The use of language in Journey's End

Language refers to the choices of style and vocabulary made by the author. When analysing the language Sherriff uses you should think about:

  • What? The playwright's choice of specific words and dramatic devices
  • Where/how? The way in which the writer uses words
  • Why? The effect on the reader

Many of the effects mentioned throughout when discussing character, themes, form and structure are created through Sherriff’s innovative use of language and other dramatic devices. You will be expected to discuss these throughout your essay and analyse how they are used in every point that you make.

The following pages contain examples of some specific devices Sherriff uses and some of the effects they may have on the audience.

You can refer to the sample question in this guide, and to the sections on character and theme to see how discussion of these devices can be integrated into a clear argument in the exam.

Stage set

The language used to describe the set creates atmosphere immediately. There is little in the way of home comforts and the darkness is reinforced through “The flames of the candles that burn day and night are steady in the still, damp air.”

There is no natural light as the stage is set in a dugout under the ground. This is also shown in the description, “Gloomy tunnels lead out of the dugout to left and right.”

This claustrophobic setting conveys the horrors of life for soldiers at war. The description of “earth walls” which “deaden the sounds of war” shows how men had little comfort in the trenches and were surrounded by violence and death at all times.