“Green Rice” & “Journey’s End”: Global Issues

People should not celebrate the idea of war and heroic actions itself, instead celebrate the brave soldiers. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/12/i-thought-remembrance-was-a-celebration-of-war-i-was-wrong

The article writer, Susanne Moore, initially talked about her mindset of her wilful ignorance of war remembrances, which was understandable. She believed that these remembrances were celebrating the war itself, but after discovering the stories of her neighbourhood’s background, she understood that these celebrations were not for the war, but rather for the brave soldiers that fought within. Both Green Rice and Journey’s End, two war-influenced works of text establish the message of not only the atrocities of war, but how heroic people rose above the tragedy. Green Rice shares the stories of women during the Vietnam War, and how they sacrificed and fought a separate–yet similar–war alongside the Vietnamese men. As for Journey’s End, Sherriff focuses the play on the sacrifices made by the soldiers, and how they suffered both physically and mentally as a result, highlighting their selflessness.

The true nature of war is inhuman and unforgiving to not only the soldiers, but also their families back home. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/lets-stop-glorifying-war_b_2742511

This article discusses the different aspects of war that the media fail to portray, which are the emotional impacts and detriments that combat has on the average soldier. The article author even provides letters from soldiers training in WWII combat camps, where the conditions are so intense, soldiers even suffer mental breakdowns from the wartime drill simulations. Green Rice relates towards this global issue somewhat in the sense that the Vietnam was claiming the lives of many innocent civilians, collateral damage in the name of war. Although Green Rice does not focus on the mental toll that war has on its victims, it still does provide commentary on the civilian victims that war leaves behind. Journey’s End focuses on this issue more so by looking directly on the mental consequences that the soldiers face rather than the actual conflict of war itself. The majority of the play’s runtime is placed within the confines of the barracks, which allows for the viewers to see the direct effects of wartime combat. Sherriff also shows this message through the dialogue between the soldiers, and how they discuss what lies back at home for them if they return, emphasising the loss that families had to face during wartime.

The World’s Wife – Three Poems, One Message

“Thetis”, “Ms. Faust”, “Mrs. Rip Van Winkle”. In Carol Ann Duffy’s “The World’s Wife” poem collection, these 3 poems share a similar theme: while women seek to educate themselves, men tend to engage in destructive–and sometimes lustful–activities. The question here then lies: why are such men in positions of power or influence?

Looking at the first poem “Thetis,” the destructive nature of the male sex is lain in the open. At its core, “Thetis” details of a girl expressing herself both creatively and emotionally, but being stopped short each time by a man’s violent act. We know that the male gender is responsible for such actions, seeing as the text references “his fist” (6), “his strangler’s clasp” (17), and “the guy in the grass” (24). Each quote describes a different male figure in her different stages of life, as symbolised by the new animal form that she takes. From here, the poem thus emphasises the point that no matter where women go or what they do, men will inevitably disrupt it in their violent nature.

“Ms. Faust” elaborates on this point further, showing how women are able to bide their time and expressing themselves through emotionally-beneficial activities, whereas men perpetually create larger and greater problems not only for themselves, but for humanity as a whole. For example, as Ms. Faust engages in meditation or world exploration, Faust, in the poem, goes on to lust upon women, engage in politics, warfare, and cheating nature (by cloning a sheep). These actions are all similar in a sense where men lose their morality and humanity; Faust is representative of men throughout history, raping, killing, pillaging ever since the beginning. They never stopped. Despite all this, Duffy adds a powerful message at the end: much like the legend itself, when the deal Faust–symbolising men–made runs short, he must eventually must pay the price. When this happens, everything he created passes upon Ms. Faust, now single, separate from men (emphasis on the “Ms”). Duffy does this to show how times are changing, and the positions of power are changing from men to women, something that her role as Poet Laureate has already experienced.

Lastly, “Mrs. Rip Van Winkle” focuses less on the destructive nature of men (as the other two have), but rather more on the lustful, more foolish aspect of men. Like the other poems, the female counterpart is more interested in self-discovery, indulging in activities that made her happy as a person. Through this, Duffy states that no matter the situation, women have always been able to persevere. On the other hand, men, when faced with old age and the depletion of sex, are only able to focus on satisfying their lustful urges. Again, there is nothing beneficial, only a lewd self-indulgence.

Again, Duffy brings up the question, “if men are so incompetent, then why are they the ones in control?”. “Ms. Faust” perfectly summarises the predicament of what’s to come. The message is clear: women are taking position besides, if not above, men in society.

“Calm Before the Storm” (Journey’s End Act 2 Scene 2) – A Reflection

Going through the interpretation process was both exciting and frustrating in terms of execution–at least that’s what I thought. After some discussion, we picked the section we did due to the interesting dialogue between Stanhope and both the Sergeant-Major and the Colonel. Then, as we practised those couple times, we realised that the script is hard to execute in terms pacing and emotion (as mentioned by Petra and May’s comments). Having said that, we did the best that we could. Surely though, our interpretation upon the text lacks in detail that the “naturalistic” play does. Being the residents of Shunyi, the life experience that we have lessens that emotional punch that residents of 1920s Britain felt at the time. In 1926, Britain had crawled out of the First World War with just over 900,000 fatalities, a horrific loss for both the government and its people. Thus, the interpretation within the 1926 play holds more true to the horrific content that soldiers faced, as well as impacting its audience more seriously and effectively. Still, however, one message remains clear for both audiences in 1926 and today: we should cherish and praise the heroic soldiers rather than their heroic actions, as war is horrific and conflict should never be celebrated.

The above message relates to the global issue of politics, but I believe that another main issue is present within the play: power. I mentioned this in a comment on DX, but I said that Sherriff depicts an issue of how power often falls upon those who are unable to aid those they are responsible for. Tying this in with the other statement about politics, the public shouldn’t celebrate the army and its military generals and whatnot, but rather look at the soldiers and how they’re just regular people making sacrifices. These people are what won the war; they were brave and fought on despite the circumstances.

Overall, this experience with interpreting the play through execution really did let me reflect on how Sherriff wanted the play to be shown. Unlike reading the text, I felt like I really was experiencing (to an extent) what Sherriff had undergone and felt during his time during war: the hesitance, the respect, the fear. I had to express these emotions through facial features, actions, and through my words, something that requires reflection. And through that, I’m able to understand Sherriff’s message and appreciate the sacrifices that the soldiers had made, and fight for a future that doesn’t repeat itself.