Journey's End

Journey's End Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Candles (Symbol)

In the dugout, the only sources of light are the candles the men light. At the end of the play, when the candle that burns brightly next to Raleigh as he lays dying is suddenly extinguished by the shock of a falling bomb, the candles are revealed as symbols of life itself.

Worms (Symbols)

Throughout the play, Stanhope references worms, making unfavorable comparisons between worms and officers who attempt to shirk their combat responsibilities and wriggle their way home. Additionally, in a conversation between Stanhope and Osborne, Stanhope questions how a worm can tell up from down as it digs. Stanhope comments that maybe they can't tell, and he believes this would be the worst part of being a worm. The statement symbolizes the doubt he feels about the war effort: with no end in sight, he must push on, feeling his way in the darkness with nothing to go on but the hope of success.

Drinking (Motif)

Throughout the play, drinking is used as a motif to emphasize the theme of alcoholism. In order to calm his nerves and face the war, Stanhope has become dependent on alcohol, and he drinks an entire bottle of whiskey each day. He also plies other officers with liquor so that he is not the only one drinking.

Terrible Food (Motif)

Many of the play's moments of comic relief come from jokes having to do with the poor-quality food rations in the trenches. Mason is unable to tell what kind of cutlet he is serving the men, saying it looks like liver but doesn't smell like liver. He also gets a tin of pineapple confused with apricots, and worries about incurring Stanhope's wrath as a result. High command is similarly concerned with food: after ordering the raid, the Colonel asks Stanhope, who is preoccupied with the impending slaughter of his men, whether he likes fish.

Talk of Civilian Life (Motif)

Usually in one-on-one conversations throughout the play, characters distract themselves from thoughts of war by discussing what they did in their lives as civilians. This motif shows how the soldiers long for the comforts of life outside the war. Simultaneously, talk of civilian life reminds the audience of the soldiers' humanity; particularly when the soldiers discuss seeing plays and shows, this motif suggests that the only thing separating the audience from the soldiers is the war itself.