not returning home on his last leave. We already know that Stanhope is desperate at making sure no one knows his problems and this is putting pressure on himself. And this pressure and tension is reflected in the audience as we see Stanhope struggling and choosing not to reveal his fear.

On Page 32 to 35, the stage directions show Stanhope drinking gradually more and more. This increases tension in the audience as we know that when Stanhope drinks, his temper becomes very short and he is easily irritated. Therefore we are expecting a big reaction from him. Stanhope also puts pressure on a few words directed towards Osborne, for example: “I couldn’t bear being fully conscious all the time – you’ve felt that, Uncle, haven’t you? ” This puts pressure on Osborne and the members in the audience don’t know how Osborne is going to react, or if he will agree with Stanhopes methods.

As Osborne is portrayed as a very nice and good character, our loyalties automatically lie with Osborne so we in the audience are agreeing with Osborne. This section of the play is when Stanhope attempts to explain his drinking habit to Osborne and as he doesn’t react aggressively, the tension drops and the audience can relax knowing that Stanhope isn’t going to have a violent outburst. He is incredibly ashamed of himself but will never admit it and the audience is aware of this and this adds tension as we are unsure of whether or not to feel sorry for Stanhope.

On page 33, Stanhope begins talking about confiscating Raleigh’s letter. As he is slightly drunk, we don’t know if what Stanhope is saying, he is going to act upon. “Cross out all he says about me. Then we all go west in the big attack – and she goes on thinking I’m a fine fellow. ” The tension quickly drops as Osborne dismisses this statement and carries on putting Stanhope to bed. So this makes us in the audience think that Stanhope isn’t being serious or sensible and we automatically think that Osborne will sort it out, and nothing will become of it.

The tension is also dismissed over this particular section of the play because after Stanhopes and Osborne’s discussion, if you can call it that, over Raleigh’s letter, Osborne immediately talks to Mason completely normally and over trivial matters and this lets the audience forget about what Stanhope has just said. The next part of the play I am going to look at is Act II, Scene 1, around page 42. This is the part where Raleigh is talking about writing a letter. The pages preceding this incident are all talk of trivial matters and this lets the audience relax, there is no tension here whatsoever. However when Raleigh says the words: I started a letter when I came off duty last night. How do we send letters? ” This makes the audience immediately, sit up straight if you like, and pay close attention to what happens next. The silence juts before Raleigh says this shows that he is uncomfortable. This increases the tension as we remember Stanhopes previous statement from last night. Again, we are unsure whether Stanhope or Osborne will do anything about it. However this tension is dismissed as Osborne happily says where letters should go. This doesn’t last long because as son as Stanhope enters the dugout, Raleigh makes a quick departure which is oddly suspicious.

And makes Raleigh seem afraid of Stanhope, as if he knows that what he has written about Stanhope gives cause for questioning. This adds to the tension greatly as we start to think Raleigh has written something about Stanhope. Stanhope then starts talking about the forthcoming attack. We in the audience cannot relate to what Stanhope is talking about. It sounds complicated and dangerous. Osborne questions what Stanhope is doing which gives greater cause for concern. We can only rely on the fact that Stanhope is apparently a good officer and that he knows what he is doing.

Stanhope also says: “I’m not going to trust the companies on our sides to hold their ground! ” This leads to thinking that they don’t have much of a chance in the attack, and that the opposition has a good chance of succeeding. Therefore, we have added tension caused by worry and intrigue. The next section of the play is that of which Stanhope questions his sanity. He says: “You don’t think I’m going potty? ” This makes the audience question whether what Stanhope is talking about organising the attack, will work and the audience worries about the lives of the people under Stanhopes command.

We also wonder if Stanhope could be potentially dangerous as we know that he has a severe temper. At the bottom of page 45, we see Stanhopes outlook on the war and this shows Stanhope is very pessimistic and unhappy. It makes the war seem incredibly dangerous and contradicts the other soldiers’ opinions. For example, Stanhope says: “You could have heard a pin drop in the quiet, yet you knew thousand of guns were hidden there, all ready cleaned and oiled – millions of bullets lying in pouches” And Osborne and Raleigh say: “The Germans are really quite decent aren’t they? ” “…

It was so near the German trenches that they could have shot our fellows one by one. But … a big German officer stood up in their trenches and called out: Carry Him! ” We are more inclined to believe Stanhopes view on the war as we know he has had much more experience and is a superior officer towards his contemporaries, Osborne and Raleigh. This suddenly adds tension as, we cannot relate to the war, we were not alive in that time. But Stanhope gives a picture of the war making it look very bleak and threatening which adds tension. The next section I will look at is on page 47 to 49 where Stanhope confiscates Raleigh’s letter.

