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An Inspector Calls

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Introduction

English Coursework - 'An Inspector Calls' 'An Inspector Calls' is a murder mystery written in the form of a play set in 1912 and is written by J.B. Priestly. It revolves around one family of a high social status - the Birlings. The play begins with the family celebrating the engagement of their daughter, Sheila, to a man called Gerald Croft. Their celebration is interrupted by a call from an Inspector, making inquiries about a young girl called Eva Smith who has just died from swallowing a large amount of disinfectant. The Inspector then begins to question each member of the family to uncover their part in Eva's death. Priestly uses each character, including the Inspector, to teach the audience very important life lessons - both individual and collective responsibility. 'An Inspector Calls' has been called a modern day morality play because Priestly uses his characters to represent the many different people in the world and tries to bring them all together in a family unit to teach them a very important lesson. The lessons learnt can be applied to everyone's daily life, regardless of their status/situation and the lesson is one of moral values. This lesson is learnt through the Inspector and Priestly reinforces his main message through the layout and language of the play e.g. the dramatic irony, plain irony and varied characters making sure that everyone can identify to at least one and perhaps learn a lesson from them. Priestly's main theme of the play is that we are all responsible for each other and we all have to think about our actions and what effect they will have on others. This is shown mainly through the parts that each family member play in the death of Eva Smith. Although not entirely to blame, each family member in some way contributed to her death. Even Gerald, one who is not yet in this family, was entwined in a web of immoral behaviour and deceit. ...read more.

Middle

Girl of that class..." Both the endings of these two statements show that Mrs Birling has absolutely no compassion and is simply not bothered with those of a lower class. When asked by the Inspector who she blamed, she says not only the girl but also the father. Mrs Birling is very naive and acts quite idiotically as she implicates Eric. Sheila and the Inspector both realise this, clear from where Sheila begs her mother to stop. Mrs Birling does not realise that by the way she is talking she is getting her son into more and more trouble. This is one of various occasions where Priestly uses dramatic irony. We, the audience, realise the full impact of Mrs Birling's speech and how she is unknowingly convicting her own son. Dramatic Impact is used at the end of Mrs Birling's speech, at the end of Act Two, which ends with Eric entering the house and both the Inspector and Sheila, as well as Mrs Birling, looking apprehensively towards the door as Sheila begs her mother to keep quiet. Later on, after the departure of the inspector, Mrs Birling claims that she was not fooled by the inspector and did not succumb to his ability to draw out information, which is a blatant lie. The Birling's son, Eric, is used by Priestly to show two main themes of "An Inspector Calls." Eric shows, through sleeping with Eva because "she was a good sport" and through stealing money, that people of a high social class do not necessarily have the better morals. We can also see from the different morals of Eva and Eric - she not accepting stolen money - that a lower social class does not equal worse morals and visa versa (according to Mrs Birling and public opinion Eva have worse morals) and Eva has in fact got better morals than Eric! It also shows how dysfunctional the Birling family actually is: a family with such a high social status and an abundance of wealth does not equal good family life. ...read more.

Conclusion

Priestly ends the play in this way leaving the audience to ponder as to whether, having failed the first time, they will take their second chance from the real Inspector. I think that the reason this play is written in 1945 but set in 1912 is because Priestly had witnessed two world wars and feels that something has to be done about it. He chooses 1912 because of the social and historical background of this period. From 1900 until 1912 there was a series of riots and strikes in a bid for higher wages, welfare and benefit for the homeless, poor and the needy. By 1911 there were nationwide violent riots with 200,000 on strike. By choosing 1912, people will think back to the period before and after and perhaps see how the messages of the play can be seen throughout history. If people had perhaps been concerned with others there may not have been so much striking leading to riots and thousands of deaths. There would not have been so much poverty, so much depression. By using a detective story, Priestly was capturing the audience's attention - thrillers were very popular in that period. As well as being of detective genre it is also a play with a message - everyone is as important as everyone else, regardless of class and we are all responsible for each other. Priestly's play is called a modern day morality pay because many lessons can be learnt from it. Priestly emphasises these main morals through the characters and uses dramatic devices to convey these messages and to have a harsh impact on the audience. The main morals I learnt from this play is that we must all examine our own consciences' - symbolised by the Inspector and that we have to learn from the past in order to shape the future and by learning from these experiences we can become better people. The tile 'An Inspector Calls' does not represent someone specific - 'AN'. This could refer to anyone showing that the message apply to us all. 1 Gemma Hersh 11JS ...read more.

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