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An Inspector Calls

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Twentieth Century Drama October 2007 Priestley wanted to entertain and educate his audience. Explore the ways in which he does both of these in Act Three of 'An Inspector Calls' You should include reference to other parts of the play in your response. In 'An Inspector Calls', the playwright, J.B. Priestley, uses several methods in order to arouse and sustain interest as well as entertain and educate his audience. Some of the techniques that he uses are dramatic irony, language, and stage directions. He also uses the Inspector as a device, particularly in Act Three, to convey his strong social message to both the contemporary audience and those of the present day. The play was written in 1944-1945 but first performed in theatres in 1946, after World War II. Priestley deliberately chose to set the play in 1912 in order to help communicate his message. He utilizes Mr. Birling's optimistic view to make ironic references that 'there isn't a chance of war' and the 'Titanic is...unsinkable', which the audience would find entertaining, as well as offensive because they were struggling to re-build their lives after the war. As the audience know that his comments are incorrect, they begin to doubt his judgements right from the start and anticipate his fall. At that time, Britain was also in an uneasy state, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. ...read more.


This is an important characteristic of the Inspector, which helps explain his ability to dominate the Birlings by 'cutting in' through their conversations, showing his authoritative and commanding attitude. 'He speaks carefully, weightily', preventing them to distract him from his inquiry by moving their attention to the death of Eva Smith to make them focus on the issue. 'There'll be plenty of time, when I've gone, for you all to adjust your family relationships. At the beginning of Act One, Priestley also clarifies in the stage directions that 'the lighting should be pink and intimate until the INSPECTOR arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder.' The change in lighting suggests a variation in the mood, from a 'warm' and 'joyful' atmosphere to a sense of tension as the Inspector is going to throw light on the characters to reveal some of the dark truths about them. The Inspector is the major device that Priestley uses to entertain and educate his audience. He uses him as a mouthpiece to portray his socialist philosophy to the audience. This is particularly shown when the Inspector delivers a final speech, which is rather like a sermon, before he departs. He states that 'One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us,' indicating that there are many people like her who will need help. ...read more.


Priestley does not reveal the Inspector's identity to leave the audience with an element of mystery, allowing them to make predictions about the reality of the Inspector. However, one definite answer is that Priestley uses him as a dramatic device to increase the pace of the story and create tension and suspense, but most importantly, to educate and entertain, presenting his central theme of responsibility to the audience, as well as the characters, 'Public men, Mr. Birling, have responsibilities as well as privileges.' It is apparent that in Act Three, and in the rest of the play, Priestley uses several different methods to articulate his message. Since an important message is represented, it signifies that 'An Inspector Calls' is not only a murder mystery, given that Priestley uncovers the story of the death of Eva Smith, but also a moralistic play. He uses dramatic devices, such as the Inspector, to make the audience contemplate on the reality that they are 'members of one body' and therefore 'responsible for one another.' This applies to both the contemporary and the modern society, where people need to work together as a community and help those who are oppressed. After studying this play, I have realised that it had an effect on me as I found myself reflecting on the way I treat other people, considering Priestley's message that 'No man is an island' (John Donne, English poet, 1571-1631) ...read more.

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