The tension remains constant throughout page 46 until Stanhope asks the question: “What’s Raleigh doing now? ” The tension increases dramatically and Osborne says calmly that he is finishing a letter. Stanhope becomes quite angry immediately and starts to become worried irritable. The language in this part is very short and snappy. This shows that Stanhope is irritated and slightly panicking. Osborne is in disbelief of what Stanhope Is saying. As we know Osborne to be very level-headed and calm, we tend to agree with what Osborne is saying, believing him to be in the right.

This section is much deeper than military depth. It is basic manners and Stanhope seems to lack these at this time. Instead of politely and calmly thinking this through, he turns to aggression. This makes the audience very tense as we are expecting a great reaction. Stanhope then tells us about how he met Raleigh in the dugout the night before, and this does make us question Stanhopes sanity again. He says: “He looked at me as if I’d hit him between the eyes – as if I’d spat on him -” We know that Raleigh would not look at Stanhope like this, he idolises him and worships him.

Therefore we know Stanhope is becoming delusional and this increases dramatic tension as we want to see what Raleigh has actually written. When Raleigh returns to the dugout with his letter, the sentences become short and slow. This shows Stanhope has run out of patience and is trying to show authority over Raleigh. He wants to sound threatening to make Raleigh do what he wants him to, which is to give up the letter. Stanhope speaks very quietly, which adds to the sinister aspect. This is where tension becomes incredibly high as we are very close to reading the letter, and we don’t know Stanhopes reaction.

At the top of page 48, I can see in the stage directions, lots of words like “stammering”, “nervously”, “astonished” and “trembling”. This shows this scene is very tense. Stanhope resorts to orders, it his last resort and shows how desperate he is to stop any information about himself getting back home. He abuses his power as we know he would not do this normally. He also resorts to physical violence which will have looked very dramatic from an audience’s point of view and very over-the-top. The tension drops as we realise Stanhope has got the letter off Raleigh and we are certain we are going to find out what he has written about Stanhope.

However when we hear that Stanhope does not wish to read the letter, there is a sense of disappointment in the audience. As we are unsure whether or not we are going to find out what happens in the letter, there is tension throughout the rest of this scene, until Osborne has finished reading Raleigh’s letter. Tension is present when Osborne offers to read the letter for Stanhope. We wonder if Osborne has hidden motives, but I think that Osborne reads the letter because he feels for Stanhope. Even though Osborne does not believe Stanhopes tactics are right, he wants to help him, and put Stanhope out of his misery.

The next part I am going to talk about is page 50 to 54, the part of the play where we hear about Stanhopes team having to make a raid on the Germans. Firstly we see Stanhope giving the Sergeant-major about the details on the attack. We have tension present as this is something unknown to most of us. We cannot imagine having a serious attack made on us, and this increases the tension. Stanhopes tone is very abrupt and snappy. This makes the scene seem a lot faster-paced and this creates more tension. “Now, look here, sergeant-major! ”

To start with, Stanhope is very honest, and certain things that he says, makes us doubt the success of the attack. For example, “It may happen that companies on our sides will give way. ” This increases the tension as we automatically worry for the safety of the soldiers. Secondly I will discuss Stanhopes conversation with the Colonel about the upcoming raid. The first sign of tension we see is very obvious. The Colonel says: “I’m glad you’re alone. I’ve got some rather serious news. ” Immediately this sends alarm bells through our heads as we have no clues on what the Colonel is talking about.

Anything could have happened to create a dramatic twist in the plotline. The Colonel tells us about the upcoming attack which will take place in a mere 2 days. This means there is hardly any time for the men to prepare for the raid. This creates tension as the success of the raid is looking bleaker. However the tension is still further increased as we hear that Stanhopes men have to make a raid, and that it has to be incredibly soon. Our hearts leap when the Colonel says: “As soon as possible. He said tonight. ” The tension is at an all time high but slightly drops when Stanhope dismisses this.

This does not last for long as it is decided that the raid will take place tomorrow afternoon, and in broad daylight. It is also decided that two officers and ten men have to be taken. This is a very dangerous raid and we are all aware of the officers, and fear for their safety. We also know that it is guaranteed that not all the men will come back so the suspense is very high. Stanhopes replies become very short which is an obvious sign of him not being incredibly happy or optimistic about the raid. This adds tension as we subconsciously trust Stanhopes decisions and judgements, as we know he is a good officer.

