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An Inspector Calls" - The style of the play seems to be that of the straightforward detective thriller. To what extent is this statement true?"

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Charlie Ward 25th January 2003 Post 1914 Drama - An Inspector Calls "The style of the play seems to be that of the straightforward detective thriller. To what extent is this statement true?" At the beginning of the play, J.B. Priestley gives a very elaborate and detailed amount of stage settings, lighting and character descriptions. These were so detailed as Priestley wanted the mood of the first scene to linger through out the whole play. For example "The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and home like." This was obviously taken in to account in the television production, as the extremely large table was the central point of the beginning. The size of the table showed that although the characters were a family, they were not close, not even to eat and celebrate with each other. The wealth of the family was portrayed extremely well in the television production. The set was authentic and traditional to the early twentieth century. The rich colours and costumes were excellent ways of showing the wealth of the characters. They were also portrayed very well to be pleased with themselves, just as in the stage direction at the beginning. The stage production at the Victoria Theatre in Woking had an impressively sinister set, shrouded in smoke, which reflected the grim nature of the play's subject matter. In this production the Birling household was situated high up on a platform, which reflects their arrogance and superiority over other people. Edna, the housemaid, is one of those people as she is considered below the Birlings. Her lower class characteristics are clear, because of the fact that she stays out of the house and outside in the rain while the Birlings celebrate, on a higher level than her. Mr. Birling's speeches at the beginning of the play in act one are very bombastic and are filled with dramatic irony - 'The Titanic, unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable' - 'Silly little war scares'. ...read more.


Gerald is non-committal as ever, but Sheila and Eric appreciate the irrelevance of the Inspector's true identity. His comment 'You see, we have to share something. If there's nothing else, we'll have to share our guilt', is understood by Sheila, but as the idea of community is still alien to the Birling parents, they cannot relate to it. Mr. and Mrs. Birling, represent the values of the Capitalist Empire that have refused to learn important lessons about collective responsibility. 'We are members of one body, we are responsible for each other.' This is a sentence taken from the inspector's last speech and it sums up exactly what Priestly was trying to get across. The speech would have been performed in a very serious manner and with a commanding tone, spoken slowly and carefully so the audience would get the full, dramatic impact. This way Priestley's aim would come across in a good way. 'Good night.' A polite and almost mocking final word to the family. Because of the Inspector's discoveries, they cannot possibly have a 'good' night, but one that they will remember as probably one of the worst nights in their lives. The inspector's speech would provoke much discussion in the audience because of the powerful language used and because he left the scene directly after speaking. The audience would discuss amongst themselves whether or not they agree with the inspector's speech. If they already do they probably feel quite pleased with themselves and if not they might feel guilty and ashamed. This left the Birling's subdued and wondering what the inspector's speech really meant. This speech is unlike a detective thriller because the inspector probably gets too emotional, whereas a stereotypical detective would be a lot more formal. Another incident in the play where the inspector becomes too involved to be real is at the end of Act 2: Inspector: "(very sternly) ...read more.


Birling says slowly that the Infirmary had called and that 'a girl has just died - after swallowing some disinfectant. And a police inspector is on his way here - to ask some - questions'. That is the very end of the play and the curtain falls. There is no conclusion or epilogue to round off the play. But that is what makes it so entertaining. There is mystery and a chance for the audience to make up their own minds about how the family will be able to cope with another inspector and all his questions. The characters are already exhausted, confused and emotionally drained, and although the audience can now relax and return to reality, there is a strong feeling that for the Birling family it is not over. The powerful ending showing the recycling of events is about to begin, and the rest is left to the imagination. This makes Priestley's play different to a usual detective thriller, and more educational and as well as entertaining, more thought provoking. That is the aim of the play; to affect the audience enough to make them think about their own lives fears, hopes, suffering and chances of happiness. The play is hard-hitting on the audience, as there may well be people that can relate to the Birling parent's status and therefore have to ask themselves how they would react in such a situation, (no matter how extreme it may seem). Questions arise, like 'How would I have treated Eva Smith?' 'Would I have accepted the blame?' 'What are my beliefs on the subject of community?' 'Am I a Mr. Birling or an Inspector Goole in my beliefs?' and 'Has the world's attitude changed at all from 1912, to this day?' There are so many questions that are designed to help the audience to help themselves. Mr. Birling's views are portrayed as wrong and the Inspector's are right. So, if the world still hasn't learned the valuable lesson, then it will be forced to learn it again and again and again in 'fire and blood and anguish' until it understands. ...read more.

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