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GCSE: J.B. Priestley

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John Boynton Priestley's biography

  1. 1 He was born in Yorkshire in 1894. He left school at sixteen because he believed that the world outside the classroom would help him become a writer. He said that it was the years 1911-14 ‘that set their stamp upon me’.
  2. 2 When World War One broke out in 1914, Priestley joined the infantry and by the time he left the army in 1919, he had seen active front-line service and narrowly escaped being killed. These experiences were to influence his future writing.
  3. 3 When he left the army he went to Cambridge University and although he finished his degree, he did not like academia and went to London to work as a freelance writer.
  4. 4 He soon became a successful writer of essays and novels and in 1932 he wrote his first play Dangerous Corner to prove that he could adapt his style for the stage. He soon established himself as a leading figure in the London theatre.
  5. 5 When World War Two broke out in 1939 Priestley continued to write his plays, while also writing and broadcasting on BBC radio. During this time he was producing his best work and wrote An Inspector Calls (1945) about the effects of an individual’s actions and the consequences of those actions.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 21
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    How does the character Sheila Birlings change in the play An Inspector Calls?

    5 star(s)

    When we meet Sheila she seems to be satisfied with life; she is also from a comfortable family and so is Gerald. When Gerald is presenting Sheila with her engagement ring she accepts it in an "[excited]" way and she spends a long time looking at it, (Birling says, "Are you listening, Sheila?"). Her relationship with Gerald seems to be fine on the surface but if you were to dig a little deeper you could see signs of problems. Sheila mentioned how Gerald never came near her the previous summer, but Gerald quickly replied with an excuse claiming that he was "awfully busy at the works all that time".

    • Word count: 1384
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the way the characters between different generations is developed in An Inspector Calls

    4 star(s)

    The word ?mock? means, in this case, means fake and not serious, reflecting the attitude of Sheila at the start quite clearly, as someone who is not very serious about most things. Throughout the entire first act this attitude is continued until she meets the Inspector, with Priestley using such phrases as ?Half serious half playful? and ?light and easy? to describe her. Birling, on the other hand, is shown to be quite arrogant and stuck up, even stupid, at the start of the play.

    • Word count: 1466
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss the way Sheila and Gerald's relationship evolves through the play. What hope do you think there is for their future happiness together?

    4 star(s)

    She says 'Is this the one you wanted me to have?' which shows her willingness to be controlled. Also, when the Inspector mentions Milwards, she says 'We go there - in fact I was there this afternoon - for your benefit.' Sheila appears to be affectionate and easy-going, but Eric suggests that she isn't always as she seems to be when he says 'She's got a nasty temper sometimes - but she's not bad really.' The first doubt of their relationship is early on in the play, when Sheila says '...all last summer when you never came near me, and I wondered what had happened to you.'

    • Word count: 1552
  4. Marked by a teacher

    How does Priestley create dramatic tension in Act 1 of An Inspector Calls up until the arrival of Inspector Goole?

    3 star(s)

    The first few indications of tension are in the first few lines. The first line says, "The dining-room of a fairy large suburban house" The fact that the Birlings live in a suburban house suggests that it is a safe and peaceful place to live; but as we find out, it isn't like that at all, and it may just be a cover up for all the lies and secrets. Next it says, "The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and homelike" This shows that clearly the Birlings are wealthy and have a materialistic home; but by saying that it is not cosy or homelike it suggests that the Birlings are on edge, and are not all comfortable in each others company.

    • Word count: 1890
  5. Marked by a teacher

    An Inspector calls - Sheila and Mr. Birling.

    3 star(s)

    Mr Birling and Sheila's characters are hardly the same. This is shown by the language both father and daughter use. Sheila uses slang, whereas Mr Birling being a very important and respectable character doesn't use slang, binging from different generations. Sheila uses phrase like your squiffy to tell her brother, Eric that he is drunk. Her use of slang shows her youth whereas Mr Birling words and language show his self-important. When he interrupted by Eric he says things like just let me finish Eric, with out considering that Eric may have something important to say.

    • Word count: 1962
  6. Marked by a teacher

    What was J.B.Priestley's intention in writing 'An inspector calls'? How do modern interpretations support his message to the audience?

