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Overview of Context for 'Journey's End'

In this worksheet, students will revise the context of 'Journey's End' by R. C. Sheriff

'Overview of Context for 'Journey's End'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   Pearson Edexcel

Curriculum topic:   Post-1914 Play or Novel

Curriculum subtopic:   Journey's End

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

 What does Sherriff want to show his audience about the period in which the play 'Journey's End' was set?

 

Soldiers in a trench

 

The play is set in the trenches at the end of World War I in 1918 and is based on Sherriff's own experiences as a soldier who fought during this war.

 

In the Literature exam, you will need to show an understanding of this context and should try to link all of your points about character/themes in the play back to this context.

 

For example, you might use phrases such as:

 

Sherriff shows the audience that conditions during World War I were...

Sherriff intends to portray life in the trenches as...

The importance of companionship for the soldiers in World War I is highlighted by Sherriff through the characters...

 

This activity will help you to revise key information about R.C Sheriff's own life and World War I, in which the play is set. 

 

To start with, familiarise yourself with the key facts below about Sherriff's own life experiences:

 

- Robert Cedric Sheriff was born in 1896 to a middle class family

- He attended grammar school and college

- He then worked as a clerk in his father's insurance company

- World War I broke out in 1914

- In 1915, Sheriff joined the army

- In 1916, Sheriff fought in France during World War I

- He was injured in battle in 1917 and returned to England for treatment

- He then returned to the front line of battle in France

- In 1918, he was promoted to Captain and was awarded a Military Cross (MC)

- After the end of the war in 1918, he returned to work for the insurance company

- Sheriff also began writing, and in 1928 turned his letters home into his play 'Journey's End'

- The play was set in the trenches near St Quentin, France in 1918, towards the end of World War I 

- Sheriff initially struggled to get the play published, as war plays had not been well received

- It was first performed in 1928 at the Apollo Theatre

- The play was well received with sell out performances

 

Let's now delve a little deeper into some of the these key contextual points by having a go at the following questions.

Did you know that to join the army at the time of World War I you just had to be 18 years old? Lots of underage boys lied about their age in order to join the army and the youngest soldier known to have fought was just 12 years old!

 

To begin with, enlistment in the army was on a voluntary basis, however, by 1916, joining the army became compulsory for those over 18 years of age.

 

Many of the characters in 'Journey's End' are very young and Sherriff highlights how they are just out of school.

 

Match the quotations below to the correct sentence showing what Sherriff wanted to highlight about the young age of the soldiers sent to war.

Column A

Column B

"Other men come over here and go home again ill, a...
Sherriff highlights the bravery and loyalty of man...
"Raleigh: Why - er - do you have to run fast?"
Sheriff also emphasises that the enemy soldiers ar...
"Raleigh: I say - it's most frightfully exciting!"
Through the death of the young and hopeful soldier...
"Suddenly the boy falls on his knees and sobs out ...
Sherriff reveals the naive idealism of the young s...
"Carrying Raleigh like a child in his huge arms"
Sherriff reveals the lack of knowledge and experie...

Sherriff presents the idea that young soldiers went to war with idealistic thoughts about becoming a hero. 

 

As part of the recruitment process, propaganda was used to promote the idea of patriotism and bravery, persuading men that they should do their duty, fight for their country and be a hero.

 

 

 

 

Which character in 'Journey's End' joins the company clearly showing that they might have been influenced by the propaganda of the recruitment campaign?

 

Type the name below.

Sherirff uses both the stage directions and the dialogue in 'Journey's End' to depict the conditions of the World War One trenches.

 

The trenches were long, deep ditches which would be used as protection/shelter from enemy attack.

 

soldiers in trenches

 

Select all of the words below that accurately describe how Sherriff presents the trenches in 'Journey's End'.

Dark

Claustrophobic

Bright

Dirty

Spacious

Hygienic

Often eerily quiet

Basic

Although there is a lot of focus on the quiet and the waiting, Sherriff reminds us that his characters are very close to the front line.

 

Sherriff shows his audience how dangerous this place was, closest to the enemy and where soldiers were most vulnerable to being injured or killed by an enemy attack.

