In the play “Journey’s End” by R.C. Sherriff, he describes many conditions that the soldiers had to endure. Life in the trenches was bad, but the men who were signing up for the war were told that it was all a big game, a walk in the park. However, when they got there they got a shock. R.C. Sherriff wanted to tell them all to know the truth about the war. First he starts the play by describing the living conditions:
[A pale glimmer of the moonlight shines down the narrow steps into one corner of the dugout.]
The words “narrow” and “corner” show that they live in a small, narrow and cramped place. Not only was it cramped but it was muddy, cold and wet, and it would be very uncomfortable. If the moonlight can come into the dugout and hit onto a corner of the wall, shows that it is very small and with a company of soldiers living their then that will make it even tighter and there wouldn’t be much privacy.
The soldiers had to sleep in their uniforms to stay warm, and incase there was an attack at any point, then they would be ready at a moments notice.
[As he carefully turns his sock this way and that – feeling it against his face to see if it’s dry,]
Having it on constantly would cause moist to appear in the boots and any crevices in the body so they had to stay as clean as possible. But when they took off their boots, because they had them on for a long time, often their toes would come off as well. When reading this, I thought about how uncomfortable they must feel, and this same message would be out to all other readers, and would put people off from going to war.
As well as the cramped, cold and wet conditions, they had to put up with little rations of food that tasted horrible, but on occasions, a nice piece of chicken. These are the men that are fighting for our countries, and our lives, and all they get is a small ration and a “cheer up” from the next poor sap who has to suffer:
Trotter: What’s this?
Maison: Meat sir.
Trotter: I know that. What sort?
Maison: Sort of cutlet, sir.
The words “sort of cutlet” shows that the food that they get is low quality, a sort of meat that not good enough to be actual cutlet, and it’s not good enough to feed the British Army. They are being fed the bare essentials, and if they got any less then I think that they would die from malnutrition. This would also put people off from going to war, because they know that if they are not going to be treated accordingly, and not like animals, then they wont go to war.
If the soldiers weren’t worrying about their food, then they were definitely worrying about the war itself. Many men went mad because of the loud crashes of the bombs and the constant rattle of the guns, some soldiers were so afraid of the war, and because they were told that it was a game, then they would make up conditions so that they didn’t have to fight:
“I don’t think that I can manage any supper tonight, Stanhope. It’s this beastly neuralgia. It seems to be right inside this eye. The beastly pain gets worse every day.”
The words “beastly” “pain” and “worse” shows that the conditions were so bad, that Hibbert would pretend that he had neuralgia so that he could be sent home. There were many men out in the war who didn’t want to be there, but had to go, and they would try anything to get home. Some soldiers, because of the pressure to go out and fight, they would kill themselves, but this was rare.
Along with the pressure of war, they had to deal with other things that affected the mind, like sleep and other people’s thoughts. When they didn’t get enough sleep they would get agitated and would spend days without sleep, and if they got on the wrong side of someone, then this would agitate them more, and could lead to outburst at the smallest things:
Stanhope: Sit down.
Raleigh: It’s all right, thanks.
Stanhope (Suddenly shouting) Sit down!
Stanhope had not slept for days and just the little thing of Raleigh getting on the wrong side of him made him snap. R.C. Sherriff shows that Stanhope is angry in the stage directions: (Suddenly shouting). He gives the reader the impression that Raleigh, because he is the newest, that he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the group, that what he is doing is wrong, because he doesn’t know any better. Because of this Stanhope gets very angry very quickly.
All of these are ways of showing the conditions in which the men had to face during the war. Not only was it the war itself but the pressure of being in a cramped environment, with lots of other men, in the cold and dirt, with little food. R.C. Sherriff brings to the readers what the conditions of war are really like.