    3 star(s)

    Each member of the Birling family is also selfish, self-centered and arrogant. Mr. Birling is a business man, a self-centered, arrogant, money grabbing business man. He only cares about three things, they are; himself, his family and his business. He says, '...a man has to make his own way-has to look after himself- and his family too of course...' This quote tells us that he only cares about himself and his family and doesn't feel the need to even know that lower class people exist.

    • Word count: 1186
  7. Eva Smith's Diary

    Only I can stop myself if I want to stop that is. 28th September 1910. You never guess what the horrible old man did he only went and sacked me. When we agreed to go back to work he stopped us and told us that he didn't want some troublesome, ringleader toffs working in his factory and told us we can work elsewhere! I am going to see about a job that is being advertised in a clothes shop. Dressing up rich, snotty cows in all these lovely dresses, which they will grow out of when they lose even more weight is my idea of fun.

    • Word count: 1551
  8. Does it affect your response to the play that Priestly leaves it unclear whether there is one Eva Smith or several?

    For example, the fact that on questioning members of the Birling family and Mr Croft, the inspector insists that only one person sees the photograph at any one time, and that that person must be the one who is being questioned. Of course, it is possible that this is the way in which this particular inspector does his work. However, if he were to let everyone in the Birling household see the picture at the same time, by the time he questioned the other family members they would have had time to react to the picture and would be able

    • Word count: 1515
  9. What lessons does JB Priestley wish to convey to the audience in the play An Inspector Calls? (Critically analyse the way and why he does this)

    In the play, the character of the older generation is contradicting to the younger generation. They seem to be a lot more proud, snobby, optimistic and extremely selfish. This is highlighted in Act 1, when Mr Birling tries but fails to impress the Inspector when he boasts about his years as a mayor, and the likelihood of receiving a knighthood by the Queen. The message that JB Priestly tries to make is that your character is a representation of yourself. Whether you're young or old, your character will always define who you are. Furthermore, JB Priestly correspondingly tries to point out, that you're status in society isn't everything, your family and their well- being comes first.

    • Word count: 1159
  10. Discuss the ways J.B Priestley uses the character of Sheila to develop his themes.

    Priestley uses Mr Birling and Sheila as metaphors for the change he wants to see in Britain. Mr Birling represents the attitudes the attitude of Britian prior to the war, whereas Sheila represents the attitude that Priestley believes Britain should have after the war. Speaking of the death of Eva Smith (who was a former employee in his business); he classes the situation as a "public scandal." A "scandal" is disgraceful gossip that will ruin the reputation of someone or something.

    • Word count: 1769
  11. How does J.B Priestly create dramatic tension in Act 1 of "An Inspector Calls"?

    At the start of the play the audience is greeted by this happy sense everything seems to be fine. The furniture is "good solid furniture" and the lighting is "pink and intimate" this suggests that the family are rich and comfortable and the lighting suits the opening of the play because they are having a engagement party this also shows it is romantic and happy atmosphere. However Priestly begins to drop hints that all is not well and characters start acting mysteriously, in particular Eric who is acting very strange "Yes I remember (but he checks himself)". This shows that he remembers a memory perhaps something he wants to change it shows he keeping something to himself this creates tension because it makes the audience want to know what the secret is.

    • Word count: 1118
  12. An Inspector Calls Coursework. In the play, Priestley inferred many ideas about anti-capitalism, the Welfare State and collective conscience.

    Pink often represents a warm, cosy feeling, which is how the Birlings would probably be feeling at that moment, due to the celebration of Sheila and Gerald's engagement. Also, pink can be representative of love, which in this case is to do with the love between Sheila and Gerald. However when the Inspector does arrive, the lighting suddenly becomes 'brighter and harder', showing how his the ability to show the truth about Gerald's relationship with Sheila, which is found out later in the play, so that love is lost therefore the pink lighting which shows love is lost.

    • Word count: 1667
  13. How does J.B Priestley use dramatic devices to convey his concerns and ideas to members of the audience as well as interest to involve them in the play?

    The play has a very significant social context. It is set in 1912; this year was very different from the time it was performed in 1945. During his life, Priestley was very able to follow the path of going to university; instead he thought he would get a better feel for the world around him away from academia and became a clerk for a local wool firm at the age of 16. When World War One started, he joined the infantry where he escaped death many times.

