Journey's End Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Journey's End Symbols, Allegory and Motifs


The candles and their light are symbols of life. In the end of the play, the candle that burns brightly next to Raleigh as he lays dying suddenly extinguishes shortly before the dugout quarters partially collapses and both the scene and play black out to its end.


The earwig symbolically represents the life of the soldiers in war. The tip that Hardy gives is to apply whiskey and the prodding heat of flame to win the race. Symbolically, he references that its not just earwigs that benefit from this kind of treatment; if a soldier doesn't respond even after turning up the heat with orders backed by consequences such as the threat of punishment, then a generous application of whiskey may help, but often its the combination of both methods that effects the greatest yield for successful operations.


Stanhope makes a few symbolic references of worms. He makes them a metaphor for the officers who attempt to wriggle their way back home and shirk their way out of the front lines. In a conversation between Stanhope and Osborne they wonder how or even if a worm can tell up from down as it digs. Stanhope comments that maybe they couldn't at all, that they just keep digging deeper down when they may think their digging up and out. It is a reference to people in life in general and soldiers specifically as well. It seems to imply that people go about blindly in life and they continue in wrong directions even though they think they're going about it the right way.


The revolver, and other later semi-auto handguns, are a well-known military symbol of officers. It represents their authority as it is generally kept on persons almost at all times, as opposed to the rifles of the enlisted men that usually remain stored elsewhere, meaning that they have the symbolic power to take lives at almost any time. The saber that used to represent officers was gradually phased out of combat roles, but the revolver remained and so became ever more the symbol of officers.

Whiskey and Water

Throughout the play both are as commonly drank and often mixed together. Water is a life-giver and whiskey is a life-drainer; when the two are mixed, the symbolism suggests a balancing of the two ideas in life.

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