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Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Presentation of Themes in 'Journey's End'

In this worksheet, students will explore the themes in the play 'Journey's End', evaluating the effectiveness of their presentation in conveying the context in which Sherriff was writing.

'Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Presentation of Themes in '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

 

Soldiers in a trench

 

For the highest marks in the exam you need to show an excellent understanding of the relationship between the play and the context in which it was written.

 

To show that you are writing about ideas in the play in relation to context, you might use sentences such as:

 

Sherriff presents the theme of ........... to show the audience that conditions during World War I were...

 

Sherriff explores ......... as a theme throughout the play to portray life in the trenches as...

 

The theme of .......... highlights the importance of ...............on the front line.

 

 

For each theme explored, think:

How is the theme presented effectively to show us something about fighting on the front line during World War I?

 

Remember that if you can give a personal and perceptive response in the exam, you will achieve the highest marks!

 

Now have a go at the following activity which will help you to evaluate the effectiveness of the themes in play.

 

"Hibbert: I swear I'll never go into those trenches again"

 

Sherriff explores fear as a theme throughout 'Journey's End', particularly through the character of Hibbert.

 

Which response/s below effectively links the theme of fear to the context in which the play was written?

Sherriff's presentation of the theme of fear explores how many men fighting on the front line experienced shell shock, where symptoms included extreme fear and inability to function and carry out even the most basic of daily tasks

The presentation of the theme of fear is conveyed through the character of Hibbert who is so traumatised by what he has experienced that he feels he simply cannot cope any longer

Through his presentation of the theme of fear Sherriff highlights how many soldier's genuine psychological struggles, stemming from the traumatic things they experienced, were unrecognised or ignored by their superiors

The theme of waiting runs throughout the play and helps highlight how life in the trenches was not all about action. In fact, so much time was spent waiting that boredom was a real struggle for the men.

 

Look at the quotations below, related to the theme of waiting and match them to their effects.

Column A

Column B

"By the way, you know the big German attack's expe...
The way in which the action gradually builds up to...
"Trotter's plan to make the time pass by. A hundre...
The focus on quiet creates an unsettling atmopsher...
"(Looking at his watch on the table): We've got ei...
The stage directions focus a lot on looking at wat...
"Too damn quiet"
Through the theme of waiting, Sherriff highlights ...
"Then comes the louder thud of three more shells"
The idea of waiting is introduced at the very begi...

Escapism and distraction played a huge part of men's lives in the World War I trenches and is presented as a key theme in 'Journey's End.'

 

Complete the passage below to explore the effectiveness of these themes in the play.

Column A

Column B

"By the way, you know the big German attack's expe...
The way in which the action gradually builds up to...
"Trotter's plan to make the time pass by. A hundre...
The focus on quiet creates an unsettling atmopsher...
"(Looking at his watch on the table): We've got ei...
The stage directions focus a lot on looking at wat...
"Too damn quiet"
Through the theme of waiting, Sherriff highlights ...
"Then comes the louder thud of three more shells"
The idea of waiting is introduced at the very begi...

Sherriff shows how men are psychologically affected by their experiences on the front line.

 

Sherriff employs the character of Raleigh to highlight how men joined the army with naive, idealistic views but stresses that even the most hopeful men will struggle mentally with the horrors of the front line.

 

Select the quotation below that highlights Raleigh's loss of innocence and how he has been changed by what he has experienced.

"How can I sit down and eat like that - when (his voice is nearly breaking)- when Osborne's - lying - out there-"

"I resent you being a damn fool, that's all"

"My officers work together"

The scene where the German soldier is captured is important in exploring key themes in the play. Click on the sentences below that describe the effect of this scene in presenting Sherriff's key themes.