 

In Act two, the inexperienced Raleigh talks to Osborne, asking questions to gain the knowledge that comes with Osborne's experience. Write the dialogue that Osborne uses to describe how close they are to the front line. Remember to use quotation marks.

Sherriff shows his audience about the social class system and hierarchy that was present in the army during World War I.

 

At the beginning of World War I, you could only become an officer if you had been educated at public school. However, this rule was removed after the war had begun.

 

Sherriff presents the contrast between the senior and the lower ranks.

 

Match the characters below to the comment Sherriff is making about social class and hierarchy in the army during World War I.

Column A

Column B

Mason
Sherriff presents the senior ranks as lacking sens...
Colonel
The first name terms used at the end of the play a...
Raleigh
Sherriff presents the lower ranks as less educated...

Throughout the play Sherriff draws light on the many horrors of war that the men faced each day.

 

Match the quotation to the reality of war that Sherriff is presenting.

 "That's - six men and -er- Osborne?""I'd rather 'ave a bang or two than this damn quiet""Nerves have got battered to bits""Another little worm trying to wriggle home""It's this beastly neuralgia""The big attack soon I reckon""He'd drunk the bottle since dinner""Vicious rattle of machine-guns"
Anticipation
Psychological effects of war
Physical pain
Fear
The need to forget
Terror of the quiet
Terrifying sounds
Loss of life

It is estimated that there were 7-8 million deaths in combat during World War I.

 

Although the play is ambiguous in that we are not sure who and who hasn't survived at the end, Sherriff use imagery to suggest that most of the 'boys' we have become familiar with have been killed.

 

Underline the two words in the quotation below that depicts the violence and death in this attack. You should find one word in each sentence.

 

 

 

\"There is darkness in the dugout. Here and there the red dawn glows through the jagged holes of the broken doorway\"

Sherriff shows the psychological effects of the war through the characters he presents in 'Journey's End'.

 

Many of the men have adopted coping mechanisms that help to distract them from the harsh reality they are living.

 

Complete the passage below, filling in the missing words to show what coping mechanisms each character employs.

 

 

\"There is darkness in the dugout. Here and there the red dawn glows through the jagged holes of the broken doorway\"

Sherriff uses lots of specific war terminology in the play.

 

Try to match the words below to their definitions.

Column A

Column B

A Sentry
The military cross awarded for bravery
Neuralgia
Shooting facial pain
Wiring party
Soldiers tasked with cutting enemy's barbed wire
Boche
Muscle/back pain
Dugout
Soldier in place to stand guard
Lumbago
Nickname for a German soldier
A Signaller
A soldier close to front line providing communicat...
MC
Underground shelter

It is important to remember in the exam that you are writing about a play and that 'Journey's End's' first audience was in 1928 and then in 1929, 10 years after the end of the war. Click on the sentences that show why this context is important when studying the play.

Sherriff presented a realistic image of war to an audience who would not have been familiar with this reality, hence giving them an interesting glimpse into an unknown world

Sherriff presents a realistic portrayal of war to an audience who may have fought or lost people in the war, making the subtle criticism more meaningful, personal and emotional to the audience members

Sherriff not only presents the idea of life wasted, but presents such complex and likeable characters that the play would have offered its 1928/29 audience, an apt celebration and remembrance of the brave and heroic individuals who sacrificed their lives for their country

  • Question 1

Did you know that to join the army at the time of World War I you just had to be 18 years old? Lots of underage boys lied about their age in order to join the army and the youngest soldier known to have fought was just 12 years old!

 

To begin with, enlistment in the army was on a voluntary basis, however, by 1916, joining the army became compulsory for those over 18 years of age.

 

Many of the characters in 'Journey's End' are very young and Sherriff highlights how they are just out of school.

 

Match the quotations below to the correct sentence showing what Sherriff wanted to highlight about the young age of the soldiers sent to war.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"Other men come over here and go ...
Sherriff highlights the bravery a...
"Raleigh: Why - er - do you have ...
Sherriff reveals the lack of know...
"Raleigh: I say - it's most frigh...
Sherriff reveals the naive ideali...
"Suddenly the boy falls on his kn...
Sheriff also emphasises that the ...
"Carrying Raleigh like a child in...
Through the death of the young an...
EDDIE SAYS
Remember to look at the connotations of words. We're never told explicitly what Sherriff thinks about the war, but if we look closely at his choice of words we can think about what they suggest to us about his perspective. When Raleigh comments that the prospect of fighting is "exciting", this doesn't match the reality. We can interpret this as Sherriff showing us that Raleigh is naïve, just like many of the 'boy' soldiers during World War I.
  • Question 2

Sherriff presents the idea that young soldiers went to war with idealistic thoughts about becoming a hero. 

