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Written by Josh Robles
"I hope you get better luck than I did with my last officer. He got lumbago the first night and went home. Now he's got a job lecturing young officers on 'Life in the Front Line'."
Speaking with Osborne, Hardy mocks all the various and common schemes that officers employ to leave the war and some of them even later claim to be "experts" in combat and war. This first dialogue foreshadows what will later be seen in the play with one officer in C Company in particular.
"Well, if you want to get the best pace out of an earwig, dip it in whiskey - makes 'em go like hell!"
Hardy gives Osborne advice on the great, old, soldiers' pastime of betting and racing earwigs before they part ways. Since they had just been discussing the hard drinking habits of Stanhope, this dialogue is important as it exposes the nature of how many people mentally cope with war - Alcohol seems to be a universal answer for its horrors.
"You see, he's been out here a long time. It - it tells on a man - rather badly -"
Osborne having already defended the image of Stanhope in his dialogue with Hardy, is now explaining what the young Raleigh should be prepared to see. Keen to the notion that this young man looks up to and idolizes Stanhope, he aims to soften any blow to either. War utterly changes people, and nobodies hero, or their idol, is exempt.
Osborne: Small boys at school generally have their heroes.
Stanhope: Yes. Small boys at school do.
Osborne: Often it goes on as long as -
Stanhope: - as long as the hero's a hero.
Osborne: It often goes on all through life.
In a private conversation between the two on the subject of young Raleigh, the special nature of Osborne's character is evident in relation to Stanhope as well as to the development of the storyline. He has a familiar bond with Stanhope that goes beyond than just being a subordinate officer, he is part mentor and advisor, and part surrogate father-figure and caring friend. He shows he is wise and experienced enough to discern the qualities of either of the young men and their mental states.
"She doesn't know that if I went up those steps into the front line - without being doped up with whiskey - I'd go mad with fright."
Stanhope confides this very personal truth to Osborne; we now know his specific reason for drinking abusively. He is aware of many of the subtleties of command and knows that a humanizing confession such as this would have negative effects on morale; commanders cannot be cowards. He demonstrates his command aptitude throughout the play and continues to hide this underlying cause for his drinking habits. Here, he shows his logic on just exactly why he's not fond of Raleigh joining his Company. Image is an important aspect of maintaining command, but also in maintaining distant relationships. If Raleigh finds that the image of him as his hero and idol is lacking in any regard, it may find its way elsewhere and will have consequences with his relationship to Raleigh's sister.
"I believe Raleigh'll go on liking you - and looking up to you - through everything. There's something very deep, and rather fine, about hero-worship."
Wise and experienced Osborne is clear that he supports Raleigh's admiration for Stanhope and that he has nothing to fear about losing his image or earning a tarnished reputation. It is often said that people too often ignore the bad in those that they take a liking or interest in, but rather maybe its better to say that a genuine person of this quality envisions the bigger picture and that the small negatives just don't hold much sway against the grand scheme.
'Tell me, mother, what is that
That looks like strawberry jam?'
'Hush, hush, my dear; 'tis only Pa
Run over by a tram -'
Many soldiers throughout time have almost always lived with an interesting acceptance of war and death. Perhaps numb and desensitized to all of it or maybe its a way to help one make sense out of it, morbid jokes are quite common among people who experience war directly.
"To forget, you little fool - to forget! D'you understand? To Forget! You think there's no limit to what a man can bear?"
Raleigh does not feel like partaking in the good food and champagne that celebrates the successful raid in which he took part and captured a young German soldier because he is stricken by sadness that Osborne did not make it back alive with him. Stanhope rebukes him, clarifying that he isn't the only one with those feelings and that the drinking was not to celebrate the events that happened but a mechanism for coping with it; he finally admits his dangerous "weakness" to his hero-worshiper.
Raleigh: Hullo - Dennis -
Stanhope: Well, Jimmy - [he smiles] - you got one quickly.
Stanhope orders that the Sergeant-Major bring Raleigh back to him in the dugout officers' quarters after he learns that Raleigh has just taking a piece of shrapnel through the back that likely severed his spine as he can no longer feel or move his legs. Laying in Osborne's former bed, Raleigh gains momentary consciousness and they great each other with this dialogue. Although Raleigh has used Stanhope's first name plenty, this is the first time in the play that Stanhope finally calls Raleigh by his first name. It's a tender moment between the two characters and is significant in showing their relationship and Stanhopes' character evolution; after maintaining a sort of cold, professional distance from Raleigh and trying to push the familiarity away, he finally softens up to him in his demeanor now that he is in a critical condition.
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