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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.

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  1. An Inspector Calls by J.B Priestley is a play about an inspector who tries to make citizens of the community from the upper class realise that they are responsible for the welfare of others

    Straight away from this we can see that Sheila Birling is already starting to feel guilty and is repenting her actions towards society, in particular towards Eva Smith. But Sheila Birling only managed to feel this guilt because of the way the writer J.B Priestley had fashioned the inspector to give speeches that would make the other characters feel guilty about what they had done. 'Inspector [harshly]: yes, but you can't. It's too late. She's dead.' this quote clearly shows that J.B Priestley is using short sharp sentences for effect so that Sheila Birling feels the guilt that the Inspector is trying to encourage her to feel.

    • Word count: 4632
  2. In Act One of An Inspector Calls, how does Priestly use dramatic devices to convey his concerns to the members of the audience, as well as interest and involve them in the play?

    Ironically, the play was written in 1945 straight after the Second World War when society was in a state of dealing with consequences of war, abuse of power and responsibility. The play was set in 1912, two years before the start of World War One. Priestley set the play years before all the chaos and disaster of the First World War to give members of the audience the ability to perceive characters such as Birling. Priestley portrays his character to be of a pretentious and egotistical nature.

    • Word count: 2045
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. How does Priestly present Mrs Birling?

    In contrast to how Priestly has set out Mrs Birling originally, when the inspector comes to her house she greets him with a warm welcome. A quote to show this is: '(smiling, social) Good evening, Inspector.' From the stage directions we can see she is happy, joyful and seems to be in a good mood. However gradually throughout Act II Priestley does present Mrs Birling's character to mirror the original description and the audience are reassured that their original impressions of Mrs Birling's character were right all along.

    • Word count: 620
  6. An Inspector Calls. How does J.B Priestley use the Inspector as a dramatic device?

    This shows the first instance that the family is putting everything on for show to make everything seem wonderful in the outside world, keeping their darker moments behind closed doors. It is 'not homelike', suggesting that the Birlings' are a very materialistic family and rely on such extravagant works to make their house seem like a home. This fa�ade is seen throughout the play as they try to cover up all the wrongdoings in the family and try to make everything perfect.

    • Word count: 3105
  7. What effect does the inspector's visit have on the various characters?

    Also at the end Arthur Birling hasn't still learning as Sheila says to him "the point is you don't seem to have learnt anything. This quote just shows us that he still hasn't learnt anything from this night even though his own family is involved. He is still worrying about his title. In the beginning Sheila didn't care about who the girl was that killed herself as she says "I couldn't be sorry for her" this quote shows us that she didn't care that she made Eva Smith get sacked from her job in Milwards.

    • Word count: 583
  8. How does J.B. Priestley use Eva Smith/ Daisy Renton as a dramatic device in An Inspector calls?

    This engages the observer as they are made to use imagination and therefore feel part of the tale. Keeping her an unknown character also allows J.B. Priestley to let the story unfold at a controlled pace. As each of the characters has their own stories about their brief encounter with the woman it means her characteristics can be revealed at different times. The fact her death was a suicide makes the play intriguing and we see her in a very different way than if she was still alive, she instantly becomes an embodiment of weakness and we show unconditional sympathy towards her.

    • Word count: 698
  9. An Inspector Calls Diary Entry. Daisy Renton has got to go. Shes history!

    I wish I didn't do it. Why did I do it? I knew it would end badly but still I went along and did it. I have to do this. I have to leave her, for everyone's sake if not mine. But I started to fall in love with her and now I am forced to leave her, never to see her again, but I will give her some money in order to keep her going for a while.

    • Word count: 480
  10. How does JB Priestley expound his views of social hypocrisy in An Inspector Calls?

    Artists at this time were influenced by a greater awareness of human rights. Before the start of the play, the stage directions are given. All of the action in the play is set in the dining room. There are three acts in the play. The characters in the play are Arthur Birling who comes from the middle class but is very wealthy. He has married Sybil Birling who comes from the upper class. Their daughter is called Sheila Birling; she is to be married to Gerald Croft who is a very wealthy man.

    • Word count: 3964
  11. Explore how Priestleys portrayal of Sheila Birling contributes to the dramatic impact of the play.

    She shows her remorse by describing her feelings towards the injustice of the case. She says it's "a rotten shame" and says how girls like this are "people" and not just "cheap labour." She is also a realist, as she understands the inspector far better than the others, this causing drama and conflict between herself and others, for example, in acts two and three, we see that Sheila is trying to protect her mother from making the same mistake as she and her father had done.

