In the two works that I will be analysing, ‘Journey’s End’ and ‘Regeneration’, class refers to the social values that distinguish between the lower, middle and upper class men. The theme of class is central to both of the works and is personified in two predominant characters, ‘Trotter’ in ‘Journey’s End’ as well as ‘Prior’ in ‘Regeneration’, they will both be fundamental subjects in my essay; in which I will discuss how ‘Sheriff’ and ‘Barker’ explore this theme of class, concerning similarities and differences in the various methods employed.
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Three palpable contrasts between the works should at the outset be mentioned. Firstly ‘Journey’s End’ was written by a man, ‘Sheriff’ who had firsthand experience of the war, himself being a captain in the East Surrey Regiment. Therefore, we can assume that some events in ‘Journey’s End’ and characters used are most likely influenced by genuine soldiers. Thus themes of class and the harshness of war are even more authentic and realistic; “How awfully nice – if the brigadier’s pleased” – is a typical, if not sarcastic, response from a proverbial soldier; Stanhope, concerning Osborne’s death, showing little respect for those in higher command and also his repression of emotion. Sheriff explores the theme of class through the effects on the characters; how differing people handle the constant stress of war, for Stanhope, it is to “drink like a fish”, in contrast to Trotters circle drawing, perhaps showing a lack of imagination. On the other hand the writer of ‘Regeneration’, ‘Barker’ is a woman and more importantly a lot younger than ‘Sheriff’ with no direct experience of the war. ‘Regeneration’ seems to focus more on the aftermath, which allows a broader sense of themes such as roles of women and the altered mental states of the class men. “You seem to have a very powerful anti-war neurosis”, is Rivers’ reply to Sassoon, who asks if he is mad, it shows the effect of the war, that it can make an educated and brave man question his own sanity. It also explores the theme of class; Rivers and Sassoon immediately create a bond with one another, coming from similar backgrounds and viewpoints, as opposed to the perpetual antagonism between Prior and Rivers.
Secondly ‘Journey’s End’ is a play, as opposed to a novel, and ‘Sheriff’ employs staging. This coupled with the need for a play to be entertaining, does not give ‘Sheriff’ the luxury of including pages full of background conversation which allow subtle character progression. ‘Barker’s’ work in general could be seen as symbolically internal with the characters thoughts and deep emotions shown through introspection, “… and thought oh God, it’s going to be another one of this”, this allows the audience to understand the characters in greater detail, to relate to them based on our personal experience, perspective and class. Whereas ‘Sheriff’s’ is driven by actions, and what other characters say. “(He puts the box on its side and sits on it. It is too low for the table, and he puts it on its end. It is then too high…)”, When ‘Trotter’ is first introduced the stage actions show him to be a comical character, at odds with the more serious Stanhope or the “hard as nails” Osborne, however ‘Trotter’ is a much more deep individual below the surface, which is shown by the end of the play with his promotion to second in command; Similarly ‘Prior’ in ‘Regeneration’ is first introduced as a mute, with a case of ‘dumbness’, differing to the other characters, but throughout the novel he conveys himself to be highly intelligent and profound.
Another difference between the works is the length, ‘Regeneration’ is the first part of a trilogy and this represents the more prolonged and indefinite ending, in contrast ‘Journey’s End’ is much shorter and has a very sudden and obvious finish, as implied by its title. This may, in some sense epitomise the theme of class and stereotypes. In ‘Regeneration’, events outside of warfare, the battle for an end to bias based on discrimination is long standing and more apparent. In ‘Journey’s End’ it is more ambiguous, and perhaps due to close proximity, extreme events and the over shadowing doom, is triumphed through unity, the war eliminated class divides.
There are, however, important similarities between the works. They are both realistic, which is contrasted with ‘Sheriffs’ use of ‘Raleigh’ who represents the romantic, idealistic viewpoint; his “boyish voice” and hesitant speech show him to be nervous and impressionable. ‘Raleigh’ is a young and inexperienced officer. This leads on to his conversation with ‘Osborne’, pages 9-17. The language that the two men use and their topic of conversation – “rugger” and cricket – remind the audience of their public school background. ‘Sheriff’ explorers the theme of class through similarities and differences with characters. Lower class men tend to be employed as comic relief, which is evidenced by the character ‘Mason’ and his mixed tinned fruit story. Osborne’s mock shock at this story, “Good Heavens! It must have given you a turn”, helps to lighten the waiting game of trench life. These working class individuals, such as ‘Trotter’ and ‘Prior’, deter the audience away from the constant melancholy of warfare. However they are more than simplistic tools for humour, ‘Mason’ for example, serves as a reminder of the constant passing of time; with his regular meals, and also that normal activities still have to continue despite the war, forcing the audience to not base opinion on the surface, but too look deeper-to sympathise.
