In Act One of Sheriff’s ‘Journey’s End’ we see Captain Stanhope presented as a highly respected individual by all members of the rank, who has been affected immensely psychologically by the war. We see Stanhope being respected throughout Act One, which can be seen in the beginning of the play where we see Osborne reacting in a defensive and protective way of Stanhope, saying that “He’s a long way the best company commander we’ve got” to Hardy on page 4 where we learn of Stanhope’s excessive drinking which makes the audience unsure of Stanhope as a character as Sheriff introduces us to this problem before we have met him, which instantly gives us a poor first impression of Stanhope. Sheriff then builds Stanhope’s character and the audience begin to realise that the effect of war has taken its toll on Stanhope, who we learn is a hardworking, young commander who is struggling with the pressures of the war and uses whiskey to help him get through. It is evident that Stanhope is good at commanding the company, as Osborne states “You’ve done longer than any man in the battalion. It’s time you went away for a rest. It’s due to you” on page 27, depicting that Stanhope has worked extremely hard in the last three years and should be proud with his achievements instead of being ashamed of himself because of what he has turned into. Osborne is a trustworthy character who Stanhope relies on and is a true friend.
We also see Stanhope respected by Raleigh, a young boy who knew Stanhope personally before the war. Stanhope was Raleigh’s inspiration to join the army, saying that he was “frightfully keen to get into Dennis’s regiment” to Osborne on page 12. He also describes his friend as “splendid” and describes them as “terrific pals.” Stanhope had such an effect on Raleigh when they were at school together, and Stanhope even admits that he is Raleigh’s “hero” to Osborne on page 26. We also see in this scene that Stanhope has realised even more so with Raleigh’s arrival his change and deterioration with his personality in the last three years since the war began, saying “as long as the hero’s a hero” which he no longer thinks of himself as due to this drastic change. We also see in this scene Stanhope confide in Osborne, explaining that Raleigh’s sister “doesn’t know. She thinks I’m a wonderful chap – commanding a company” portraying his disappointment in himself and how he feels as if he would let down his love if she knew the truth. He seems extremely passionate towards Raleigh’s sister as he explains that he “couldn’t bear to meet her, in case she realised” the person he has become and becomes annoyed with Raleigh as he calls him a “little prig” when he believes he will no longer be able to return to Raleigh’s sister once the war is over. Here we see a vulnerable and ashamed character, which is portrayed by Sheriff as he says “if I went up those steps into the front line – without being doped with whiskey – I’d go mad with fright.” This conveys the necessity for Stanhope to drink and that he would not be able to command the company as successfully as he does without having had whiskey.
Osborne warns Raleigh on page 13, explaining to him “you mustn’t expect to find him – quite the same” and how the war “tells on a man – rather badly” portraying the psychological effects of war and how there has been a complete change in Stanhope since joining the war. Raleigh remembers his hero as someone who was anti-alcohol, which he was before the war saying “the roof nearly blew off” when he caught some boys at school with a bottle of whiskey. This shows the desperation on Stanhope’s behalf to cope with the war and has turned to alcohol for comfort, something that appears he was against three years earlier.
Sheriff presents Stanhope as an individual trying to cope with the pressure of the war in Act One, who appears to have changed drastically since the war began, helping the audience understand the psychological effects soldiers due to the war; an issue to which they could possibly relate to as the war was a big part of their lives.