 

As part of the recruitment process, propaganda was used to promote the idea of patriotism and bravery, persuading men that they should do their duty, fight for their country and be a hero.

 

 

 

 

Which character in 'Journey's End' joins the company clearly showing that they might have been influenced by the propaganda of the recruitment campaign?

 

Type the name below.

CORRECT ANSWER
Raleigh
EDDIE SAYS
Whilst many of the characters may have been influenced by propaganda, Sherriff most explicitly employs the character of Raleigh to show this. Think about how Stanhope is unsettled with Raleigh's admiration of him. He says "That boy's a hero-worshipper". We also see Raleigh being impressed with the Military Cross that Stanhope came home with. Raleigh has joined the army, aspiring to achieve what men like Stanhope have.
  • Question 3

Sherirff uses both the stage directions and the dialogue in 'Journey's End' to depict the conditions of the World War One trenches.

 

The trenches were long, deep ditches which would be used as protection/shelter from enemy attack.

 

soldiers in trenches

 

Select all of the words below that accurately describe how Sherriff presents the trenches in 'Journey's End'.

CORRECT ANSWER
Dark
Claustrophobic
Dirty
Often eerily quiet
Basic
EDDIE SAYS
Have you found all of the relevant words? The initial stage directions show us how Sherriff would've depicted the trenches on stage, giving us a realistic view of how soldiers lived. He describes the dugout using the words "gloomy tunnel" which gives the impression of a dark and cramped space. He tells us that "except for the table, bed and seats, there is no furniture". As the play progress, Sherriff reveals further detail about the trenches through the dialogue between characters, for example the dirtiness is shown through the focus on rats and much emphasis is placed on how quiet it is, the soldiers waiting for something to happen.
  • Question 4

Although there is a lot of focus on the quiet and the waiting, Sherriff reminds us that his characters are very close to the front line.

 

Sherriff shows his audience how dangerous this place was, closest to the enemy and where soldiers were most vulnerable to being injured or killed by an enemy attack.

 

In Act two, the inexperienced Raleigh talks to Osborne, asking questions to gain the knowledge that comes with Osborne's experience. Write the dialogue that Osborne uses to describe how close they are to the front line. Remember to use quotation marks.

CORRECT ANSWER
"About the breadth of a rugger field"
EDDIE SAYS
This dialogue from Osborne best shows just how close the company are to the front line. A rugby field is something we can all picture and this is how Sherriff emphasises the threatening position that the characters and indeed the soldiers during World War I were in.
  • Question 5

Sherriff shows his audience about the social class system and hierarchy that was present in the army during World War I.

 

At the beginning of World War I, you could only become an officer if you had been educated at public school. However, this rule was removed after the war had begun.

 

Sherriff presents the contrast between the senior and the lower ranks.

 

Match the characters below to the comment Sherriff is making about social class and hierarchy in the army during World War I.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Mason
Sherriff presents the lower ranks...
Colonel
Sherriff presents the senior rank...
Raleigh
The first name terms used at the ...
EDDIE SAYS
It is important to think of the characters as the tools that Sherriff uses to deliver a message to his audiences. Mason is the servant in the play and is presented as likeable in many of the lighter, more humorous scenes. The way he goes over the top with the other men at the end shows his bravery and loyalty to the other men. The Colonel represents the higher ranks and through him Sherriff also gives us a glimpse into the other unseen superior officers. The way in which Stanhope questions their decisions allows Sherriff to offer a criticism of the naïve strategy of the higher ranks during the war. Finally, Stanhope calls Raleigh by his first name after he is wounded, allowing Sherriff to show that social rank plays no part in one of the most important aspects of war; comradeship.
  • Question 6

Throughout the play Sherriff draws light on the many horrors of war that the men faced each day.

