Journey's End

Journey's End Summary and Analysis of Act Three, Scenes II and III


The second scene of the third act occurs after dinner on the same day. The dugout is full of candles and there are champagne bottles on the table. Trotter and Hibbert and Stanhope make jokes about women and smoke cigars in a celebratory mood. They discuss the relative weight and skinniness of women on postcards Hibbert shows the others. Stanhope asks Mason for whiskey, and he informs Stanhope that this is the last bottle of the six they brought with them. They discuss how Raleigh chose to forgo dinner in favor of staying with the soldiers. Trotter talks about the raid and Stanhope reprimands him, saying they were having a good evening until he mentioned the war.

Stanhope commands Hibbert to go to bed, but Hibbert doesn’t want to end the evening. Stanhope orders him to get out of his sight. When Hibbert is gone, Stanhope refers to him as a little worm. He goes away. Alone together, Stanhope reminds Trotter that he is his second in command now, with Osborne dead. Trotter leaves and Raleigh enters as Mason brings his steaming dinner plate. Stanhope reprimands Raleigh for having eaten tea and bread and cheese with the men on duty instead of having come to dinner at eight, as Stanhope ordered. Stanhope says the men should be left to eat alone, not having an officer taking away from their rations. Raleigh says they invited him to share, but Stanhope insists they were making a fool of him. Stanhope tells Raleigh that he was acting insultingly toward Hibbert and Trotter by not joining them for dinner.

Stanhope trembles violently as he puffs his cigar. Raleigh apologizes if he annoyed Stanhope by joining his company; he can tell that Stanhope resents him being there. Stanhope tells him to eat but Raleigh says he can’t, not when Osborne is lying out in No Man’s Land. Stanhope says he’s not the only one who cares, but Raleigh points out that he is drinking champagne and smoking cigars. Stanhope calls him a fool and says he is drinking to forget, not because he doesn’t care. Raleigh apologizes, but Stanhope angrily sends him away. The curtain falls.

The play’s final scene begins toward dawn. The candles are out. Mason lights a match and wakes Stanhope at half-past five. Trotter enters lathering his face. Mason brings four mugs of hot tea. Stanhope tells Mason that after he clears up his kitchen he must dress and join his platoon in the line. Stanhope dashes off a report and sends a soldier to take it to Battalion Headquarters. The sergeant-major enters and reports that the wiring party was successful. They discuss when to expect the attack.

Stanhope and Trotter listen as the sound of the incoming shells grows louder. Trotter and Raleigh go up while Stanhope sits in the dugout and smokes with a quivering hand while writing in his notebook. The shells grow louder. Stanhope shouts for Hibbert, who arrives pale and dehydrated from the night’s champagne. He drinks the water Stanhope gives him very slowly, and Stanhope accuses him of wasting as much time as he can before going up. Mason comes out fully dressed and asks for Hibbert’s help in leading him to the line. They go up together.

A soldier arrives out of breath and reports that Trotter said shells are falling behind the support line and Minnies are falling along the front. The sergeant-major enters and says Corporal Ross was hit badly. From outside they can hear calls for stretcher-bearers. The sergeant-major leaves but comes back soon reporting that Raleigh was hit by a shell fragment; it broke his spine and he can’t move his legs. Stanhope orders him to bring Raleigh down into the dugout. While the sergeant-major collects Raleigh, Stanhope gathers materials to make a soft place for him to lie on Osborne’s bed. Stanhope orders the sergeant-major to get two men with a stretcher.

To wake Raleigh, who has fainted, Stanhope bathes his face with a wet cloth. Raleigh describes having been winded by the shell hit. He says he just needs to walk it off. Stanhope says he’s going to have him taken to a hospital and then home to Britain. Raleigh insists he just needs to get up, but when he tries he asks what is holding his legs down. Stanhope tells him it’s just shell shock.

Raleigh asks if Stanhope can get a candle, as it is awfully dark. Stanhope goes to the left-hand dugout. Raleigh lies alone on Osborne’s bed. Outside, the rosy glow of dawn is deepening to an angry red. A tiny sound comes from Raleigh, something behind a sigh and a moan. When Stanhope comes back Raleigh is unresponsive. He lifts the boy’s hand and then moves to sit on a bench and stares across the dugout at Raleigh.

A soldier comes down, his face covered in tears, and says that Trotter asks that Stanhope come at once. Stanhope picks up his helmet and leaves the dugout, but only after running a hand through Raleigh’s tousled hair. The whine of shells grows louder. One lands on the dugout roof, snuffing out the candle flame. The wooden props to the doorway fall in, and sandbags tumble to block the passage to open air. The red dawn glows through the jagged holes of the broken doorway. The play ends with the faint sound of machine guns and rifles firing.


In stark contrast to the bleak and violent mood that closed the previous scene, the second scene of the third act opens with Trotter, Hibbert, and Stanhope celebrating the raid’s success with a fresh chicken, cigars, champagne, and bawdy jokes. Rather than dwelling on how the raid left seven men, including Osborne, dead, Stanhope tries to keep his officer’s spirits up through drinking and using humor as a means of emotional repression.

Stanhope’s mercurial nature is revealed as soon as Hibbert leaves: Stanhope abandons his cheery attitude and speaks of Hibbert as having a disgusting mind. Stanhope’s mood swings, a symptom of his PTSD, continue when he dresses down Raleigh for not joining them for dinner. Stanhope admits to Raleigh that he is drinking to forget about Osborne’s death, not because he doesn’t care. But the moment of vulnerability doesn’t last: Stanhope sends Raleigh away as soon as Raleigh apologizes for accusing him of callousness.

The final scene sees a climax to the conflict that has been brewing throughout the play: it is dawn on the day the Germans are expected to attack. In an instance of situational irony, Stanhope—after forcing Hibbert and his men to stand to on the line—waits out the shelling in the dugout rather than joining the others.

While nervously waiting to hear news from soldier runners, Stanhope trembles and smokes. He receives word that Raleigh was hit by a shell and paralyzed. Rather than asking the sergeant-major to bring Raleigh to a field hospital, Stanhope orders that he be brought to the dugout. In this moment, Stanhope reveals his feeling of personal responsibility for Raleigh, preferring to take care of him himself before sending him away to the doctors.

Journey’s End reaches its conclusion when Raleigh succumbs to his injuries and dies while Stanhope is fetching him a candle. In a gesture that shows Stanhope’s affection for Raleigh, he runs his hands through the dead boy’s hair. The play ends with a shell landing on the roof of the dugout. The impact puts out the candle and collapses the entrance, thereby entombing Raleigh’s body in the earth. The final image has a lasting symbolic resonance: throughout the play, the men have been living in what turns out to be, in essence, a pre-dug grave.