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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.
How has watching a production of 'An Inspector Calls' by J.B.Priestley enhanced the script and furthered your understanding of the play? Refer to themes and characters in your analysis.
In 1912 nearly 15 million people lived in large towns and cities. Most people worked in manufacturing industries, mining, transport and trade. England had huge social divisions, based largely on wealth and income. Priestley replicates this scenario when first describing the Birling's dining room to be "...of a fairly large suburban house, belonging to a prosperous manufacturer." However, Priestley immediately informs the audience that this house is not "cosy and homelike." Here, he is foreshadowing the Birling's attitudes and morals towards life. Another of Priestley's aims in writing 'An Inspector Calls' was to illustrate the division between the upper and lower classes.
- Word count: 3650
Explain how Priestly manages to create a very vivid picture of the character of Eva Smith even though she never actually appears in the playThe play, 'An Inspector Calls', was written in 1
Also the "men in tails and white ties, not dinner-jackets", this all indicates a very middle class family. They are clearly well off to have a big house with a maid and to be having such a smart dinner party. This is due to Mr Arthur Birling who is "a prosperous manufacturer" and is very concerned with his business. Although he seems pleased his daughter is engaged, "It's one of the happiest nights of my life", it seems like he might be happier because of the business prospects it brings. He says, "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".
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Also when Gerald met another real inspector down the road when he was taking a little breather he mentioned the name Goole and that inspector did not recall anyone being in the force around that village. He said, "I met a police sergeant I know down the road. I asked him about an Inspector 'Goole' and describe him thoroughly; he swore there wasn't any Inspector 'Goole' or anybody in his description on the force here'' Priestley believed in making a new society and the Inspector believes in that too.
- Word count: 3789
Thank you for accepting the role of Sheila Birling in our theatre company's version of John B Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls'. I have
Women were also thought of as inferior and unintelligent. This play begins at a celebration dinner. Everybody is very happy and pleased for Sheila and Gerald Croft as they are celebrating their engagement. Arthur Birling is particularly pleased, as he believes that this engagement will cause his company - Birling and Company, and Crofts Limited to become a partnership, stopping the rivalry between them. Edna, the Birlings' maid, comes and interrupts the conversation between Mr. Birling, Gerald and Eric, saying that an inspector is at the door to see Mr.
- Word count: 4160
What do you think is particularly dramatic about the section at the end of Act Two when Mrs Birling is questioned?
He does this in a way that is full of authority which adds to his dramatic personality. Mrs Birling changes dramatically in this section because as the inspector starts to question her, her replies show that she is confident and proud: "Yes, we've done a great deal of useful work in helping deserving cases." When the Inspector asks her about the name Eva used to approach the charity, her reply to the Inspector shows she is certain that she is innocent: "I think it was simply a piece of gross impertinence - quite deliberate - and naturally that was on of the things that prejudiced me against her case."
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The focus is deliberately taken off the house when the inspector arrives. We focus on him instead of Birling, showing that what Birling is saying isn't really relevant to the play. The inspector faces the audience slowly advancing on the house, grabbing our attention. The inspector gives one of the small children on the street, an orange. This shows that he had been abroad as oranges were not available in the war. Edna, the Birling's house maid came and took the inspectors suitcase and leads him to the house. The House then opens out.
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The older Birlings, and Gerald immediately reject all the accusations against them, but Sheila and Eric maintain that they all have made themselves guilty. At the end of the play there is a final telephone call announcing that there is a Police Inspector on his way to the Birlings to ask them some questions on the suicide of a girl who has just died on the way to hospital. The play is full of morals and has many themes in it.
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So, what happens in a comparatively short time to create such a dramatic contrast? How is the drama maintained and the audience involved? Probably the main and most obvious dramatic technique that J.B Priestly uses is through the characters. The characters act as J.B Priestley's thoughts and actions, and his emotions are unveiled throughout the play via them. As one of the most important and main characters in the play, Mr Birling is used in many ways as a dramatic device.
