Arguably the main theme in both Peter Whelan’s ‘The Accrington pals’ and R.C Sherriff’s ‘Journeys End’ is the presence of mental deterioration. In Journeys End it is presented in the form of Stanhope, who suffers from being an alcoholic. Equally, Whelan presents us with flawed protagonist, May. The fact that Stanhope has self-knowledge of his addiction helps us sympathise with him more, ‘you don’t think I’m going potty do you?’. Stanhope accepts all his troubles, and this shows a great inner peace he has within himself.
In contrast within ‘Accrington Pals’, Whelan presents us with Annie and we do not know whether to sympathise, pity or empathise because of how she is presented. Initially we see slapstick comedy between her and her son Reggie, ‘Shut up, you are going stand still while I hit you’. But as the play progresses the violence becomes more increasingly disturbing which makes us pity Reggie.
But it is not until the closing stages of the play do we notice the mental deterioration of Annie, with the introduction of a dead pigeon supposedly belonging to her Arthur which he has sent from the front; ‘the fools dead. So he is dead’. This leads to a mental breakdown where she disowns Arthur and Reggie: ‘I’d of never wanted him if it wasn’t for that halfwit thing being born in the first place’, this as an audience shows misery and evokes in the audience a sense of pity towards Reggie and his deceased father. During all this controversy we see that Reggie emerges as a strong poignant figure ‘stop making a show get up. Stop staring’ and this device that Whelan uses allows us as an audience to pity Annie.
In ‘Journeys End’, Sherriff uses Hibbert, a cowardly solider, in order to show mental deterioration. Also it shows how the frontline affected the men that fought on it, and the terror that faced the soldiers, ‘do please let me go, Stanhope’, Whelan uses Hibbert to contrast Stanhope and his bravery. This helps us as an audience to see Stanhope as a good man and not the ordinary officer in World War 1.
Some audiences may fell that in ‘The Accrington Pals’ Whelan is more concerned with the theme of love and relationships. May and Tom’s relationship is presented awkward to the audience as a ‘lost love’ which makes the audience sympathise because of the possibility of their relationship and what could have come from it. But Eva’s and Ralphs relationship which is a real relationship, is seen as a danger which is a result of the letter from Ralph where he confesses his wrong doings, but he doesn’t send the letter. ‘I’ve been a bastard to you Eva, slept with whores’, after knowing what Ralph has done we no longer have sympathy for his and Eva’s relationship. But its not until this letter do we change our opinion on Ralph.
‘The Accrington Pals’ is a modern play where the attention is focused on the women left behind, Sarah plays a big role in this ‘you’ve got an electrician? They earn a fortune! Where dya find him?’. We can see that Sarah is outgoing and not afraid of being vulgar, but in a comical way. This contrasts to Hibbert who is vulgar ‘ I went round the corner on two wheels and made the girls hair stay on end’. Hibbert is seen as a dominant sexist who makes us dislike him more. This adds to the characterisation of the coward. By contrast it heightens the heroism of Stanhope.
We gain respect for Osborne who is Stanhope’s friend and we can see after his death, Stanhope acts as a father figure to Raleigh ‘its all right Jimmy’, this is the first time we hear Raleigh called by his first name and it is said in his dying hours by Stanhope. This shows that Stanhope is trying to comfort