The tension becomes greater as we know that Stanhope has to choose the men. This is a great burden to lie on Stanhopes shoulders and we feel the horror he feels. As the men go through the available officers and dismisses them one by one. We get the gradual realisation that the Colonel wishes to take Raleigh on the raid. We don’t know how Stanhope will react to this news, if he will be glad to get rid of Raleigh. The tension in the audience is very high because we know that Raleigh does not have a sensible perspective on the war yet, and if this raid will frighten and shock him.

The next part of the play is Page 55 to 58, where Stanhope and Hibbert are arguing over his assumed neuralgia. The audience are not sure whether to believe Hibbert or not, because other peoples accounts of Hibbert are not very high at all. Neuralgia is a disease that is incredibly difficult to prove if the sufferer has it or not, therefore it would be a great excuse to get out of the war. In the context of the time, it was rare for, what we now call shell shock to be recognised as an actual problem and to be taken seriously.

A man who was seen as incapable of going out was very likely to be seen as a coward and many men would have been shot. I obviously refer here to contemporary context. There is a high sense of patriotism and men serving as soldiers were looked upon as if that was there duty. Courage from the men was both expected and assumed, and anything less than this was seen as weakness and actually failing. There were many high expectations placed upon the young men and it was not acceptable to let people down, as it would have affected your family and friends back home.

Another issue contributing to the play would have been propaganda. At home, victories and glory were very much exaggerated and there wasn’t much news of what was realistically happening in the trenches. We see examples of this duty throughout the play, ranging from the times when Stanhope doesn’t wish for Raleigh to send a letter home to his parents, to where Hibbert wants to be sent home with an actual illness. Therefore the tension is high at all these times. The tension starts to increase when Hibbert raises his voice to Stanhope.

It gives the audience a shock as up until that point the conversation has been quiet and civilised. Hibbert becomes hysterical and this causes tension as we don’t know how Stanhope will react to this. We know that Stanhope has had a large amount of whisky. As we see Stanhope get out the revolver we reach the highest amount of tension. Again this is another example of contemporary context. When we see a gun, of any kind, we feel threatened. This has nothing to do with the war, but because Stanhope has got out his gun, we automatically suspect the worse.

Stanhope subtlety threatens Hibbert and the tension becomes higher as we don’t know if Stanhope is being serious and will carry out his threat. Suddenly, there is a lot of action on stage as we see Hibbert attempt to hit Stanhope. The tension is still high here as we know that Stanhope will be incredibly angry with Hibbert for trying to escape, let alone hit him. But we also know the punishment for deserting, or for striking a superior officer. During the 30 seconds Stanhope gives Hibbert, it is incredibly quiet onstage and we are left in suspense as we wonder whether or not Stanhope will shoot Hibbert.

After the 30 seconds are up, the tension drops incredibly as we see Stanhope putting his gun back in the holster. Stanhope then talks to Hibbert perfectly normally, as if they have forgotten what has just taken place. Stanhope says: “Good man, Hibbert. I liked the way you stuck that. ” After this, Stanhope explains himself to Hibbert, for the audiences’ sake. This relaxes the audience slightly as we know can understand Stanhopes reasons for behaving like he did. The next part in the play which causes tension is Osborne and Trotters conversation about the raid.

The tension is high for two reasons. The conversation is very short and snappy and this keeps the conversation flowing at a faster pace. Nothing that’s said is unnecessary. Secondly, the characters are giving their true opinions of their raid. They do not have to hide their opinions so we can see an honest view on the raid. As Osborne and Trotter are unsure about Raleigh going into the raid, we are tense as we doubt Raleigh will be safe. Finally we hear Raleigh’s opinion of being volunteered for the raid. The tension drops as we realise Raleigh is unafraid and very excited.

IN some sense, this could add to the tension as we realise the extent of Raleigh’s naivety. Throughout pages 69 to 72, the tension is constant, as the raid is only a few minutes away. There is nothing major to comment upon, but the conversation is very distracting and different to what we would have been expecting. This shows that Osborne is trying to comfort Raleigh’s nerves. It also shows that Osborne is worried about the raid. And again, this causes tension in the audience. On Page 73, in the stage directions, it shows that there is a slight silence which will add tension and suspense to the audience.