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Imagine you have been asked to direct J.B. Priestley's "An Inspector Calls". What Instructions would you give to the actor playing the part of Mr Arthur Birling
It is a huge failing in him, and ends up in attempting to cover himself up. His weakness makes him appear desperate and foolish, and gives the Inspector the advantage of having Mr Birling cornered, "Look Inspector-I'd give thousands-yes, thousands-." The Inspector has broken him, he has the call of the questions. The opening of the curtains starts with ironically with Mr Birling speaking in his very loud abrasive manor, "Giving us the port, Edna? That's right. You ought to like this port, Gerald. As a matter of fact, Finchley told me it's exactly the same port your father gets from him."
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Over the years, many events of class oppression piled upon his life, thus causing his social perspective to alter completely. - His many experiences, proving his loyalties to lie very much in the 'Socialist' way of thinking, rather than conforming to the capitalist system that controlled England at the time and still prevails today. Priestley's most life-affecting encounter with social unfairness was during his service in the First World War. Throughout this horrific conflict, Priestley saw how definite the class system separated troops and how often non-experienced, high-class men, were the causes of much blood and anguish.
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The story does have some relevance to the early nineties even if the novel it was written in 1945. All these points are there to remind us of how not all good things last and how we should all look out for each other and not just for ourselves. An example is 'We are members of one body,' said the inspector. This shows us that the inspector is enforcing the point of being part of one community and that we should look out for one and other.
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Discuss how Priestley creates dramatic tension during Gerald's and Mrs Birling's conversations with the Inspector
I think Priestly was trying to say that by Mr Birling referring to his business is very selfish of him. He shouldn't be thinking about the benefits of the relationship for himself or his business, he should be thinking about his daughter and the marriage. This makes him out to be very self-centred and we get introduced to his character and his ways early as they develop more throughout the story. The characters of Gerald Croft and Mrs Birling seem to be interesting because of the way they act and their own personalities.
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An Inspector Calls: 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?
The setting is an extremely important part of a well made play-which includes many different points and was a criteria set up to create suspense and tension, it can show what the characters are like and in particular for this play the class and social well-being of the characters. However when looking at the setting of a play it isn't always the place setting which we must look at but the time setting this is because between the time of the play and the time it was actually written many things changes socially and politically and by using this technique
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The society of 1912 was deeply divided on the basis of wealth and status. The three main classes: the upper class, the middle class and the lower predominated most of the population. Compared to 1912, 1946 had much class unity, and socialism had created a fair and just society. As this was not the case in 1912, with the upper class being the supreme masters, as they possessed much of the wealth in the country. They controlled the politics, law and the financial interests of the nation, and with their financial superiority no one would dare to challenge them.
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Priestley wanted to show how working class people were treated unfairly. This is shown in the text using the example of Arthur Birling as the rich businessman exploiting these poor workers. Most men of Mr.Birlings age wanted to be a rich, happily married man who was profiting form a business. Eva Smith was earning barely enough money to survive on and had no family support, as both her parents were dead. The extreme differences between the two characters emphasises social unfairness and influences the audience of the play to feel that socialism is the ideal which everyone must believe in.
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The main point is that Sheila neglected her power in terms of status and used it to cause harm to a person she felt jealous of. The play is set in 1912 yet it was first performed in 1946. Dramatic irony plays a key part in the play in terms of entertaining the audience. The dates are vital in order for Priestley to make this dramatic irony work. In one of Mr Birling's monologue in Act 1 we see why the dates are so important.
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At the start of Act 1 the Birling family is celebrating the engagement of Sheila Birling and Eric Croft. All evening they are all chatting happily and as it happens everything that is said ends up being contradicted later on in the play for example where Mr. Birling says, "I say there isn't a chance of war" and yet the audience knows that soon after there is a war. This is known as dramatic irony. In Mr. Birlings speech on page 9 he goes on he says to Eric and Gerald, "...a man has to make his own way..."
