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"An Inspector Calls" - issues raised in the play concerning the social structure of the time and how this has been relayed

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Introduction

"An Inspector Calls" 'An Inspector Calls' was written in 1945 by J.B. Priestley although it is set in the spring of 1912. This coursework will hope to address issues raised in the play concerning the social structure of the time and how this has been relayed in the play, it hopes to discuss techniques used by Priestley to create dramatic effect and how various themes and messages are brought about by his writing. It hopes to analyse how Priestley feels about the upper classes and there attitudes in the early 20th century and how he is trying to send a message to members of the upper class about their actions and how they can effect other people. The main characters are that of the Birling family and the inspector. Arthur Birling is a wealthy man in the upper classes who runs his own manufacturing company. As well as being rather pompous he is described by Priestley as 'portentous' due to his views of the future. He is in his middle fifties and is also described as having 'unpolished' speech. Arthur's wife is Sybil Birling who is said to be of a similar age to her husband and is described as being 'cold' and 'austere'. Another interesting point about her is that she is in a superior social position to her husband, this is noticeable at a few points during the play in the way she speaks to him; after his portentous speech in Act 1 Sybil Birling comes out with 'Arthur!' Mr. Birling stops his speech and turns his attention to his wife, at this time it is unlikely a women would have talked to his wife in such a way. Shelia Birling is their daughter in her middle twenties and is obviously pleased with life, as she has just got engaged to Gerald Croft who is near 30 years old and is very confident about himself. ...read more.

Middle

This is used to build up tension, not only between the inspector and the other characters but also between the characters themselves because some of them begin to realise that they know things that the others don't, as well as this tension builds up between the audience and the inspector because the audience have got to know the characters quite well and the inspector is almost an 'intruder' into the lives of the characters and the engagement party which was taking place. Another way in which Priestley builds up tension is in the use of lighting. When the inspector arrives Mr. Birling asks Edna the maid to give them more light, which she promptly does, the stage directions at the start explain what the light should be like. At the start we are told that lighting should be 'pink and intimate' this expresses a feeling of comfort and the family are together, happy and content. However, when the inspector arrives we are told the lighting should change to brighter and harder; this does a couple of things. Firstly, the mood obviously changes; the stage no longer portrays a happy and content family but one that has been invaded by an unknown and unwanted guest. As well as this the brighter light may have been used to show that the inspector is about to shed light on matters that may previously been concealed, the bright light makes the faces of the actors much more clear and this allows the audience and the inspector to see better how they are react to allegations that are being made against them. As the tension grows stronger Mr. Birling does seem to begin to crack, he describes Eva Smith death as 'the wretched girl's suicide' and when the inspector wants to know information such as why he didn't give Eva Smith the pay rise he begins to question the inspectors authority with comments such as 'I don't like that tone' and making threats that he knows the chief constable ...read more.

Conclusion

He exists merely as the middleman to question them about their actions and let the rest of the family see what they have done, he is also there to make them think about what they have done and more importantly how they will act in the future. In the closing lines of the play the audience feel the play is over and they have been put through tension and surprise while watching the story of the Birling's unfold, however, there is to be one last twist in the tale that will do the thing that all authors and playwrights want, leave the audience wanting more. The phone rings at the end and an inspector explains there has been a suicide and he is over to ask some question, the curtain then falls. The audience are left wondering what is to happen, will the family be arrested? How will this inspector on his way differ from Goole? Is Eva Smith dead or is it someone else? Will the Birling's explain to the new inspector that someone has already been? None of these questions are answered and so the audience leave feeling part of the story and left pondering what happens, thinking about the play long after the curtain falls. In conclusion An Inspector Calls is much more than a murder mystery. Priestley leaves us all questioning our own position in life and how we could act differently in future. It raises moral questions such as those concerning gender and class, Priestley uses many techniques to criticise the upper classes and specifically aims the play at getting them to change there attitudes. An Inspector Calls follows few of the normal conditions for a murder mystery, firstly there is no murder, there is no 'whodunit?' question asked and there is no big reveal. This takes little away from the success of a play that involves the audience in thinking about how it relates to their lives, in a way you never expect it too when you enter the auditorium. ...read more.

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