How Does Sheriff Present Human Weakness to Create Tension Within the Pages 54 to 59? Essay

‘Journeys End’ by R.

C. Sheriff is a World War One play following the life of Commander Stanhope and his men and how the war affects them. It was first performed in 1928 and Sheriff’s use of realism shocked the contemporary audience. Sheriff’s aim, I think, was to educate the audience on the events of the war and especially its affects on soldiers as there is very little actual violence on stage, so it is left to the imagination of the audience and this also allows the audience to focus on the characters and how Sheriff creates tension by presenting human weakness especially on pages 54 – 59.This scene focuses on Stanhope and Hibbert, Hibbert tries to escape the trench faking an illness.

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He uses possessive pronouns when describing his ‘neuralgia of mine’ this shows that he thinks the pain is his, and only his and therefore Stanhope and the other men can not feel the same way, this begins to cause tension when Hibbert tries to leave and Stanhope tells him that he is ‘going to stay here’ he says the ‘quietly’ which completely contrasts to Stanhope earlier in the scene and shows to the audience that he is beginning to lose his patience and temper.The characters Stanhope and Hibbert are diametrically opposed and Sheriff presents Stanhope as a teacher/parental figure with Hibbert talking ‘hysterically’ there is a high amount of punctuation in Hibbert’s speech, causing him to make very short, erratic statements like ‘I’m going; I’ve got all my stuff packed’ this is very similar to a child throwing a tantrum, but Stanhope is the complete opposite he omits bravery which can be seen by the way he shrugs off the pain he claims to have, saying how he has ‘had it for weeks’ and the way Stanhope cuts Hibbert off in the mid sentence with declarative statements like ‘I’ve seen the doctor’ is very similar to the way a parent would treat a stropping child, so on stage to an audience it would be clear that Hibbert’s weakness was the cause of this tension. This is the only scene with any actual onstage violence which shows firstly the desperation of Hibbert and how juxtaposed the two men are that they couldn’t resolve their differences civilly and have the effect of the war on them means they resort to them fighting like animals. Sheriff shows how desperate when he says that Hibbert ‘blindly’ strikes, this could be Sheriff showing Hibbert’s human weakness because he doesn’t want to face what he has become so he does it blindly so he doesn’t have to face it.When Stanhope takes the pistol out of its holster the mood immediately changes the audience a contemporary audience would be quite shocked at this because they would not expect a member of the British army to shoot one of their own men, during Stanhope speech the alliteration of‘d’ in ‘deserting’ ‘disgrace’ and ‘die’ makes the speech sound very harsh and stern, also the use of hyphens make the speech sound very mono syllabic and also makes his proposition sound more logical and reasonable which is completely contrasted to Hibbert’s erratic behaviour when he says he thinks Stanhope should ‘shoot and thank god’ this shows Hibbert’s weakness as he has completely thrown out his humanity and put all faith he has left in God. Stanhope then may have calmed down and seen the barbarity of his actions or this may have been his plan all along as he removes the gun and puts the gun away telling Hibbert that he should ‘see it through’ which shows him going back to his former position as parental figure over Hibbert, who socially digresses back to being a child when he begins to ‘cry without effort to restrain himself’ which shows his weakness as he can’t control himself.Stanhope then decides to take a different tact, confiding in him in a way we have previously only seen him to confide in Osborne, ‘We all feel like you do sometimes, if you only knew.

I hate and loathe it all’ He makes Hibbert feel that he is not alone by adopting similar language to that what Hibbert used in his breakdown, Stanhope shows his own humility even offering to ‘see if we can stick together’ He plays on Hibbert’s feelings of guilt, his loyalty to the other men and his sense of duty, honour and decency so that in the end Hibbert agrees that he’ll try. So, in conclusion, between pages 54 – 59 Sheriff presents human weakness in a variety of different ways to create tension including use of alliteration, italicised words and use of childish language to show how Hibbert has socially digressed throughout the war.


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