Afterwards there is a large amount of noise and flashing noise to signify the battle and this will cause tension as we can relate to the loud noises as threatening. Also, the immense scale of the noise means that we fear that men have been killed and because we can’t see what’s happening, the tension is high as we wait for the battle to end so we can see what has happened. After the noise on stage has finished there is a long conversation between Stanhope and the Colonel, talking about the German captive. This causes tension because no one mentions the officers sent out on the raid.

The tension builds and builds throughout this conversation until the men are mentioned. It is the sense of not knowing if they are alright that keeps us interested in what is happening on stage. On the top of page 76, Stanhope and the Colonel begin talking about the men lost in the raid. Stanhope says: “How awfully nice – if the brigadier’s pleased. ” This statement is awfully sarcastic. We know that Stanhope is incredibly close to being rude to a superior officer and there is tension because we don’t know if Stanhope will take his insults any further or if he will leave it as it is.

The tone Stanhope uses in his voice, in the stage directions it is said Stanhope speaks in a “dead” voice. I can imagine this to be a voice with no feeling or hidden meanings. This voice alone will add to the tension as we cannot detect what Stanhope is really feeling in this voice. After this sentence, there is a short silence, and this gives the audience time to take in what Stanhope has just said and prepare for what the Colonel will answer back. As the Colonel asks about the men, the tension quickly drops as we hear Raleigh has been brought safely back.

From hearing about Raleigh being placed in the raiding party, and the raid itself, the audience focuses their attention on Raleigh, sure that he is not going to return. As we hear Raleigh is back safely, the tension drops, but rises again as we hear Osborne has not come back. To Stanhope the loss of Osborne will be incredibly trying on his nerves and the audience don’t know how he will react to the news of his death. We worry he might take his drinking habit even further as Osborne was the only person Stanhope could depend upon and trust. In one sense, his only friend in the war.

The next section I will analyse is on page 83, where Raleigh arrives late for Stanhopes specially planned dinner. To the end of the scene, Stanhope and Raleigh are arguing about Raleigh not turning up for dinner. The tension here is high as we don’t know whether Stanhope will take pity on Raleigh, or be angry with him. As we see it becomes the latter, the tension drops a little bit and the tone of the conversation stays the same for a while. However on page 85 we hear Raleigh stand up for himself for the first time in the play. He says: “Good God! Don’t you understand?

How can I sit down and eat that – when – when Osborne’s – lying – out there -” As this is the first time we’ve heard Raleigh talk to Stanhope, his beloved hero in this fashion, therefore we automatically listen more attentively to see if he keeps up this manner. The tension also increases as we want to see how Stanhope reacts to this sentence. As he carries on insulting and shouting at Raleigh, the tension drops as we see nothing more serious is going to become of this. Up until page 91 the tension stays constant until we hear Stanhope say a very short line of: “Corporal Ross hit? ”

Up until this point we don’t understand the severity of the fire that is upon the men. It is the fact that we are seeing our first casualty, besides the death of Osborne. Automatically the tension rises as we hear of people becoming injured. Stanhope and the Sergeant Major talk in short and snappy tones. This keeps the play with a fast pace and keeps the audience enthralled. On page 92 we first hear of Raleigh being hit. We panic at this point because Raleigh is one of the main characters and we have grown to like him. The tension increases even more as we understand his spine is broken.

Using contemporary context, we know that this is an incredibly severe injury. It has nothing to do with being in the war that gives us this tension, but the fact that we know, as well as the characters do that Raleigh is going to die. The reason the tension does not drop here however is because we are interested in seeing how Stanhope reacts to this news. In some sense, he should be happy as this cuts all his ties from the outside world, this injury keeps Stanhopes’ secret safe. However we hope Stanhope will show some emotion for his old friend and this is what we get to see.

The tension increases as we see Stanhope trying to help Raleigh, even though we know he doesn’t have much of a chance. These acts by Stanhope bring a small amount of hope upon the audience and keep the audience watching to see if Raleigh recovers. Also, the tension is high as we see a new and hidden side of Stanhope. Revealing his emotions about Raleigh and his kindness. In effect, this section of the play acts as a sort of conclusion and we can confirm Stanhopes true feelings over Raleigh and this keeps the audience paying attention.

Cite this page

Close analysis of key scenes in "Journey's End". (2017, Oct 20). Retrieved from

Close analysis of key scenes in "Journey's End"
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7