Journey’s End

by

R.C. Sherriff

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Journey’s End can help.

Journey’s End: Act 3, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The candles that have been lighting the dugout are no longer burning. It is dawn on the following day, and Stanhope is still in bed. Mason gently wakes him and gives him tea. Trotter, for his part, has already gotten dressed and woken up Hibbert and Raleigh. Soon enough the Sergeant-Major arrives, and Stanhope tells him to make sure all of the men are in the trenches with their platoons and prepared for the attack. As he orders people back and forth, Stanhope pours whiskey into his tea and remains in the dugout. Just as Trotter is about to leave, the soldiers hear the sound of falling shells. “Better go up, Trotter,” Stanhope says. “Call the others.” He then tells Trotter to send a soldier to periodically tell him how things are going.
In this scene, Stanhope has apparently slept in. Already, then, the audience can see the effect of Osborne’s death on him, since Osborne was in many ways the only person helping Stanhope go on functioning despite his alcoholism. It’s also worth noting that Stanhope orders his men to join the fighting but as of yet has made no move toward leaving the dugout himself—perhaps an indication that his fear is keeping him from fulfilling his soldierly duties.
Themes
Fear and Coping Theme Icon
When Raleigh goes up, he turns and says, “Cheero—Stanhope.” From where he sits, Stanhope doesn’t raise his head, merely saying, “Cheero, Raleigh. I shall be coming up soon.” The sound of artillery and bombs is quite steady now, and Stanhope calls to Hibbert, who emerges looking quite haggard and pale. “You want me to go up now?” he asks, and Stanhope says, “Of course I do.” Still, Hibbert asks for some water because the champagne from the night before has dried his mouth. The sound above the dugout has become very intense, but Hibbert drinks water slowly. “There’s no appalling hurry, is there?” he asks Stanhope. “No hurry!” Stanhope says. “Why d’you think the others have gone up?” At this point, even Mason is ready to join the fighting, and so Stanhope tells Hibbert to go with him. Chaos abounds above, and shouts for a stretcher reach the dugout.
Interestingly enough, the very coping mechanism Stanhope forced on Hibbert by suggesting that he drown his fears with alcohol is now backfiring, as Hibbert uses his hangover as an excuse to delay joining the fight above. As such, it seems that drinking actually won’t help him overcome his fears, and perhaps never has. In fact, what kept him from leaving the trenches wasn’t Stanhope’s suggestion that he drink, but Stanhope’s camaraderie. After all, Stanhope took a new interest in Hibbert after their conversation about their fears. In this way, Sherriff once again spotlights the vitalizing effects of friendship during war. Unfortunately, though, Hibbert must now face the inevitable violence, and Stanhope is doing nothing to encourage him other than shouting at him to leave the dugout.
Themes
Friendship and Human Interaction Theme Icon
Fear and Coping Theme Icon
The Sergeant-Major enters the dugout and fills Stanhope in on what’s happening, telling him that a soldier has been badly wounded. As he informs him of this, yet another call for the stretcher sounds into the air. At this, the Sergeant-Major bounds up the steps, and when he returns, he tells Stanhope that Raleigh has been hit in the spine by a shell and can’t move his legs. Stanhope orders him to bring Raleigh down into the dugout, and when he reappears, he has Raleigh cradled in his arms. “’E’s fainted, sir. ’E was conscious when I picked ’im up,” the Sergeant-Major says, placing Raleigh on Osborne’s bed. Stanhope orders him to go get two men with the stretcher, and though the Sergeant-Major tries to point out that they’ll never be able to get Raleigh to a hospital in these conditions, Stanhope yells at him to follow orders. 
When Raleigh is injured, Stanhope shows him special attention by ordering that he be brought out of the trenches and into the dugout. This is perhaps the first time that he gives Raleigh special treatment, an indication that their relationship is in fact quite important to him. In fact, it’s so important to him that he wants to use a stretcher to take Raleigh to a hospital—a ludicrous idea, one that underlines just how much Stanhope truly does care for Raleigh.
Themes
Friendship and Human Interaction Theme Icon
