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An Inspector Calls - Priestley’s presentation on society’s value of the play.

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Introduction

Priestley's Presentation on Society's Value of the Play Varun Gupta "An Inspector Calls" is set on an evening in Spring of 1912. J.B. Priestley set the play in 1912 because life before the First World War was exactly the opposite of how people wanted life to be like after the Second World War. It takes place in the dining room of the Birling's house in Brumley, an industrial city in the North Midlands. The play is based around a mysterious inspector, who calls at the Birling's house to investigate the suicide of a young girl. The Birlings represent a typical Upper Class family of 1912. Their house represents their own 'small' world and the walls surrounding them are their protection from the outside world and reality. Mr. Birling is a hard headed businessman and sees most things as an opportunity for a new business venture, for example his daughters engagement to Gerald Croft, an aristocrat. Gerald's father owns a company that is a rival to Mr Birling's firm, Birling and Company. Mr Birling is hoping that the two companies may eventually merge. "... and now you've brought us together, and perhaps we may look forward to the time when Crofts and Birlings are no longer competing but are working together- for lower costs and higher prices." Birling also hopes to improve his social status with Gerald and Sheila marrying, as Gerald's family, the Crofts, are aristocrats. ...read more.

Middle

Once Sheila is involved in the questioning, she keeps 'digging herself into a hole'. When the Inspector shows Sheila the photograph of Eva Smith, she runs out of the room, hysterical and crying, leaving the audience and the rest of the family wondering how she knew the girl in the photograph. Birling quickly exits, to go after Sheila, despite Gerald offering to go after her. Just before Birling exits, he turns angrily to the Inspector: "We were having a nice little family celebration tonight, and a nasty mess you've made of it now, haven't you?" This proves that at this point, Birling is still wrapped up in his own life, and blames the Inspector for spoiling their celebration. At this point, obviously Birling has not learnt anything from the Inspector questioning him. When Birling leaves the room, the mood between the Inspector, Gerald and Eric goes from angry and heated, to rather uneasy, probably due to the Inspectors short and what seems to be cryptic replies and answers when asked questions. Right throughout the play but especially at this point, Birling keeps on trying to protect his daughter from the Inspector and his invasive questioning. This is very ironic as this is exactly the opposite to the way how he treated Eva Smith, who had no-one to protect her from the evil of the world and society. Sheila returns, calmer than she was before, after seeing the photograph. She comes back in as though she is prepared for the questions the Inspector has to ask her. ...read more.

Conclusion

Birling is obviously still feeling the stress as he looses his temper with Eric and threatens to throw him out. When a debate arises over the fact of whether or not it was the same girl in the photographs and even if a girl ever actually committed suicide, Gerald decides to find out for definite. He phones the Infirmary who informs him that there hasn't been a suicide for months. Birling, Mrs Birling and Gerald begin to celebrate and Birling even jokes about the Inspectors final speech but Eric and Sheila remain tense and frightened about everything that has happened that night. The whole play comes to a head when the phone rings for a final time. There is silence as Birling goes to answer it. There is a brief conversation before the other person hangs up. "Yes... Mr Birling speaking ... What? - Here? -" The family stares guiltily and dumbfounded as Birling tells them: "A girl has just died - on her way to the Infirmary - after swallowing some disinfectant. And a police inspector is on his way here - to ask some - questions -" The whole play is based upon exits and entrances of the characters and the importance of what goes on in-between them. J.B. Priestley has tried to show that if we do not learn from experiences of what is going on around us, it will continue to happen and will only stop once we have learnt to change our ways and live together as one large society or community. ...read more.

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