The few 'oddments' the Sergeant Major takes off the German soldier create an almost comic effect, almost mocking the strategy of the senior ranks

When the Colonel asks Stanhope if his men are 'cheerful' before the raid, Sherriff is perhaps criticising the flippancy of the Colonel's comments for a raid that will potentially end with the death of several men

The capturing of the German soldier is important in exploring the theme of cowardice, as we see Stanhope question the strategy behind the raid and suggest an alternative

"Grab hold of the first Boche you see" and "put up a good show" almost trivialises what the men are about to do, presenting it like a game. Sherriff offers a subtle criticism of how out of touch the senior ranks were with the harsh reality of the front line

When the German soldier is captured, Sherriff shows the key differences between the British and German forces, highlighting that they have very little in common

Duty and honour are explored as key themes in the play. We see Raleigh aspiring to achieve the Military Cross for bravery, showing how young men during World War I had a naive idealism about being a soldier.

 

What do you think is Sherriff's view of duty and honour?

 

Match the quotations below to the effect they have in presenting these themes?

 Sherriff celebrates the bravery of men like Raleigh who are willing to fulfill their duty but focuses on his duty being to his fellow menWhile Sherriff might criticise the focus on duty and honour in for the trauma men experiencedSherriff questions the idea of a traditional hero through Stanhope who shows how all men are flawed and that aspiring to be a hero was almost unattainable in these conditions the war he appears to celebrate and promote showing loyalty to your fellow comrades as the most important sign of honourSherriff almost undermines the Military Cross as a sign of bravery through Raleigh's reaction which shows that this is little reward
"I'll get you a Military Cross for this!"
"It's the only thing a decent man can do"
"Hero-worship be damned"
"I feel rotten lying here - everybody else - up there"

Social class is a theme explored throughout 'Journey's End'. To a certain extent, Sherriff disrupts traditional social hierarchy in his play.

 

Click on the quotations below where we see this hierarchy still operating fully, which demonstrates how Sherriff was presenting a realistic picture of life in the trenches.

"My officers are here to be respected - not laughed at"

"You realise you're my second in command now, don't you?"

"Are you telling me - you've been feeding with the men?"

"My officers work together. I'll have no damn prigs"

"I won't let you down"

Sherriff was originally going to call his play ‘Waiting’ but later decided on the title ‘Journey’s End’.

 

Does Sherriff present ‘waiting’ as the most important aspect of life in the trenches during World War One?

 

Click on the box which shows an evaluation of whether the theme of ‘waiting’ in ‘Journey’s End’ is the most important theme in the play.

 

Waiting is presented throughout the play. It is shown through the focus on the quiet and how eerie and unsettling this is for the men. We also see constant reminders about the impending enemy attack and Sherriff presents the characters often counting down to this. Sherriff focuses on looking at clocks in the stage directions also. Waiting is shown to be an unseen horror of war, one which men needed to distract themselves from with the various coping mechanisms they employed

Whilst waiting plays an important part in the play, Sherriff’s title ‘Journey’s End’ forces us to look more closely at what is reflected in the play’s name. Whilst Sherriff highlights the constant cycle of waiting, action and more waiting, the play seems to disrupt this cycle, for these characters anyway, with the suggestion of their deaths at the end. Their ‘Journey’s End’ is marked by the comradeship, loyalty and bravery we see from all of the characters at the end of the play, despite their different struggles along the way. The journeys may have ended but Sherriff celebrates these men in their final moments, suggesting that their personal attributes are the most important aspect of this play

It is now time to have a go at a mini essay question.

 

Try to incorporate all of the skills you have learnt about evaluating the effectiveness of a theme.

 

Think about how Sherriff presents the theme

 

Think about how the theme reflects the context in which the play was written

 

Think about the dramatic effects of the presentation of this theme

 

For the highest marks, try to present a personal and perceptive response. Demonstrate this by exploring different aspects of the theme throughout the play and evaluating Sherriff’s overall intentions.  

 

Remember also to use quotations to support your ideas.

 

Task: Explore how the theme of waiting is presented in ‘Journey’s End.’

 

Try to write three paragraphs for this task.

 

Now have a go at the next mini essay question.

 

Try to incorporate all of the skills you have learnt about evaluating the effectiveness of a theme.

 

Think about how Sherriff presents the theme

 

Think about how the theme reflects the context in which the play was written

 

Think about the dramatic effects of the presentation of this theme

 

For the highest marks, try to present a personal and perceptive response. Demonstrate this by exploring different aspects of the theme throughout the play and evaluating Sherriff’s overall intentions. 

