On the first night that Stanhope’s infantry moves into the trenches to begin their six-day shift, Trotter talks to his fellow officers about the time they have to pass before they’ll be able to return to a safer location. “Well, boys!” he says. “’Ere we are for six days again. Six bloomin’ eternal days. [He makes a calculation on the table.] That’s a hundred and forty-four hours; eight thousand six ’undred and forty minutes. That doesn’t sound so bad; we’ve done twenty of ’em already. I’ve got an idea! I’m going to draw a hundred and forty-four little circles on a bit o’ paper, and every hour I’m going to black one in; that’ll make the time go all right.” Saying this, he draws up a chart, one that he can use to track the passage of time. In doing so, he tries to secure a small amount of agency over the way the time moves, which he otherwise can’t control. Without counting down the remaining hours and displaying them on a piece of paper, the time left in the trenches feels “eternal.” Breaking the days into manageable chunks, though, makes the time left sound not “so bad,” since the act suddenly assigns tangible units (hours and minutes) to days otherwise characterized by fear, uncertainty, and powerlessness. In this way, Trotter’s chart comes to represent not only his desire to control his own circumstances, but also the elaborate ways in which these men invent ways of coping with their terror and helplessness during war.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Trotter’s Chart appears in Journey’s End. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2, Scene 1