- Join over 1.2 million students every month
- Accelerate your learning by 29%
- Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
GCSE: J.B. Priestley
Meet our team of inspirational teachers
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.
'An Inspector Calls' has been described as 'a play with a message'. What is the message of the play? How effectively does J.B. Priestley convey his message?
"I remember what he said, how he looked, and what he made me feel. "Fire and blood and anguish." This is similar to a comparison made between the drunken, playful Eric of Act 1 with the reasonable serious Eric at the end of Act 3 who has learned that his own mother played a major role in driving the woman carrying his child to suicide. Arthur Birling is the kind of character the audience dislike. "A hard-headed business man", he believes that society is as it should be.
- Word count: 3061
I would also include some of the BBC productions other props and stage design e.g. the hefty, English oak table drinks decanters and costly cigar boxes placed on the table. When the Inspector calls the scene should be one of surprise, a rude interruption when the Birlings are in high spirits, congratulating each other on their 'successes'. I would also use some of the National Theatre's stage design such as a small portion of the exterior of house where a lot of the plot evolves such as Gerald's disappearance and his and Eric's return.
- Word count: 3992
Eva Smith is approximately the same age as Sheila. She is a pretty, warm hearted girl. She was rejected by almost each and every member of the family. She was having an affair with Eric Birling and was carrying his child before she died. Unlike the other characters in the play, we do not meet Eva Smith. In my essay I will see how successful Priestly is in conveying a social message through these three characters. But at first, I will study the three characters in depth.
- Word count: 3788
What message do you think that Priestley is trying to give in 'An Inspector calls,' and what is the role of the Inspector?
They see themselves as superior and even though there are neighbours in proximity, the relative distance of the house reinforces the Birlings' feelings of self-importance. Secondly, the same house opens up the possibility that what is happening in the Birlings' home could also be mirrored there and elsewhere, allowing the audience to draw the hypothetical notion of the stage play reflecting a much wider sphere - that of society in general and the abuse of one class by another, more privileged one.
- Word count: 5962
"Priestley's play is unusual in that a character, the inspector, could be said to direct the action of the play." Discuss
Birling has already previously mentioned the Titanic, war and stock markets " the Titanic is absolutely unsinkable", "And I say there isn't a chance of war" and "We're in for a time of steadily increasing prosperity." at this point the audience would be far the wiser than the people on the stage as the Titanic would have already sunk on its maiden voyage, they would have witnessed two world wars, and the Wall-Street crash. The issues surrounding sexism are clearly a main feature however not just from the male side of the equation.
- Word count: 3664
'We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.' What is Priestley's main aim in An Inspector Calls? How successfully does he achieve it?
We discover that the inspector was a fake. This is Priestley's first narrative twist as we discover the facts about inspector Goole, now more mysteries are emerging. Gerald's re-entrance allows the characters to relax a little, as they have revealed the truth behind Goole. Knowing that the whole predicament may have been a fraud, the tension decreases dramatically. Before Gerald re-enters, the other characters speak uneasily to each other. Compared to the other characters, Gerald speaks with a slightly jovial tone, knowing he has some good news to bear following the previous incident.
- Word count: 3643
The dialogue reveals that the family does not care about anyone but themselves. Arthur Birling believes `a man has to make his own way, has to look after himself and his family too'. Birling launches into a speech on community, he starts saying `the ways some of these cranks talk and write now you'd think everyone has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive- community and all that nonsense'. The Inspector enters at this point because he is there to disprove Birling's point.
- Word count: 3697
Compare and contrast the characters of Inspector Goole and Mr Birling in Act One. How does J.B Priestly use dramatic devices to help shape an audiences' response to views presented in this play.
The Goole name relating to such as a ghost as it sounds a lot like 'ghoul'. This is very ironic, as he seems to act this very well. Goole is also a seaport town, this can be linked with the referral to 'fish' for information. He is fishing for information from the Birling family. He is much like Eva Smith, just another face in the crowd, common. This links with the name 'Smith' it is a very common name. Eve was the very first women in the Bible and is represented in that way as being very innocent and is an innocent victim in this matter.
- Word count: 4017
What is the role of the Inspector and what does he reveal about the Birling family and society in general?
