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An Inspector Calls. How does J.B Priestley use the Inspector as a dramatic device?

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Introduction

How does J.B Priestley use the Inspector as a dramatic device? - An Inspector Calls essay 'An Inspector Calls' is an ephemeral play largely regarding the issues of responsibility, morality and the social divide written in 1945 by the controversial playwright J.B. Priestley who's strong socialist views are very much present in this play. The play is set in 1912, 33 years before it was first produced, and this was deliberately done by Priestley as he wanted to show how much the world had changed after the World Wars, with huge gender and class divisions being a factor in the way society was run. Priestley wanted to send a message across that we have learnt from our mistakes and that the people recovering from World War II have a caring and loving society to rely on when all seems lost. Being set in 1912 gave both the audience and Priestley the benefit of hindsight of the past, providing Priestley with an opportunity to utilise dramatic irony throughout much of the play. The play is set in Brumley, Northern England and follows the Birling family's celebration of the engagement of their daughter, Sheila, to a reputable aristocrat, Gerald Croft. All seems fine and dandy until the unexpected arrival of Inspector Goole at their doorstep, arriving to interrogate the family in suspicion of assisting a working-class woman, Eva Smith, to her own suicide. The Inspector is omitted from much of Act I, where we learn much more about the other characters in the play. Within the first 10 pages, Priestley has attempted to create a jolly and comfortable family atmosphere with some cold uncertainties under the skin into the mix. He introduces the characters and sets the scene, letting the audience create an opinion on how the story will unfold/ how the characters will develop This is seen in the stage directions describing the setting of the Birling family home, 'The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and homelike'. ...read more.

Middle

Whatever they have to say, the Inspector fights back and always tends to win. This is seen when Arthur Birling tries to show he is a man of power and influence and tries desperately to win him over - he says he's a 'former Lord Mayor'. Birling also tries to put the Inspector down by boasting he knows about most of the town's police officers. But the Inspector is not in the slightest bemused and just disregards all of Birling's attempts to impress him, by saying 'quite so' then swiftly continuing. Arthur Birling is not used to taking orders from anyone - he controls the money and his family. The Inspector is a challenge to his authority, Birling only caring about this and not about the part he played in Eva Smith's death. This again shows the fa�ade that the family put on, everything has to be perfect and any interruptions will have to be dealt with, in this case the Inspector. The Inspector is a key character in the play and is crucial to plot progression. He is the catalyst, the person who drives things forward, makes things happen and takes complete control of the situation, no matter what anyone else has to say. It is almost as if the Inspector is the puppeteer, he plays with the characters to find out what he needs in his own way The play is named after him, 'An Inspector Calls' showing the significance of his character. 'Calls' is a deceptive word to use about the Inspector. The way he operates may appear casual and spontaneous, but in fact it's single minded and calculating. He is a very grave character, taking nothing lightly and killing the mood, helping to force the suspects to take him seriously. This is seen in the line, 'It's the way I like to go to work. One person and one line of inquiry at a time.' ...read more.

Conclusion

Sheila reacts sorrowfully and sympathetically towards his disheartening descriptions, but after his final speech, everyone is affected. The Inspector's leaving speech has a strange, powerful and prophetic quality about it, they summarise the play's philosophy about how society is so uneven; the audience at the time were especially influenced by the line, 'if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught in fire & blood & anguish,' as they were just recovering from the devastation of World War II. The speech is the dramatic peak of the play, affecting every character significantly, leaving them 'staring, subdued and wondering.' Sheila is 'quietly crying', Mrs. Birling has 'collapsed into a chair', Eric is 'brooding desperately' and Mr. Birling 'hastily swallows' a drink. The Inspector leaves a lasting mark on the family but leaves them to solve their own problems, he has no interest. He's the voice of morality in this play, pronouncing his judgement of society and disappearing, like the 'ghoul' he is. To conclude, Inspector Goole is a very effective dramatic device used by Priestley in this play as the Inspector ultimately drives the plot forward, without him everything would be secretive ('rose-tinted spectacles') and bland. He provides mystery and uncertainty, creating tension amongst the audience and spreads Priestley's emphatic message of socialism to the world, of how we must recognise and confess our wrongdoings and make our planet a better place, it is what we were put on this planet to do. Who knew a 'tall man who is clean shaven' could provide such intensity, power and righteousness to a 'ghoulish' role as a false police inspector? Priestley did of course, and used it to great effect, capturing audience's imaginations worldwide and by creating one of the best mystery plays of the modern era. The Inspector is an influential character, changing the ways the characters lived their lives and shaping the world we live in today. ?? ?? ?? ?? By Tom Spellins 10S - Miss Clee - English Coursework ...read more.

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