    • Word count: 1530
  14. What important elements of the play An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley are presented in Act I?

    It is the year 1912, and social status and wealth plays a vital role in the English society. The Birling family is gathered for a celebration in the dining room of a "fairly large suburban house". Although the house is "heavily comfortable", it is "not cosy and homelike" suggesting that the Birling family do not share a strong bond and that they do not spend much time together. The family is in "evening dress", symptomatic for the time period, and an indication of wealth and prestige.

    • Word count: 1188
  15. How Does Priestley Use The Role Of The Inspector?

    This creates a huge effect on the audience, as it gets them to agree with what the Inspector is saying, as the audience already know that these things have happened. The audience would listen to the views of the Inspector not only because the Inspector is omniscient and the fact that he's always right but because they would see Mr Birling as unreliable and disregard everything he says, this adds to the authority the Inspector has in the play. Priestley uses the role of the Inspector as the instigator of development in the play, the Inspector controls the plot of the play, nothing moves along without his say "one person and one line of enquiry at a time".

    • Word count: 1662
  16. In Act One of An Inspector Calls how does J.B. Priestley use dramatic devices to convey his concerns and ideas to the members of the audience, as well as interest and involve them in his play?

    For example in 1912 the ruling classes saw no need to change the status quo; in 1945 there was a great desire for social change. Immediately after World War 2, Labour's Clement Attlee won a landslide election victory over the Conservative Winston Churchill. "An Inspector Calls" is a thriller; it uses dramatic devices to convey Priestley's concerns and ideas to the members of the audience, as well as interest and involve them in his play. Priestley uses dramatic irony successfully very early on the play to convey his concerns and ideas, by making Mr Birling look foolish and to show us how arrogant the upper class was during 1912.

    • Word count: 1361
  17. What does the study of words and actions of the Birling family tell you about attitudes to guilt and responsibility at the time of the play?

    "All five are in evening dress of the period." The tone is very light hearted and everyone seems to be getting on brilliantly. Sheila's engagement to Gerald means a lot to Arthur Birling. The marriage means Birling would hopefully be able to work with Gerald's dad in business. "Working together- for lower costs and higher prices." Mrs Birling also feels the marriage is important because Sheila is marrying into a higher social status and a very wealthy family. Mr Birling describes this as "one of the happiest days of my life."

    • Word count: 1230
  18. Explain how far Priestley uses the features of a Well Made Play to create additional tense and suspension in an Inspector Calls.

    Due to Inspector Calls being a play it had to grip the audience from the off. Priestley didn't have time to create intricate 3-D personality, or mysterious subtle personas. Instead his characters have to be blunt, and rather stereotypical, so the audience could instantly feel acquainted with them. The entrances and exits are key feature in the play 'Inspector Calls'. The entrances and exits provide a platform for very bold moments within the play. The manner in which a character can enter a room can dictate the majority of the remaining scene, a character leaving a scene can also have a similar effect.

    • Word count: 1015
  19. This is England - review

    then changes the fun and innocent mood of the group and introduces a new character called Combo. He was Woody's old friend who had spent three years in prison. Combo represents all the negatives that come to mind with the skinhead label, unlike the happy, friendly others. Combo is a racist and immediately splits the group of friends into two; one group with Woody just simply wanting friendship and the other following Combo who wants to take action and is a terrible racist. Combo persuades Sean that it was some Asians fault that his dad died and for him to follow Combo.

    • Word count: 1418
  20. Inspector Calls

    I refused of course' 'it's my duty to keep the labour costs down'. This shows that Mr. Birling only thinks of how he can get more money and does not think about the working class; it also shows his ignorance to paying the littlest bit more money to workers, and when the inspector finishes and Birling finds out he is partly responsible he offers money to the inspector, 'Look, Inspector - I'd give thousands, yes thousands...You're offering the money at the wrong time.' These quotes show how selfish Mr. Birling is and shows how much he is willing to pay to keep this quite for his knighthood on the next honours list.

