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An Inspector Calls

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Introduction

John Boynton Priestley was a socialist play write who wrote "An Inspector Calls", a thought-provoking murder mystery in 1945. "One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions of Eva and John Smiths still left with us". Priestley's strong views on "acting like a community" were cleverly put into the character of the inspector and the opposite was given to the more Laissez Faire opinionated characters such as Mr and Mrs Birling. The play was such a success because Priestley not only entertained his audience, but educated them as well. In this essay I will show how he used different techniques and involved different issues when writing the play. One of Priestley's themes was based around generations, and the idea that "hope is with the young". He gave this message by conveying the younger generation as the potential heroes, the older generation as the dismissive, with a "live what you have" attitude and the Inspector as the character to drag out the other characters true feelings. "You don't realise yet all you've done. Most of this is bound to come out. They'll be a public scandal" When the curtain rises at the beginning of the play, we see Birling in his usual upper class, loud, high-status manner. However, when the Inspector leaves in Act three, Birling's pride is taken. ...read more.

Middle

"As if were all mixed up together like bees in a hive - community and all that nonsense" Although Birling ultimately appears to be upright and in control, Priestley cleverly sneaks in Birlings signs of foolishness. He falls into a state of embarrassment and guilt for the first time in the play when the Inspector exits. However, this is quickly recovered. In a speech he makes near the beginning his blissful absentminded-ness is revealed to the audience when he mentions "The world developing so fast that it'll make war impossible" Whilst trying to prove a point to his son Eric who is on the track on the subject (not in denial) and is debating the possibility of war, Eric appears as a very quiet, yet dignified man. To me, this seems it is because he wants to follow in his father's proud footsteps, but has been so often corrected and dismissed by his father that he's lost a certain degree of argumentation. Gerald seems to share Eric's unexpressed nature, but perhaps based on him not wanting to aggravate or challenge Birling. Mrs Birling and Sheila have a more boisterous and demanding way of dealing with things. Mrs Birling doesn't speak as much as Sheila, but when she does speak, she's defending herself, showing Mr Birling's right wing enforcement on her. ...read more.

Conclusion

"Have you had a girl brought in this afternoon who committed suicide?" Another hole in the case - no girl in the infirmary. However, Sheila and Eric are not apprehensive, as they know the crime that the Birlings have committed. So what of the final phone call? Well this is where Priestley's most famous technique is brought into practice: time travel. "That was the police. A girl has just died - on her way to the infirmary - after swallowing some disinfectant. And a police inspector is on his way her - to ask some - questions-" The play suddenly ends with Priestley's most baffling line, and here the audience are left bewildered. Priestley's techniques of taking the introduction of the Inspector and putting it as the last line of the play. This is a very effective technique as it leaves the audience to conjure their own conclusion of the play. Was he a semi-successful eye-opener for the Birlings? A conscience, a ghost, a spirit? Priestley's use of creating hatred, empathy and pity for the characters through the audience is very clever. He slid in essential clues that the audience start to pick up on once Birling and Gerald dissect all of the questionable parts of the evening. By the characters being so controversial, the story builds with disputes and disagreements that make a good play to watch. Ultimately "An Inspector Calls" is a vivacious thought-provoking murder mystery play. ...read more.

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