Realism and Naturalism within Journey’s End

Before I discuss how realism and naturalism is utilized within the play Journey’s End, I need to define what both terms mean. Realism, in terms of art and drama at least, is the attempt of the creator to adhere towards the accuracy of actual real-life within their own representation. In art, this could be tied towards the art style of photo-realism, or even just the attempts at drawing still-life. On the other hand, naturalism (in the case of drama) is–as defined by the dictionary–a style and theory of representation based on the accurate depiction of detail. Therefore, a set designer for a play would be attempting to replicate the entirety of the setting down towards the prop models, background, clothing, etc. Because of this, these two concepts are fairly similar, allowing for some to use them interchangeably within performing arts.

Sheriff, being an actual captain within World War One, underwent the trauma and horrors of war itself. This experience lends itself within the play as the actions portrayed by the characters echo very human emotions. By human, I refer towards the less romanticized aspects such as cowardice, as shown by Hibbert as he attempts to leave the battlezone. In addition towards this, the idea of “normalcy”, or rather the characters acting as if nothing wrong were going on, is often alluded to within the opening scenes of the play. For the audience this may clash against their perception of steel-hard soldiers valiantly fighting against the enemy, but for actual soldiers such as Sheriff himself, this references towards an actual feeling that soldiers had as they patiently waited for their final battle to begin. The characterizations of such characters add an actual human element, further pushing the element of realism within Journey’s End. This is unlike other portrayals of war, where heroism is glorified and the protagonists win the conflict in the end. As for naturalism, the stage description within the transcript describes the setting and how the characters interact. Sheriff’s own experience within trench dugouts and tunnels are highlighted by the dreary living conditions that the play portrays. With the wire netting, bare furniture, and wood framing, Sheriff by no means is romanticizing the concept of war, further pushing realism concept that war is unforgiving and harsh towards the young soldiers who fight within it.

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