    • Word count: 1821
  21. An inspector Calls

    This was a marriage that would have resulted in the merging of two successful local businesses. Suddenly, at the moment everything was going well and according to clockwork, they received a horrifying visit from the inspector, who was investigating the suicide of a young girl (Eva Smith). Each member of the Birling Family has a deviating attitude to responsibility. Inspector Goole wanted each member of the family to share the responsibility of the death of Eva Smith, as he tells them, "Each of you helped to kill her." Here the inspector mentions collective responsibility, everyone in society is linked, in the identical way that the characters in the play are linked to Eva smith.

    • Word count: 1836
  22. Exploration of the presentation of the inspector in An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley

    and Gerald Croft, the son of the .................. of high ........... business corporation company Crofts Limited. The Birlings are a high-class, prosperous, family and Mr Birling (a hard-headed business man', a rich business man who thinks very highly of himself), who is the head of Birling and Company, is pleased at the business opportunity in the engagement of Sheila to Gerald. In a speech he announces at the dinner table, he speaks mainly to Gerald; '"Your father and I have been friendly rivals in business for some time now-thought Crofts Limited are both older and bigger than Birling and Company-and now you've brought us together, and perhaps we

    • Word count: 1071
  23. Inspector calls responsibilty

    Sheila seems to change dramatically throughout the course of the play she begins by being dependant on her parents and as the stage directions state "pleased with her life". However by the end of the play Sheila is able to form her own opinions and able to take responsibility unlike her father and mother. An example of this is she tells her parents that they may not go on like they have done before despite becoming aware of the inspector as a fake she says "you're pretending everything is just as it was before".

    • Word count: 1072
  24. An Inspector Calls Essay Timing and stage directions are central to the text as a play. What is the role of these techniques in the play?

    Stage directions at the start of the play establish a typical murder mystery. Everyone's "pleased with themselves" and "are celebrating a special occasion". All characters are on stage, the murder has happened before the play which keeps the audience interested. The audience doesn't see the event emphasising the dramatical element of the play. Furthermore when the inspector comes in, "cutting in" on Birling's speech on "community and all that nonsense" demonstrates that the inspector clearly disagrees with him. Also this proves that Birling is a valid culprit in the play as when Eric mentions Birling's speech on "community and all that nonsense" in front the inspector leaving Birling embarrassed.

    • Word count: 1408
  25. How Does Priestley Use A Play That Seems To Be About An Ordinary Middle-class Family To Convey His Political Ideas To His Audience?

    Then "the Titanic... - unsinkable" - again the Titanic sinks only a few months after the play is set. And also "there's a lot of wild talk about possible labour trouble in the near future" and again there were a large number of strikes around the time of the play. Everything Birling says is made to make him sound like he merely likes the sound of his own voice but in fact knows nothing, and he also slanders socialists calling them "cranks" and saying they "can't let all these Bernard Shaws and H.G.

    • Word count: 1930

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • To what extent is each character responsible for Eva's death?

    "In conclusion the inspector was a very good role model not just for the audience, but also for the Birling children. Mr Birling was the most responsible for Eva's death as he harmed her first. There were two people that learnt a lot, they were Sheila and Eric Birling. This is because they were able to communicate with the inspector and understand what he said, the inspector may make them change in the future as they are both able to make up their own minds and understand when they have made mistakes. They try to help their parents understand what they have done to Eva and how they caused her to commit suicide. Sheila and Eric will be able to learn from their parent's mistakes, as they are the younger generation. 4"

  • An Inspector Calls Essay - To what extent can the tragedy of Eva Smith be blamed on the society in which she lived.

    "In conclusion to the death of Eva Smith, I don't believe you can blame any of the Birlings as such, as it was also related to social activities that took place in such a short time of Eva's life. If all the strife she went through didn't happen, then I don't believe that Eva smith would have killed herself. So in conclusion, Eva smith's death has to be blamed on a chain of events that unfortunately and unthinkingly happened at the wrong time of her life."

  • Compare and contrast the characters of Mr. Birling and inspector Goole. How does Priestley use dramatic devices to help shape audiences response to view represented in the play.

    "In conclusion Birling and the Inspector are two opposite characters priestley used birling and his views as the audience and the inspector as himself hoping he could change their views as it would help society. Priestly was getting across to the audience the message that, at the end of the day everyone's got to help with society or else all of us will die. Therefore the message is still relevant today "we do not live alone"."

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