When the Sergeant-Major leaves, Raleigh wakes up and is in a rather jovial mood, greeting Stanhope as if nothing terrible has happened. “Hullo—Dennis,” he says. “Well, Jimmy,” Stanhope says, smiling, “you got one quickly.” Raleigh admits that he doesn’t remember coming into the dugout. Regardless, he says, he simply got “winded” after something knocked him over, but he claims he’s all right now, and he tries to get up. Luckily, Stanhope keeps him from rising. “I say—Dennis,” he says. “It—it hasn’t gone through, has it?” Telling the truth, Stanhope informs Raleigh that the shell did indeed go through him. He then promises that he’s going to have him taken to the hospital and, eventually, home. “I can’t go home just for—for a knock in the back,” Raleigh says, fidgeting around until he moves in a way that tweaks his injury, at which point he howls in pain.
When Stanhope says, “Well, Jimmy, you got one quickly,” he calls Raleigh by his first name for the first time throughout the entire play. In doing so, he finally acknowledges their familiarity, drawing upon their past friendship in order to comfort the injured boy. Taken in conjunction with his previous conversation with Hibbert—in which he established a friendly connection in order to discourage Hibbert from leaving—this moment solidifies the notion that Stanhope often uses camaraderie and friendship as a way of comforting and emboldening his soldiers. In turn, it’s clear he understands just how important relationships are in difficult circumstances, though he previously has been incapable of bringing himself to show Raleigh the kind of friendly affection he does now.
Themes
Friendship and Human Interaction Theme Icon
Fear and Coping Theme Icon
Get the entire Journey’s End LitChart as a printable PDF.
Journey’s End PDF
Realizing the gravity of the situation, Raleigh begins to understand that he can’t move his legs. “Dennis—” he whispers after a moment of silence. “Could we have a light? It’s—it’s so frightfully dark and cold.” Immediately wanting to accommodate the boy’s needs, Stanhope rises and searches for a candle, promising to also bring another blanket. For a moment, he leaves Raleigh alone in the room, and Raleigh releases an indistinguishable sound, “something between a sob and a moan.” When Stanhope returns, he puts the blanket on Raleigh and asks, “Is that better, Jimmy?” Unfortunately, Raleigh doesn’t make a sound, and Stanhope stares at him for a while before standing once more and putting the candle back on the table.
In this moment, Stanhope loses yet another friend. In turn, he is left completely alone with his fear. What’s more, it’s worth noting that he still has yet to join his men in the trenches, instead preoccupying himself in the dugout. Of course, he has for the past few minutes been treating Raleigh, but his overall participation in the battle has been quite low so far, once again reminding the audience that he is stricken with fear and struggling to get himself to venture into harm’s way.
Themes
Friendship and Human Interaction Theme Icon
Fear and Coping Theme Icon
Above, the sounds of the attack rage louder and louder. Finally, a soldier rushes down and tells Stanhope that Trotter has asked that he “come at once.” Stanhope sends him away, promising he’s on his way, and when he’s alone, he pauses one last time over Osborne’s bed and “runs his fingers over Raleigh’s tousled hair.” Having done this, he finally climbs the steps, pausing for a moment as his form is silhouetted against the dawn sky. Several moments later, there comes a high-pitch sound followed by a massive explosion, the force of which extinguishes the candle on the table and splinters the wooden supports of the dugout, sending puffs of sand into the air as the entire space begins its slow collapse.
The complete and inescapable chaos of this final moment in Journey’s End is what the soldiers have been waiting for the entire time. Each day, they’ve waited with bated breath for this kind of disaster to befall them. Now that the German attack has finally descended upon them, though, one gets the sense that those who survive will inevitably go on waiting for the next period of violence. Indeed, Sherriff doesn’t actually provide the audience with the “journey’s end,” but rather stops the play in the middle of the very thing for which everybody has been waiting, thereby emphasizing the never-ending quality of war and the sense that violent conflict is nothing but a repetitious cycle. 
Themes
Anticipation, Expectations, and Uncertainty Theme Icon
Repitition, Futility, and Perspective Theme Icon