    • Word count: 746
  12. 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
  13. Who (or what) do you think is to blame for the death of Eva Smith?

    This indicates that Mr Birling is a social climber. He is aware of the reputation of Sir George Croft and his company and he wants to be in the same level as them. He even goes as far as telling Gerald that 'it's exactly the same port that his father gets from Finchley.' This is an indication, of the show that Mr Birling is putting on for Gerald. He wants Gerald to know that he is almost as top as the Crofts Company.

    • Word count: 5115
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. Look again at the engagement party at the beginning of the party, up to the point where the Inspector first enters. In what ways does Priestley present Mr. Birling to us here so that we are prepared for his attitudes and behaviour in the rest of the play?

    He is always looking forward that the two companies (belong to him and Gerald's dad) will merge sometime in the future. "and 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." He is confident that his success as he mentions that "and I speak as a hard-headed business man, who has to take risks and know what he's about" He is also confident that strikes and labour troubles will not be a problem. He says conflicts between workers and their bosses will come to nothing.

    • Word count: 558
  18. An Inspector Calls. Explore the social and political views of the Birlings and the Crofts.

    It also states, "Mr Birling is rather provincial in his speech." This means that Mr birling is not very aristocratic or upper class in his speech, which also indicates that he is from a middle class background. In this quotation Arthur Birling shows us that he is a hardheaded businessman. It also suggests that the only reason Birling wants Sheila to marry Gerald is in order to consolidate his business interests, "Crofts Limited are both older and bigger than Birling and company." This quotation shows that Sheila and Gerald got engaged, so the two businesses could come together.

    • Word count: 3355
  19. What is the function of the Inspector in An Inspector Calls?

    This is the struggle of Good and Evil. The Inspector reflects Priestley's ideas and thoughts and voice them out, Priestly himself is a socialist even before he has fought in the two major world wars and realises the importance of everyone and life. At the end of the play, the Inspectors final comment warns Mr Birling,because of his nature, the Inspector wanted him to change and to respect everyone and treat them equally. The name Goole - Inspector Goole - sounds mysterious and a bit sinister, this is supported by the fact he seems to know a wide variety of things and all these knowledge and understanding is the truth, which makes it even more sinister.

    • Word count: 3122
  20. Explore the function of the Inspector in J.B. Priestleys An Inspector Calls

    The Inspector remains calm and reserved throughout the play, expressing his opinion clinically, without involvement. This serves to make him appear as a much more intelligent character than the Birlings, who become emotionally involved in the play and as such behave irrationally. This emotional detachment could be as a result of him being a ghost, which is connoted by the Inspector introducing himself by the name 'Goole'. He chooses to ignore the multiple times when the senior Birlings attempt to state their higher status and use it to control the play.

    • Word count: 772
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. What is the role of Inspector Goole?

    One of the main roles of the Inspector Goole is that he adds suspension to the play. Priestly has added suspense to the play because he makes the inspector arrive mysteriously and another coincidence is this is just after Mr. Birling's speech on morality and social responsibility "That a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own-and-"then halfway through speaking this speech the inspector arrives. This could be because the inspector had a socialist view and wanted to challenge Mr.

    • Word count: 680
  24. An Inspector Calls. Explore how Priestley portrays Sheilas role in the play and how she reacts positively to the Inspector and his message.

    Just before the ring bells and the inspector arrives, Mr. Birling shows his outlook on life to Gerald and Eric "a man has to make his own way, has to look after himself and his family". The inspector enters and tells them about the suicide. He shows a photograph to Mr.Birling. and starts questioning him. It turns out that Eva Smith had been one of Mr.Birlings. employees and later on was discharged because she asked for more money, had been refused and went on a strike along with allot of other employees, and was later fired for being one of the ringleaders.

    • Word count: 2701
  25. How does J.B Priestley create tension and atmosphere throughout the play?

    There are two ways about him; one being that he is a man who's purpose is too deliver a clever and massive hoax to the family as Gerald rightly points out 'quote'. By this we know that the inspector wasn't being honest and when Gerald brings it too light the whole thing seems to one sick set up to make the family feel bad however after the infirmary calls to prove the death of Eva Smith the hoax idea doesn't fall into place and that bring the other idea about the inspector being supernatural.

    • Word count: 572

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