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GCSE: J.B. Priestley
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John Boynton Priestley's biography
- 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 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 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 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 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.
This would prove extremely important as later on in the play, each characters personalities is exposed, and the way each person acts during the dinner gives the audience a strong indication about how they all treated Eva Smith. Furthermore the stage directions in the opening scene play a significant role in the production, and when observed closely, can give a useful insight on how the characters are feeling inside. Additionally the props and settings are another key which Priestly uses to acquire the audiences attention.
- Word count: 2931
"We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other" - What are the main concerns of J.B Priestley and how does he use dramatic techniques to put forward his themes and ideas?
The concerns of Priestley are repeatedly reinforced throughout the play. For example, those that claim moral superiority as well as economic and social superiority, such as capitalists are proven to be hypocrites by the Inspector, and effectively the playwright. The Inspector proves that in the case of Mr. Birling, (who is shown to care more about his 'duty to keep labour costs down', than his 'machine shop employees'), one who is economically superior (as Birling was), and socially superior (as Birling also was, being a 'magistrate')
- Word count: 2385
(Act Two). Ironically the father is her son, Eric. Another theme in the play is love. We can find several types of love. The romantic love of Sheila and Gerald, the family love of brothers and sisters and the inspector's love of the truth. There are also other attributes of love shown in the play such as gratitude, affection, loyalty and sexual feeling. All of these types/attributes of love are found in the play because Priestley wanted to show his audience whether or not the characters are sincere. The third theme in the play is lies.
- Word count: 2069
The Inspector's r��le is to show that this is not the case. Throughout the play he demonstrates how people are responsible for how they affect the lives of others; his views are summed up in his visionary and dramatic final speech: that 'we are members of one body. We are responsible for each other' (p.56). Responsibility is one of the play's two key themes, and the Inspector is Priestley's vehicle for putting across his own views of this as a socialist. In this final speech, he is speaking as much to the audience as to the characters on stage.
- Word count: 2485
'What is Priestley's message in 'An Inspector Calls' and how does he convey this message to the audience?'
The play is set in an industrial city in the Midlands of 1912 concerns a wealthy industrial Arthur Birling, his family, the fianc� Gerald Croft and an Inspector. It shows how each family member helps to destroy a young woman's life-Eva Smith through their selfish and egotistical attitudes towards life, which are the consequences in her death. The play runs corresponding to what was happening to society at the time. Each indifferent action and statement is backed up with resulting consequence.
- Word count: 2223
1939-1945 hails the start of the Second World War, (fictionally) back in 1912 Mr Birling announces- 'The world's developing so fast it'll make war impossible' This reveals that society has a misled, narrow-minded view on the likelihood of a war (this may link back to its over confidence in itself). Apart from being historical contexts that link to the play, these examples are also perfect cases of dramatic irony, this is because what Mr Birling says is precisely the reverse to what actually later on occurs. Indeed, the titanic does sink, the Russians do attain a level of equality with the other nations of the world, and finally, the Second World War does commence.
- Word count: 2061
He considers himself to have a very high status in society. He is a factory owner, ex-Lord Mayor of Brumley and a local magistrate. He regards himself as being reasonable, but his first priority is to make money "it's my duty to keep labour costs down" and therefore pays his employees no more than the going rate. However, as the play continues further, we are shown how Sheila sees her father being exposed as a "hard headed business man" and as an insensitive character. During the celebration of the engagement of Shelia and Gerald Croft, a conversation is discussed and Mr. Birling says, "...I say there isn't a chance of war..."
- Word count: 2127
So, Priestly decided that the play that he wanted to create would be a thriller, mystery. This "whodunit" format would get the attention and recognition from the audience and they would not lose interest. The awareness that is gained from the audience is crucial. They would be listening and attentive to the play so that the point would be appreciated much more than if the story was in a different format. This would satisfy Priestley's needs, as he would have accomplished his aim. Although the cunning play that the masterful J.B priestly created was to teach a lesson it was also for pure enjoyment.
- Word count: 2067
Priestley got inspiration and experience before World War I and he said that 'that set their stump on me'. This implies that the years 1911-14, were the most critical point in his career. After the army, Priestley did what he wanted to do, which was write. To achieve this, he had to go to Cambridge University where he read Modern History and Political Science and successfully completed the courses and earned his degree. His first novel was called The Good Companions, which he wrote in 1929.
