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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. This essay will be exploring why and how J.B Priestley presents Arthur Birling in this remarkable play An Inspector Calls.

    The play was then written and published in 1945 just after world war two had finished. This was a time where change occurred and reconstruction of Britain had started to take place with the setting up of the welfare state. The play helped people realise that there is no difference between upper and lower class and that together they comprise the community. Priestley portrays his message through the use of the Birling family, typical characters for people in high society.

    • Word count: 4036
  2. An Inspector Calls - How Priestley reflects social attitudes and political stances

    Eva Smith represents the pitiable and deprived lower class that relies heavily on the upper class (Birling family) to provide an income and social security. However, Mr. Birling and his daughter Sheila take full advantage of their powerful positions; twice dismissing Eva of her duties for negligible offences, 'So you used the power you had to... punish the girl.' Although the sacking of Eva had little effect on the Birling household, for Eva the two events set off a downward spiral of destruction which culminated in a depressed and suicidal girl. This is a classic example of the rigid and inflexible Edwardian Class System which failed to allow the lower class to climb up the social ladder and escape a life of poverty, 'a man has to try and make his own way.'

    • Word count: 1159
  3. How Does J.B Priestley Use Dramatic Devices to Convey His Concerns and Ideas to the Audience as Well as Interest and Involve Them in His Play?

    socialism should be considered. As a politically left wing socialist, Priestley realised that to highlight his message, that right wing capitalists were generally morally questionable, he could give his characters relatively stereotypical personalities. This made it much easier to show the large gap between the rich and poor, greedy and selfless and bad and good. Not only does this idea help to put his concerns across to the audience more forcefully, it makes for a more interesting, humorous, and easy-to-follow script. The family is shown to wealthy by the description of their surroundings and manners, but their relationship is distant.

    • Word count: 1128
  4. An Inspector Calls

    He appears in the play like a lightening and shocks every one like a thunder. In the beginning of the play, Priestley widely explains the stage directions. The wealthy Birling family were celebrating there daughter Sheila's engagement to Gerald, who is even wealthier. He clearly shows the luxurious life of Birling family, by which he means all the ruling class people. He exemplifies how the family are very rich and wealthy, by showing the way they uses "dessert plates" and "champagne glasses" as well as other expensive items and to describe their wealth he also explains the way that they uses 'decanter of port' and 'cigarettes' for their party.

    • Word count: 3594
  5. An Inspector Calls

    In that speech, he claims that, the now known "Great War" would never happen that it was just the Kaiser talking nonsense and the Titanic was "unsinkable". The audience's feelings towards Birling are that he does not know what he's talking about; a 1945 audience would already know that the Titanic did sink and not only did the Great War happen but there was another war after that, therefore not taking his speech seriously. The Inspector is an interpretation of Priestley and the Socialist views he held.

    • Word count: 1435
  6. What is the Function of the Inspector in the play An Inspector Calls?

    The Inspector's purpose can be classified into two levels- a realistic level and a symbolic level. At a realistic level, the Inspector is able to convince the family that he is a real Inspector, hence they can all co-operate. The Inspector makes the characters confess their part in leading Eva to her death by portraying himself as intimidating and knowledgeable. He has an uncanny way of making the characters reveal what he already seems to know. For example, nearing the end of act 1 the Inspector enters at the precise moment, hinting that he knows what is to come.

    • Word count: 1806
  7. An inspector calls

    The way they are dressed also shows the class of the Birlings, They're not wearing diner jackets but wing collars and Sheila and Sybil are wearing smart, comfortable dresses. This implies that the Birlings are trying to show their money and how classy they are. Gerald is attractive, self confident and classy he has this by inheriting his money of his family whereas the Birlings have made their money by working hard. Eric is half shy, half assertive and well protected by his family, he wants to be like Gerald.

    • Word count: 968
  8. How does Priestly present the contrast between Edwardian capitalist values and emergent socialist ideals through the interrogation of Mr. Birling?

    Right from the opening of the play Priestley uses Birling to personify Edwardian Capitalist values of the time. In act one Birling lectures Eric and Gerald about how to be successful in business. These extracts are established around key capitalist values. Capitalism means to look after oneself and make ones own way in life. Mr. Birling is a stereotypical example of an Edwardian businessman of the time; Priestley reinforces this using repetition in Birling's speech. Birling calls himself a "heard-headed businessman" on several occasions and repetitively states that Capitalism will reign supreme over Socialism. In relation to Capitalism; Socialism is the complete opposite.

    • Word count: 1395
  9. In Act 1 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?

    Many see this play as one about feminism, the brutal treatment of women, and their significantly inferior place in society. The Suffragettes were in the height of their campaign in 1912, although most despised their actions and tried to repress them, it was inevitable the someday women would gain the power they sought, and families such as the Birlings needed to learn to respect them and treat them as equals, not in the manner that they treated Eva Smith. 1912 is also a significant year in terms of the Titanic, and the fact that England was heading into World War 1, the most fatal and horrific war the country has ever experienced.

    • Word count: 2177
  10. An inspector calls

    It also shows that the Birlings are quite a dysfunctional family. At the start of the play the stage lighting is meant to be pink and intimate to show that the family has to pretend to be close. However, when the Inspector comes, the light becomes harsh and white almost as if Socialism breaks apart the lies and pretences of the Capitalist world the Birling family have built for themselves to reveal the truth about what they have really done.