The Birling family represents the higher society in the social class system; we can tell his by the way they look down upon other classes. Mr Birling says 'well, well this is very nice. Very nice. Good dinner too, Sybil. Tell cook from me'. Then later Mrs.Birling comments on his statement 'Arthur, you're not supposed to say such thing.' This shows those being that high up couldn't even tell their cook it was a lovely meal. Priestly describes the Inspector, when he first appears on stage, in terms of 'massiveness, solidity and purposefulness', symbolising the fact that he is an unstoppable force within the play.
- Word count: 3286
Priestley shows us how these different family members react in different ways and learn different lessons from their experience. Inspector Goole is believed to be the voice and substitute of J. B. Priestley. Inspector Goole in many ways is a regular and ordinary police man but in some ways his personality and behaviour is very mysterious. The Inspector uses various dramatic and purposeful methods of solving this case, some are normal, and some are odd. His name sounds like ghoul, his body language and physical presence, his sarcastic, dramatic, repetitive and suspenseful way of speech, his different attitudes and behaviour to different characters, his moral speeches, his tactics of solving the case, his timing, of speech, entry and exit
- Word count: 3732
An Inspector Calls by J.B Priestley - To what extent is each character responsible for Eva's death? To what extent does each character learn from his/her experience?
Birling is part of the capitalist society that deprives the working class; Eva is the example in this play. Mr. Birling is controlling; he wants to show the rest of the company that he is the boss and no one will take advantage and control of him. He wants to keep the wealth at the top. "A man has to mind his own business and looking after himself." Yet again Birling shows selfishness. He is a pompous businessman who wishes to protect his image; he wants to protect his chances of getting a knighthood.
- Word count: 3355
How does Priestley use characters, events andsettings to get the audience to think about important issues and ideas?
He lectures the younger generation and talks down to them, "you youngsters just remember what I said." He may be a prosperous business man, but he still wants more. He is obsessed with making money and likes the idea of his daughter and Gerald getting married, as they could create a company that could 'take over.' Mr. Birling feels he has to prove himself to his wife and show her that even though he was from a lower class family, he is just as good as her. He managed to work his way up in his business becoming a respected business man.
- Word count: 4728
Discuss Priestley's depiction of the Birling household and Gerald Croft, prior to the arrival of Inspector Goole.
This was because socialism dominated the whole of the United Kingdom. The vertical social ladder of status was what controlled who was a "somebody" and who was a "nobody". The description of the house is a good example of how unsocial many families were during this time because all anybody, who was "anybody", wanted was to show how wealthy they were, and to climb the social ladder. I shall now talk about the characters themselves. Mr. Birling is described as being, "a heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech."
- Word count: 3242
'An Inspector Calls' is a play with important messages for any society'. Explore the ways that Priestley communicates these messages. Are they as important for modern audiences as they were when the play was first performed?
It is designed to be an equal society. In `An Inspector Calls' we observe that Arthur Birling and Eva Smith are so completely different, this is deliberate as Preistley chose these two opposites of Edwardian society to show the huge social divide between the rich and the poor. He also wanted to show how the rich businessmen exploited their poorer workers. One is what every middle aged man would aspire to be - he is rich, married with two children and making profits - whilst the other is a lonely orphan who works for little and is poverty struck, lonely and eventually driven to suicide.
- Word count: 4687
The daughter of the family is the very attractive and pretty Sheila, in her early twenties. She is shown to the audience as to be very pleased with her life and a young woman who can get very excited but also someone else who can be very sensible at times when she wishes to be. She is generally portrayed as any daughter would be who comes from a very well to do family would be, she expects to be treated correctly in the right manner and to get what she wishes in her expensive 'innocent' life style which is paid by her father.
- Word count: 5870
He is keen to spread his ideology across the world, taking it as far as lecturing his own family on the current political situation. "You've got a lot to learn yet. And I'm talking as a hard-headed, practical man of business. And I say there isn't a chance of war." This statement, made in a play set in 1912, would have the audience on the edge of their seats, It would have started of the process of gradual realisation that leads to a complete understanding and acceptance of Mr Birling's stupidity.
- Word count: 3943
Firstly, I am concentrating on the arrival of the Inspector and how the timing of it signifies his character. The entrance is particularly significant as he arrives at a time just in the middle of one of Arthur Birling's speeches. At the precise moment that the Inspector appears, Mr. Birling is saying, "...a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own." This is everything that Priestly does not believe in as whilst Arthur thinks that everyone must look after themselves, Priestley and his representation in the play, the Inspector, think that everyone must look after each other.