- Word count: 2436
Sheila's Speech That night was one night I could never forget. It was the night that changed my life forever...
All was going well; it was turning out to be a good evening. I remember receiving the ring I always wanted which I still have to this very day it was a very good moment and everything was going to plan. I then left the room and went to the drawing-room because my mum called me there. I waited for few minutes for Eric and Dad to come but they didn't come. I was wondering what was taking them so long. As I listened to them I heard Dad speaking to Eric but then he suddenly got interrupted by the sharp ring of the front door bell.
- Word count: 2779
Who is most responsible for Eva Smith's death? How does Priestley use her death to make a political point?
The time span between the dates used (1912-1945) is to make us aware of what has happened and learn from mistakes that were made in history. Priestley purposefully wrote the play in hindsight, as this was very effective at looking at the mistakes Mr. Birling (a conservative upper class gentleman) made, especially when he talks of the three issues; war which is never going to happen, the Titanic which will not sink and the miners who will not strike. All these issues did took place and the audience have known of these facts.
- Word count: 2767
An example of this is in the soap opera, 'Eastenders'. This is one of the most popular soap operas today due to the dramas and conflicts that occur in a few families. In retrospect, there are a number of hints that all is not as it seems but these are not particularly obvious until later in the play. There is nothing to warn us of the shock of the Inspector's visit. Priestley also shows the relationships between each character. These are universal themes that apply to human beings at any time and at any place.
- Word count: 2076
At the end of the play, it ends with a very mind thinking twist which you end up asking yourself, how did he know? The twist is the inspector is telling this story about a girl who swallowed disinfectant and questions all the family and they all have something to say about themselves and Eva Smiths relationship. When the inspector leaves, Mr. Birling phones up the police to see if girl has died tonight. The police reply no there hasn't been but when Mr.
- Word count: 2225
These two chosen extracts are taken from the ends of Act 1 and Act 2. They both have vital roles in the revelation in the death of this mysterious character Eva Smith, both creating a dramatic climax to the end of each act. In Act 1 we see the introduction of all the characters, and an understanding of their personalities. This extract is taken just after the Inspector has made Mr Birling and then Sheila reveal their involvement in the downfall of Eva's life.
- Word count: 2138
An Inspector Calls- Explore Priestley's dramatic methods in the opening scene of the play (up to and including Edna's announcement of Inspector Goole) - How does Priestley shape the audience's expectations for the rest of the play?
I will try to reflect on the effects of character and action and discuss the social and historical context. By looking at all the dramatic methods used in the first scene I should be able to do this. What the set is like determines the audience's expectations for the rest of the play. We can look at the stage directions right at the start (and although the audience couldn't see it in writing, they would still be able to see it on stage), because this helps us see what the family's house is like at the start, and there fore give us an insight to what the world around the out side of the characters is like and their relationship with it.
- Word count: 2321
Priestley structures his play to ensure that it ends on a note of high drama. How does he ensure the audience feels this tension in the final scene of the play?
This is conveyed as through all the Inspector's enquiries, he has consistantly remained entirely in control. For example, Mrs Birling has refused to discuss her connections with Eva Smith, but the Inspector makes her do otherwise when he says, '' You have no hope of not disscussing it, Mrs Birling.'' Even Sheila has regarded him ''wonderingly and dubiously'', when later she notes that no one had told him anything that he did not already know. Priestley was successful in creating the powerful, all knowing nature of the character of Inspector Goole. He has done this by letting the Inspector reveal each character's connections with Eva Smith's death through an incredible but all too real chain of events, that the family was involved in.
- Word count: 2401
'An Inspector Calls' - How does Priestley's presentation of the Inspector create dramatic tension in the play?
Birling is the kind of person who Priestley is trying to get through to. The atmosphere is also made uneasy because no one knows definitely why the Inspector has called but do have sneaky suspicions. Birling says: "Don't know him. Does he want to see me?" This shows that Birling has been put on edge, as he is hoping that the Inspector doesn't want to see him. This part of the play also shows that the family is not as happy as they first appear.
- Word count: 2425
'An Inspector Calls is full of lies and deceit.' How does Priestley expose weakness and wickedness, not only in the play but also in society?