 

Remember also to use quotations to support your ideas.

 

Task: Explore how Sherriff presents the psychological effects of war in ‘Journey’s End.’

 

Try to write three paragraphs for this task.

 

  • Question 1

"Hibbert: I swear I'll never go into those trenches again"

 

Sherriff explores fear as a theme throughout 'Journey's End', particularly through the character of Hibbert.

 

Which response/s below effectively links the theme of fear to the context in which the play was written?

CORRECT ANSWER
Sherriff's presentation of the theme of fear explores how many men fighting on the front line experienced shell shock, where symptoms included extreme fear and inability to function and carry out even the most basic of daily tasks
Through his presentation of the theme of fear Sherriff highlights how many soldier's genuine psychological struggles, stemming from the traumatic things they experienced, were unrecognised or ignored by their superiors
EDDIE SAYS
Shell shock was a term used during World War I to describe the psychological effects of war. You might be more familiar with the term PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is much more recognised and respected now as requiring effective treatment. The way in which Stanhope squashes Hibbert's feelings, although very much recognising this fear himself, is effective in conveying the way in which men were forced to hide their mental strains during World War I. Suffering men would have received little sympathy and would have been regarded as shameful. We certainly see this idea of shame, conveyed through Stanhope's dialogue. However, we might argue that Sherriff criticises this response to Shell Shock during the war through the understanding Stanhope begins to show Hibbert and the comradery he eventually shows him.
  • Question 2

The theme of waiting runs throughout the play and helps highlight how life in the trenches was not all about action. In fact, so much time was spent waiting that boredom was a real struggle for the men.

 

Look at the quotations below, related to the theme of waiting and match them to their effects.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"By the way, you know the big Ger...
The idea of waiting is introduced...
"Trotter's plan to make the time ...
Through the theme of waiting, She...
"(Looking at his watch on the tab...
The stage directions focus a lot ...
"Too damn quiet"
The focus on quiet creates an uns...
"Then comes the louder thud of th...
The way in which the action gradu...
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? We need to remember that we are talking about a play, so it's important to consider the dramatic effects. The theme of waiting portrays how boredom and terrifying anticipation would've both been agonising for men in the trenches. For the audience, the focus on waiting and the dramatic tension this builds up, helps Sherriff convey a realistic picture of what it would've been like to be a solider in the trenches preparing for an incoming enemy attack.
  • Question 3

Escapism and distraction played a huge part of men's lives in the World War I trenches and is presented as a key theme in 'Journey's End.'

 

Complete the passage below to explore the effectiveness of these themes in the play.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Although the scenes focused on food may not seem as significant as the more action packed scenes, they're important in Sherriff presenting a realistic picture of life in the trenches. These scenes convey a sense of the mundane, highlighting that boredom was a key aspect of men's lives. But these also convey how this kind of distraction was so important in helping men like Trotter cope with the more traumatic aspects of life on the front line. At the same time as highlighting food as Trotter's distraction, these scenes give the audience a brief break from the dramatic tension building up, offering some light relief.
  • Question 4

Sherriff shows how men are psychologically affected by their experiences on the front line.

 

Sherriff employs the character of Raleigh to highlight how men joined the army with naive, idealistic views but stresses that even the most hopeful men will struggle mentally with the horrors of the front line.

 

Select the quotation below that highlights Raleigh's loss of innocence and how he has been changed by what he has experienced.

CORRECT ANSWER
"How can I sit down and eat like that - when (his voice is nearly breaking)- when Osborne's - lying - out there-"
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to spot the correct one? In the scene after the raid, we see the development of the idea that all men will be psychologically affected by the horrors of war. Up until this point, we have seen Raleigh as hopeful and using words such as 'excited.' After his first experience on the front line, notice how he's visibly shaken. His voice reveals how traumatised he is and he expresses confusion over how the other men can just carry on as normal. If someone as optimistic as Raleigh can be psychologically affected by war, Sherriff highlights how mentally damaging fighting on the front line was, with men coming home unable to deal with what they had witnessed.
  • Question 5

The scene where the German soldier is captured is important in exploring key themes in the play. Click on the sentences below that describe the effect of this scene in presenting Sherriff's key themes.