- Word count: 3181
Although at the same time I feel worried and nervous. Birling isn't the nicest of people in fact he's horrible sometime! He looks down on us workers as though we are scum. He has no consideration for anyone's feelings. The only reason he has become a success is because abuses and exploits anyone and everyone. Treating people like dirt! Doing whatever he can to rise to the top. Not only am I worried about having to confront Birling but I am also worried about letting them down. What if I don't manage to persuade Birling to give us a raise?
- Word count: 3063
"An Inspector Calls" - issues raised in the play concerning the social structure of the time and how this has been relayed
and Mrs. Birling's son Eric is in his early twenties and unlike Gerald or his sister he never seems sure of himself and is said to be 'not quite at ease'. Finally Inspector Goole is on stage throughout much of the play and we are told he is in his fifties. He dresses in a plain dark suit and hat to give feeling of authority and to make both the characters and the audience feel uneasy about his presence.
- Word count: 5582
What inspired Priestley? What made him write 'An Inspector Calls' and why set it before World War One?
The sort of ideas Priestley is concerned about in society and is trying to 'show' are the aspects of: responsibility, community, lies and truth, honesty and self-deception, equality, social snobbery and double standards. I will be covering these aspects and indeed many more as I progress through this assignment. What inspired Priestley? What made him write 'An Inspector Calls' and why set it before World War One? The answer lies in his life before the year of 1945. To answer these questions we must first establish and be aware of the following background information.
- Word count: 5071
How far do you consider the inspector successful in interrogating the Birling Family? To answer this question, consider the whole play.
That's what you've got to keep your eye on, facts like that, progress like that." He views the union between Gerald and Sheila as a business venture which shows that he is far too concerned with himself and the business to consider his children's needs especially Eric's. He refers to himself as a 'Hardhearted Businessman' and is always trying to justify himself and his actions. There is a lot of jealousy and envy towards Gerald's family from Mr Birling because he realises that they are the original aristocracy and he is not.
- Word count: 5038
Explore and explain the numerous different ways in which the Inspector affects the characters and achieves his goal.
Everyone on stage is at, or approaching, their happiest moment throughout the entire play, all until the Inspector arrives. His arrival punctures the idea of happiness and makes it no more than a distant memory, which sums up his role. His duty is to take and destroy the smug atmosphere and turn it against each and every character because it is not genuine. All the happiness and joy is based on a veneer of respectability and all it takes is for the Inspector to scratch away at the surface, which is represented by the furniture and other such materialistic items and reveal what lies beneath; deceit, lies, scandals.
- Word count: 6691
He disregards the people who preach this philosophy of everyone living together and looking after each other as "cranks". It is at this point that the Inspector enters the play, interrupting Birling in his speech. In this way he can be seen as Priestly's response to Birling's opinions and he soon begins to tear down the ideas that Birling thrives on. On hearing of Eva Smith's death Birling is at first dismissive of what has happened, saying that he does not see what the events have to do with him. Birling also repeats his earlier opinion on community, telling the Inspector that he "can't accept any responsibility for what happened to her, even though it may have been a chain of events.
- Word count: 5369
Imagine you are Directing a production of "An Inspector Calls". Explain how you would Direct it to bring out the Themes and Issues that Priestley explores.
Sheila would be seated at the side of the table, at her father's right, with her fianc� Gerald next to her. Eric would be opposite Sheila and Gerald. To show that the family are upper class the room is arranged with grand furniture, giving the effect of a 'substantial and heavily comfortable' house but not of a 'cosy and homelike' atmosphere. The mood is relaxed and cheerful with pleasant classical music playing in the background. The lighting is not on any particular character, but is on the whole table.
- Word count: 3691
Priestley had not gradually built up the mysterious and prophetic aspects of the Inspector's character. POLITICAL VIEW We are never given a clear set of political policies but J.B. Priestley does make the general point that all of us have a share in the responsibility for what happens in our society, that we have a duty of care to others. * We see that the sense of respectability with which the characters surround themselves does not stand up to close examination. * The way that the older characters remain unmoved and immovable, uncaring for anyone but themselves, is one of the horrors of the play.
- Word count: 3799