Priestley is the man who wrote 'An Inspector Calls' and revealed a story that we can all learn from. The characters that I will be focusing on are Mr Birling, Mrs Birling and Sheila. The play opens with a conversation between Mr Birling and his family and Gerald Croft. Firstly Mr. Birling is a conceited and wealthy factory owner. He seems to be a pretentious hard headed guy. He owns a business and he is more concerned with his high profits than the interest of his workers. He pays his employees no more and no less than the going rate.
- Word count: 2182
After reading an Inspector calls, I am sure it is obvious to any one whom reading it that the inspector is not what he seems at all.
(As Birling tries to protest, turns on him.)" "Don't stammer and yammer at me again, man. I'm losing all patience with you people." What did he Say? Here the Inspector gets to emotional about such a small thing. I also think that a real police inspector would treat Birling with more respect. It is true what Birling says about him being a public man and telling the chief of police because he is a friend. Sheila: (urgently, cutting in) you mustn't try to build up a kind of wall between us and that girl. If you do then the Inspector will just break it down.
- Word count: 2738
An analysis of the contribution that Inspector Goole makes to the dramatic impact of 'An Inspector Calls' by J.B. Priestly.
You will be playing alongside some of the finest actors in the world. The main story of the play is that an Inspector drops in, unexpectedly, during a Birling family dinner. They are a middle class family, well off, but not as well off as the aristocrats. The Birling family is then shocked to find out that each one of them is involved in a young girl's suicide. The overall format of the character is a blank slate that you can contribute to in your own way. In my opinion the Inspector doesn't exist and he is just the collective consciousness Birling family, he is guilt and their conscience rolled into one.
- Word count: 2046
An Inspector Calls deals with many class issues - These are reflected in the social and historical settings and through characters.
of the play he grudgingly wishes things were better but even here he still thinks in terms of money 'Look, Inspector - I'd give thousands' Even though the other characters do not see this as an important issue. Arthur welcomes Croft into his family as he represents a business link between his firm and that of Gerald Croft's father. (A rival) Mr Birling has an honest approach to life, he tells the Inspector that he wouldn't listen to Eva Smith's demand for a wage rise 'I refused, of course' and is surprised why anyone should question why.
- Word count: 2313
His private life came into question, "but it was all over and done with". He didn't think twice about Sheila and carried on with his evil deeds, (his affair with Daisy Renton (Eva Smith)). The inspector made Gerald realise he is cheating and deceiving himself as well as being two faced towards Sheila. Societies in Priestley's play were that these actions are unacceptable. "It was you who turned out the girl in the first place". The social conscience of the younger ones who were Sheila and Eric were influenced by the inspector, "We often do on the younger ones, they're more impressionable", Eric was least influenced character out of the two.
- Word count: 2206
Explore how Priestley prepares the audience for the play as a whole in Act One of “An Inspector Calls”.
drinks. This simple statement begins to give the audience insight into Mr. Birling's personality; he is portrayed as a shallow person, social class having the utmost importance to him. During a speech to congratulate the 'happy couple' Mr. Birling expresses his hopes that the marriage will lead to profit and success in his business, "we look forward to the time when Crofts and Birlings are no longer competing but are working together". This action reveals Birling's attitudes towards marriage and society.
- Word count: 2962
An Inspector Calls - Consider how the inspector makes the characters accept responsibility for their behaviour towards Eva Smith.
Although not entirely to blame for her suicide, he must take much of the responsibility because he used her. He was drunk, and confessed that it happened because he was not conscious, but he feels terribly sorry for her, this is clearly showed on page 52 when he is trying to justify himself "well, I was in that state when a chap easily turns nasty" However, he did not rape her; she was offering her services as a prostitute. Also, she could have married him.
- Word count: 2895
Compare and contrast the characters of Sheila Birling and Eva Smith in J.B. Priestley's play An Inspector Calls.
The play parallels what was happening in society at the time. Each uncaring action is backed up by serious consequences. As I have already said, both Sheila and Eva were pretty girls and roughly the same age. At the start of the play Sheila is "very pleased with life and rather excited". She has just become engaged. Although this was an engagement of business as well as marriage she either doesn't recognise this or she chooses to ignore it. She can look forward to an easy life ahead of her.
- Word count: 2644