Best Defense

Tom’s World War I binge continues: A few lines from the play ‘Journey’s End’

Reading Six Weeks persuaded me to buy R.C. Sherriff’s play Journey’s End, which I’d never read. I liked it especially because it is unique to the circumstances of its war-British class differences, trench warfare, losses by years of attrition. The entire thing takes place in an underground bunker. I doubt that it could be "updated," ...

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Reading Six Weeks persuaded me to buy R.C. Sherriff’s play Journey’s End, which I’d never read. I liked it especially because it is unique to the circumstances of its war-British class differences, trench warfare, losses by years of attrition. The entire thing takes place in an underground bunker. I doubt that it could be "updated," for example, into a drama about the Vietnam War. The concerns, the histories, the values of the soldiers involved are just too different. I suspect that when it came out it was a shocker, but now it seems like half the war movies we’ve seen since.

Lines I liked:

Osborne: "Where do the men sleep?"

Hardy: "I don’t know. The sergeant-major sees to that."

Osborne: "It rather reminds you of bear-baiting — or cock-fighting — to sit and watch a boy drink himself unconscious."

Osborne: "We are, generally, just waiting for something to happen. When anything happens, it happens quickly. Then we just start waiting again."

Stanhope: "There’s not a man left who was here when I came." (I suspect he kind of means himself, too — he is physically present, but spiritually with his dead comrades of the previous four years.)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1

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