 

Match the quotation to the reality of war that Sherriff is presenting.

CORRECT ANSWER
 "That's - six men and -er- Osborne?""I'd rather 'ave a bang or two than this damn quiet""Nerves have got battered to bits""Another little worm trying to wriggle home""It's this beastly neuralgia""The big attack soon I reckon""He'd drunk the bottle since dinner""Vicious rattle of machine-guns"
Anticipation
Psychological effects of war
Physical pain
Fear
The need to forget
Terror of the quiet
Terrifying sounds
Loss of life
EDDIE SAYS
It's useful to look back at quotations in the text to help understand the context in which this dialogue is being said. This can sometimes give it more meaning. Sherriff wanted to show many of the unseen horrors of war. His audience would've been familiar with the death and violence but he has used his own experiences as a soldier to give an insight into some of the more hidden horrors such as the incessant waiting and the mental strain soldiers struggled with.
  • Question 7

It is estimated that there were 7-8 million deaths in combat during World War I.

 

Although the play is ambiguous in that we are not sure who and who hasn't survived at the end, Sherriff use imagery to suggest that most of the 'boys' we have become familiar with have been killed.

 

Underline the two words in the quotation below that depicts the violence and death in this attack. You should find one word in each sentence.

 

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"There is darkness in the dugout. Here and there the red dawn glows through the jagged holes of the broken doorway"
EDDIE SAYS
Light has played a big part in the earlier stage directions throughout the play, with candles being lit and light often being depicted as shining through into the dugout. Therefore the focus on "darkness" here is suggestive of the end and the loss of the life that previously occupied the dugout. "Red" is also very evocative of blood, and Sherriff is clearly using this imagery to portray the violence and bloodshed that this battle has resulted in.
  • Question 8

Sherriff shows the psychological effects of the war through the characters he presents in 'Journey's End'.

 

Many of the men have adopted coping mechanisms that help to distract them from the harsh reality they are living.

 

Complete the passage below, filling in the missing words to show what coping mechanisms each character employs.

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Nearly there! Check that you have matched each character with the correct coping mechanism. Whilst food and reading are relatively harmless distractions, a lot of focus is given to the shame surrounding Stanhope's heavy drinking. Hardy is critical at the beginning of the play and indeed Stanhope himself is ashamed of what he has become. However, Sherriff ensures that Stanhope is presented as brave and loyal, despite this flaw, through the opinion of Osborne, which persuades his audience to show sympathy and understanding of the mental damage caused by war.
  • Question 9

Sherriff uses lots of specific war terminology in the play.

 

Try to match the words below to their definitions.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

A Sentry
Soldier in place to stand guard
Neuralgia
Shooting facial pain
Wiring party
Soldiers tasked with cutting enem...
Boche
Nickname for a German soldier
Dugout
Underground shelter
Lumbago
Muscle/back pain
A Signaller
A soldier close to front line pro...
MC
The military cross awarded for br...
EDDIE SAYS
Well done if you managed to match them all! Try to keep a vocabulary book or list and add any new words and definitions as you're reading. It's important that you understand these and other war related vocabulary as it gives added meaning to the events that happen in the play.
  • Question 10

It is important to remember in the exam that you are writing about a play and that 'Journey's End's' first audience was in 1928 and then in 1929, 10 years after the end of the war. Click on the sentences that show why this context is important when studying the play.

CORRECT ANSWER
Sherriff presents a realistic portrayal of war to an audience who may have fought or lost people in the war, making the subtle criticism more meaningful, personal and emotional to the audience members
Sherriff not only presents the idea of life wasted, but presents such complex and likeable characters that the play would have offered its 1928/29 audience, an apt celebration and remembrance of the brave and heroic individuals who sacrificed their lives for their country
EDDIE SAYS
Both of these are important here. As the 1928/29 audiences had lived through the war, they would've had a more personal understanding than a modern audience of the tragic loss of life many experienced during the war. Indeed, they would recognise the last scene as the start of the Spring Offensive during World War I - a major German offensive which resulted in devastating bloodshed. The title 'Journey's End' conveys a sense of inevitable tragedy for this audience, but also a fitting celebration of life.
---- OR ----

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