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20th Century Drama Coursework: “An Inspector Calls” by J B Priestley

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Introduction

20th Century Drama Coursework: "An Inspector Calls" by J B Priestley An Inspector Calls was written in 1945 but is set in 1912. The gap in time between when it was written and when it is set gives Priestley the ability to pose questions such as why the terrible events that occurred between the events did so. The play itself is a highly scaled down version of 1912 society with the older Birlings representing the upper classes and Eva Smith the lower classes. Shelia, Eric and the Inspector all act as links between the two in varying ways. The inspector is a direct link as he argues for the lower class; he has the courage to stand up to those who are above him. Shelia and Eric are the possibility of a link, they symbolise the hope that in time we may live in an equal society. The play is about an upper class family whose world is turned upside down when an inspector knocks on their door. He tells them that they have each contributed towards the suicide of a young, lower class woman. Priestley shows the audience how each character reacts, and it is the attitude of the elders that the audience will know has caused the great tragedies of two world wars, but Priestley leaves the audience with the idea that the new generation hold a new hope. In 1912 the lower classes were greatly oppressed and treated very badly, they were not educated and they had the lowest paid jobs. They lived in squalid conditions and many of their lives hinged on the members of the upper classes. This is the message that Priestley was trying to deliver in his play, that every action has a reaction, that all of our lives are intertwined and that we can alter others lives with what we do. He promotes the dream where we realise this and live in a world where everyone treats everyone else with kindness and respect, where equality will reign. ...read more.

Middle

She should say it in a tone of voice which shows that she is baffled at how this event cannot have altered his views. Birling then insists that it matters whether or not the inspector was real or not, to which Shelia replies, "Well it doesn't to me. And it oughtn't to you, either." The tone should be one of defiance and one which is intended to make Birling feel guilty. It should show to the audience that she has now learnt something, and it is exactly what the inspector wanted them all to learn. She is now completely sorry for what she did and feels a great deal of guilt, so she cannot understand why her father does not. It is towards this part of the play that she begins to express herself. She says, "I'm not being (childish). If you want to know, its you two who are being childish - trying not to face the facts." She says this angrily and furiously to show the audience that she no longer has respect for her parents after their showing of complete arrogance and selfishness. She should say it as though she is trying to force them into understanding to show the audience that she feels much better within herself for learning from her mistakes and she wishes the same for her parents. It is her father's complete disregard for her argument that fires her into a very important speech. The speech starts, "But don't you see" and ends "is a police inspector or not." The whole speech should be said very emotively and sincerely to show the audience that she realises that this event has changed her life dramatically and she will no longer be held back from her views. She goes to each character accusing them and looking them straight in the eye to show that despite age she now has the right to see herself as the most mature member of the group and so she can challenge her parents. ...read more.

Conclusion

He should speak in a tone which suggests that he really can't see why Shelia's upset, which will show the audience that he does not feel any remorse for his actions. He then says to Shelia, "But the whole thing's different now. Come, come, you can see that can't you?" This should be said joyfully so as to show the audience that Birling really thinks that as long as no one knows when you've done wrong then everything is all right. He should say it as though, despite Shelia's best efforts to convince him, he still is baffled as to why Sheila is upset. He is so cold himself that he cannot see how anyone could be remorseful over the situation. Shortly after this piece he says to Shelia, "You'll have a good laugh over it when you look back, you'd better ask Gerald for that ring you gave back to him, hadn't you?" This should be said normally and even in a way that slightly mocks Sheila for feeling remorse. It is right near the end of the play and so his tone should be a testament to just how little he has learnt. His mind is already back on gaining social status by Sheila marrying Gerald and this shows the audience just how shockingly immoral he is. It is one of his last lines in the play and his body language should be one of humour and rejoice so as to show the audience that he feels no remorse or sorrow for what he has done. I feel that the two pieces of text that I have compared for Birling are good for completely different reasons to that of Shelia. Whereas with Sheila I was trying to highlight how much she had learnt, with Birling I wanted to show the complete opposite. I feel that I have done this as the two pieces I have chosen show that his attitude and feelings are exactly the same before and after the event and so he has learnt nothing. ...read more.

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