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In the play, it is ironic but not at all coincidental that the period in which it is set, the Edwardian era, consists of attitudes, which are in complete opposition to the Socialist beliefs of Priestley. Priestley's biggest concern with people at the time was the lack of responsibility they showed. The attitudes of the higher and middle classes in 1912 were those common of the Edwardian era.
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'We don't livealone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.' What isPriestly's main aim in An Inspector Calls and how successfully does heachieve it?
Birling's speeches at the beginning of the play, he mentions that the Titanic is 'unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.' This is ironic as the modern audience know that the Titanic did sink, and the earlier audiences would also have known about this [and they may have been close to someone who had died in the event]. This would increase the audience's hatred of capitalists and their views and therefore draws attention to Priestly's main aim. An even more powerful example is the section of the speech referring to war. 'Just because the Kaiser makes a speech or two, or a few German officers...begin talking nonsense', Mr.
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Investigation to determine the effect of a range of different concentrations of sugar solutions on the potato cells
But in 1945, when the play was written and performed women had won the right to vote and were now doing jobs that were formerly thought only appropriate for men. The two World Wars had given women the opportunity to prove themselves as capable of doing men's jobs and had forced society to accept this. But it was not only due to the World wars that women won their independence, the Suffrage movement also played an enormous part in the women's liberation in society.
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Choose what you think to be the most dramatic scene in the play and analyse it. How does it fit into the play as a whole and why do you think it is the most dramatic scene in the play?
This makes the audience want to find out what the celebration is about, and instantly gets the audience thinking. This is the first point at which the audience becomes engrossed in the play. Eventually the audience is to discover that the characters are celebrating the engagement of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft. When the ring is eventually given to Sheila, there is a sense of excitement and happiness in the dining room. The act of Gerald giving the ring to his partner, Sheila, captures the audiences' attention, and absorbs most people into the play, which is the main priority of the author at this early stage in the play.
- Word count: 3126
Discuss the ideas of Community and responsibility for our fellow humans in 'An Inspector Calls'. How successfully does the National Theatre Production convey this idea?
Priestely believed very strongly in such matters and these he showed through what he wrote and thought- he was very politically minded and passionate in what he believed in, but was more of a social philosopher and liked to think of himself as such. He himself had fought in WW1 and had had close shaves with death on a number of occasions- and it was these unforgettable experiences which helped shape the direction of his writing. It was with these influences and his own personal beliefs of community and human socialism that Priestley wrote 'An Inspector Calls'- characterising the Birling's
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From the way Priestly presents the characters, who do you think is most to blame for the death of Eva Smith/Daisy Renton?
He favoured the themes of fate, responsibility and personal choice in a lot of his plays but also used themes such as lies and love. He was a patriotic socialist but also was passionately convinced of the need of social change to benefit the poor. To this end he wrote An Inspector Calls which he saw as a contribution to public understanding of social responsibility. The first character that the Inspector tackles is Mr. Birling. He is a successful factory-owner, a local magistrate and Ex-Lord Mayor of Brumley.
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Due to the fact he already knows that each of them holds a key to Eva Smith's death, it is likely he could be a time traveller travelling back in time to punish the Birlings and make them realize the consequences of their actions. The dialogue from the other characters also helps us to comprehend the role of Inspector Goole in An Inspector Calls. I especially think this is achieved by Mrs. Birlings views on Eva Smith towards the end of the play, she thinks of Miss Smith a "an impertinent child" and apparently.
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The Inspector directs on stage and manipulates audiences' response. How does Priestley use the character of the Inspector to communicate the underlying message of the play and achieve his dramatic purpose?
And to that I say fiddlesticks". This makes Mr Birling look stupid as the audience of the time know that there has been a war, two wars. They are also aware that the titanic did sink. This helps to get Priestley's point across as; if Mr Birling looks stupid then it shows capitalism is stupid. The way in which it is set back in time adds to the importance of changing ways, as the end the inspector talks about if men don't learn there lesson soon then they will be taught it in "blood and fire and anguish".
- Word count: 3166