CORRECT ANSWER
The few 'oddments' the Sergeant Major takes off the German soldier create an almost comic effect, almost mocking the strategy of the senior ranks
When the Colonel asks Stanhope if his men are 'cheerful' before the raid, Sherriff is perhaps criticising the flippancy of the Colonel's comments for a raid that will potentially end with the death of several men
"Grab hold of the first Boche you see" and "put up a good show" almost trivialises what the men are about to do, presenting it like a game. Sherriff offers a subtle criticism of how out of touch the senior ranks were with the harsh reality of the front line
EDDIE SAYS
This is a tricky one! It's important to remember that Sherriff does not explicitly tell the audience what he thinks, but presents characters and themes on the stage to offer a subtle criticism of certain aspects of the war. This scene, where Osborne leads the raid to capture a German soldier is almost funny in the way it's presented. So much force is used on a young, innocent boy, much like Raleigh, and nothing is achieved. Sherriff offers subtle criticism of the strategy through this comic portrayal. In fact, after the build-up, Sherriff presents a complete anti-climax. It certainly isn't going to win them the war, as the Colonel suggests! However, behind the humour lies the harsh reality and where Sherriff's criticism is most important - Osborne died for nothing. Sherriff presents the futility of war as a key theme here.
  • Question 6

Duty and honour are explored as key themes in the play. We see Raleigh aspiring to achieve the Military Cross for bravery, showing how young men during World War I had a naive idealism about being a soldier.

 

What do you think is Sherriff's view of duty and honour?

 

Match the quotations below to the effect they have in presenting these themes?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Sherriff celebrates the bravery of men like Raleigh who are willing to fulfill their duty but focuses on his duty being to his fellow menWhile Sherriff might criticise the focus on duty and honour in for the trauma men experiencedSherriff questions the idea of a traditional hero through Stanhope who shows how all men are flawed and that aspiring to be a hero was almost unattainable in these conditions the war he appears to celebrate and promote showing loyalty to your fellow comrades as the most important sign of honourSherriff almost undermines the Military Cross as a sign of bravery through Raleigh's reaction which shows that this is little reward
"I'll get you a Military Cross for this!"
"It's the only thing a decent man can do"
"Hero-worship be damned"
"I feel rotten lying here - everybody else - up there"
EDDIE SAYS
Remember that for the highest marks in the exam, you need to show a personal and perceptive response. What do you think Sherriff's perspective about duty and honour is? He certainly celebrates bravery, but also shows that even the bravest men can feel fear and have their own weaknesses. Whilst Raleigh aspires to achieve the Military Cross, this does little to take away from the horror of what he's experienced. Sherriff perhaps places the most emphasis on the loyalty to comrades, so it's plausible this is where he felt men should show the most honour. Not by coming back alive from a raid, because this was just luck, after all, Osborne, one of the seemingly bravest men does not survive. Sherriff challenges the assumptions about what a hero is.
  • Question 7

Social class is a theme explored throughout 'Journey's End'. To a certain extent, Sherriff disrupts traditional social hierarchy in his play.

 

Click on the quotations below where we see this hierarchy still operating fully, which demonstrates how Sherriff was presenting a realistic picture of life in the trenches.

CORRECT ANSWER
"My officers are here to be respected - not laughed at"
"Are you telling me - you've been feeding with the men?"
"My officers work together. I'll have no damn prigs"
EDDIE SAYS
For the highest marks in the exam, we need to show evaluation of the effectiveness of the themes. On the one hand, Sherriff disrupts hierarchy by showing how less-educated men can still be brave and loyal soldiers (just think of Trotter and Mason who both go up into the trench at the end). However, on the other hand, Sherriff presents a realistic picture of life in the army, where hierarchy was a significant aspect of life. The selected quotations above show Stanhope's disgust at Raleigh, an Officer, eating with the 'men'. By exploring both of these presentations of class and hierarchy, we're evaluating the presentation of the theme in the play!
  • Question 8

Sherriff was originally going to call his play ‘Waiting’ but later decided on the title ‘Journey’s End’.