They are also both from a British perspective, and the events mostly take place in one setting, ‘Criaglockhart’ in ‘Regeneration’ and a dug out in ‘Journey’s End’. ‘Sheriff’ uses sound and lighting throughout to create a realistic and theatrically effective image of war. The warren-like nature of dugouts with their entrances and exits lend themselves to the stage. Perhaps more importantly the dugout allows ‘Sheriff’ to present an authentic image of life in the trenches, what he calls ‘a nostalgic journey into the past’ (No Leading Lady). This relates to class, in the sense that the dire conditions stripped discrimination, it just a simple reminder of the horrible wreckage of their young lives and the futility of their deaths. This cannot be said for ‘Regeneration’, in which class, be it rank or treatment, is ever present.
The works were also written after the war; which is significant in relation to ‘Journey’s End’ which was written by ‘Sheriff’ in the post-war era. During the war, people had gone to theatres to forget their troubles and to be amused, but in the 1920’s there was a lot of change in the way theatres managed and, in 1926, talking cinema, i.e. films with audible dialogue, started. The class system was also undergoing massive changes and people who in the past would never have been to the theatres started going. This may have resulted in the inclusion of ‘Trotter’ a character from a lower class who appealed to the new audience. Therefore the theme of class in ‘Journey’s End’ symbolically represents contemporary feelings, a time in which social classes and barriers were being broken down and previous stereotypical upper class values were being appreciated by the masses.
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‘Trotter’ is shown to be more than a stereotype, this is evidenced by his conversation with Osborne about gardening, “Oh, I used to do a bit of an evening. I’ad a decent little grass plot in front, with flower borders – geraniums, lobelia, and calceolaria”, ‘Sheriff’ uses a characters interaction to show that class barriers should be non-existent as the lower class can have similar interests and thought processes to the upper, everyone is not so different. Likewise, ‘Barker’ makes use of the plot to show that ‘Prior’ is not so different to the other characters, in fact he is vastly sharp and has knowledge of Freudian theories, “I see. A negative transference”, Rivers’ automatic assumption that a man from his background would be ignorant of such things shows how misguided discrimination due to class was, times were changing and a man shouldn’t be judged by his birth place. It is ironic that this recurring theme of prejudice is focalized through such an accepting individual, portraying how deep the roots of discrimination were entrenched in this lost generation.
‘Sheriff’ and ‘Barker’ tackle the problem of class discrimination in similar ways. In ‘Journey’s End’ the unbiased character of Osborne allows the audience to understand ‘Trotter’ more deeply, much like Rivers in ‘Regeneration’. Osborne in some senses is the audience’s voice, and the very fact that Osborne can consider ‘Trotter’ an equal signifies that class barriers are unnecessary, and people should judge in a more meritocratic way, by actions. In ‘Regeneration’ the discrimination by class is dealt with through intellect. ‘Barker’ stresses ‘prior’s’ intelligence throughout the narrative. Unlike Sassoon, he possesses insight, which is symbolically indicated by his association with the image of the eye. When he finally recalls the traumatic event that triggered his breakdown – picking up an eyeball and seeing it resting in the palm of his hand – ‘Prior’ not only regains his memory, but also becomes associated with the concept of vision in general. The recurring image of the eye in the palm of his hand represents not only his recovered hindsight, but also his ability to move between varieties of different viewpoints and ‘see’ both sides. Due to his difference from the other characters, with regards to class background, his opinions and his sexuality, ‘Prior’s’ perspective on the war is distinctive, and the source of his unique ability to subject even his own doctor to rigorous and relentless interrogation. In the same way, ‘Trotter’ also has a different perspective, “I reckon ‘e only wanted to keep cheerful”, as opposed to Stanhope, “Doesn’t his repulsive little mind make you sick?” ‘Trotter’ is benevolent, consistent and the voice of reason. He is less emotional and doesn’t jump to conclusions, in many ways the other men’s faults, such as Hibbert’s misogyny; help promote a less of a class run society as a lower class man’s actions are superior to that of many upper class men’s. (Insert relevant quote – rivers covers his eyes (motif) refusing to see what he knows – war is not worth it)
Trotter is the only officer who has obviously not been to public school. He is middle aged and “homely looking”. He is described as having red
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