 

Does Sherriff present ‘waiting’ as the most important aspect of life in the trenches during World War One?

 

Click on the box which shows an evaluation of whether the theme of ‘waiting’ in ‘Journey’s End’ is the most important theme in the play.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Whilst waiting plays an important part in the play, Sherriff’s title ‘Journey’s End’ forces us to look more closely at what is reflected in the play’s name. Whilst Sherriff highlights the constant cycle of waiting, action and more waiting, the play seems to disrupt this cycle, for these characters anyway, with the suggestion of their deaths at the end. Their ‘Journey’s End’ is marked by the comradeship, loyalty and bravery we see from all of the characters at the end of the play, despite their different struggles along the way. The journeys may have ended but Sherriff celebrates these men in their final moments, suggesting that their personal attributes are the most important aspect of this play
EDDIE SAYS
This is a tricky one! The first response talks about the different ways in which ‘waiting’ is presented in the play, whilst the second one tries to sum up whether ‘waiting’ is the most important theme and suggests actually that it is the men and their personal attributes that are more important. It could be argued that Sherriff’s play then is a beautiful celebration of life and a remembrance of those who lost their lives, particularly poignant for his first audiences who would have lived through the war. However, remember that in the exam the examiner wants to see your personal response. What do you think is the most important theme? As long as you can justify your answer, this type of personal response will gain you the most marks!
  • Question 9

It is now time to have a go at a mini essay question.

 

Try to incorporate all of the skills you have learnt about evaluating the effectiveness of a theme.

 

Think about how Sherriff presents the theme

 

Think about how the theme reflects the context in which the play was written

 

Think about the dramatic effects of the presentation of this theme

 

For the highest marks, try to present a personal and perceptive response. Demonstrate this by exploring different aspects of the theme throughout the play and evaluating Sherriff’s overall intentions.  

 

Remember also to use quotations to support your ideas.

 

Task: Explore how the theme of waiting is presented in ‘Journey’s End.’

 

Try to write three paragraphs for this task.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Sherriff presents the theme of waiting to build a sense of anticipation for the incoming attack. Trotter and Osborne talk about the "quiet" in Act two with Trotter admitting that he doesn’t "like the look of things a bit." The focus on the quiet is unsettling here for the characters, who know that an enemy attack is imminent. This builds dramatic tension for the audience and allows Sherriff to convey a realistic sense of how the waiting would have been a fearful experience for men in the trenches during World War I. During these quiet moments, the characters seem to be constantly thinking about "The big attack soon", which reveals how men would have felt a constant anxiety for what was to come, even during the quieter and seemingly peaceful moments in the trenches.
  • Question 10

Now have a go at the next mini essay question.

 

Try to incorporate all of the skills you have learnt about evaluating the effectiveness of a theme.

 

Think about how Sherriff presents the theme

 

Think about how the theme reflects the context in which the play was written

 

Think about the dramatic effects of the presentation of this theme

 

For the highest marks, try to present a personal and perceptive response. Demonstrate this by exploring different aspects of the theme throughout the play and evaluating Sherriff’s overall intentions. 

 

Remember also to use quotations to support your ideas.

 

Task: Explore how Sherriff presents the psychological effects of war in ‘Journey’s End.’

 

Try to write three paragraphs for this task.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Sherriff presents the psychological effects of war through the character of Hibbert. Hibbert’s desperation to be sent for treatment for his neuralgia is revealed to actually be due to his extreme fear as he admits "Every sound up there makes me all – cold and sick." The way in which he reveals that he "can’t bear" to carry on is similar to the shell shock that many men fighting during World War I experienced, a reaction to the trauma they experienced manifesting in extreme fear and the inability to carry out the most basic of tasks. Indeed Stanhope’s reaction is designed to make Hibbert feel ashamed of how he feels, highlighting that deserting is not what a "decent man" would do. During the war, men would be expected to repress this kind of fear, as seen in Stanhope’s manipulative comment "could you ever look a man straight in the face again?". Here we see Sherriff conveying the importance that was placed on duty and loyalty during World War I and the way in which the psychological effects of war were often deliberately ignored.
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