    • Word count: 2816
  11. How the character of Sheila Birling develops throughout the play 'An Inspector Calls'

    Her role in the beginning of the play is that of a spoilt and immature girl from an outwardly prosperous family. Even in her first few lines, when she goes to confront her fianc� Gerald, it's clear that she has limited knowledge about the world that surrounds her. When she says 'except for last summer when you never came near me', while she's close to suggesting Gerald's affair, she is too na�ve to consider such a hard prospect. Her innocence is, probably a result of the sheltered upbringing that was common of girls from her class and time and I

    • Word count: 1703
  12. J.B Preistly manages to include quite a lot of history about England. The play cleverly shows what was happening in England at the time. I think this is one of the reasons why the play still proves popular today.

    B is a capitalist who believes in everyone making there own success. "The way you hear some of these cranks talk and write now, you would think everybody would have to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive- community and all that!" this refers to the communist party that was taking place in Russia at the time, this also gets across Preistly's views about capitalism. A lot of the events that took place after the play are said to not be able to happen by Mr B, such as the Titanic being unsinkable and World War 1 would never happen.

    • Word count: 1743
  13. What is the function of The Inspector in the play An Inspector Calls?

    J.B Priestley had many political views but he especially focuses (and is against) social inequality in Britain, so to aware the audience of this he had a hidden message of communism in the play which is why it was first preformed in Russia. Priestley deliberately set his play in 1912 because the date represented an era when all was very different from the time he was writing. In 1912, rigid class and gender boundaries seemed to ensure that nothing would change. Yet by 1945, most of those class and gender divisions had been breached through acts like The Suffragette Movement.

    • Word count: 2361
  14. 20th Century Drama Coursework: An Inspector Calls

    Around the world tensions were building as the German empire was being established, which established the fear of German domination lead France to ally herself with Russia, this led Germany to ally with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During this time Britain was undecided whether to join in or not however, later on joined the Franco- Russian alliance to form the triple Entende. Britain joined the alliance as Germany began expanding her navy trying to compete with Britain's navy. However, even though Britain joined the French and the Russian Britain ignored the obvious signs of conflict because of the conflicts in the

    • Word count: 1377
  15. An Inspector Calls: How are timing and stage directions used for effect?

    The lighting is pink and intimate until the Inspector arrives, where it changes to bright and bold. This symbolises that the Birlings are looking at life 'through rose-tinted glass', which means that they only see the things they want to see and are oblivious to suffering, until they are brought back to reality by the Inspector. Mr Birling is described as "a rather portentous man in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech". This description alone gives us a negative opinion of him as we can guess he thinks a lot of himself before he even speaks.

    • Word count: 1960
  16. In act1 of inspector calls how does J.B Priestly use dramatic devices to convey his concerns and ideas to the members of the audience, as well as interests and involves them in his play?

    It changes from a very celebrational mood to a harsh and inquisitive mood; the strong white lights would give the feeling of a spot light searching for the real answers and the truth. When the maid walks in and announces "Sir, an inspectors called." This gives the cue to alter the lights. The inspector walks in and takes a seat, he begins to discuss the whole Eva smith happenings and then goes on to blame each character individually. Throughout this the inspector keeps a cool control over the situation and is deemed to be in total domination of the conversation.

    • Word count: 1027
  17. Who is the inspector

    Although you could argue that's what a good, professional inspector should be able to do. The characters themselves soon come to realise the inspectors fearsome powers from when Sheila says 'Don't you see, he knows everything' and later Mrs Birling is also left in awe when she realises just how much information the inspector has managed to extract from her. Finally we can see how the inspector may be God from how he judges from a moral standpoint rather than from the rules of the land.

    • Word count: 932
  18. Explain how Priestly presents views on social responsibility in the play?

    As seen by Mr birling as he describes the titanic as "unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable" The statement that the titanic is unsinkable is in actual fact completely wrong and so the audience immediately voids Mr Birling's opinions and loses respect and belief in his character. Then supports his own comment with a profound sense of self importance by saying "As I speak as a heard-headed businessman". With saying that he is pointing out his dominance and authority over anyone else's opinions because he is underlining his own status. Mr Birling himself embodies the smug upper-class snob-like character Priestly wanted to show.

    • Word count: 1459
  19. In act one of “An Inspector Calls” how does 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 of the play is in one room and this allows the audience to focus on the play itself and what the characters are saying. The room is described as "Heavily comfortable" and this gives the impression of wealth and a high standard of living. Combined with the "pink and intimate" lighting, the audience get the impression of a happy and prosperous family that are celebrating some good news. However, when the Inspector walks into the room, the lighting is changed to be "brighter and harder" to match the change of mood that the Inspectors news brings to the celebration.

  20. An inspector calls is set in entirely one room. How does priestley create and maintain tension throughout the play?

    This therefore also emphasis the idea of police and it makes the birling family look and feel like criminals. In fact, a lot of this play puts a spotlight on the birlings and the audiences, making them question their own morals and their own actions. Priestly also uses setting to create tension, for example we are told the birlings are living in a 'fairly large suburban house' which is however 'not cosy and homelike' this suggests that the scene did seem positive at the start but the 'not cosy' creates tension by suggesting that the family may live in a big house but they aren't happy. And it almost suggests that the house is too big to be 'cosy'.

    • Word count: 3007
  21. An Inspector Calls. Priestley uses many dramatic devices to convey his concerns and ideas to the members of the audience as well as involving them in the play. Priestley humours the audience by setting the play in the past (1912 when he wrote in 1945) and

    "And I say there isn't a chance of war. The world's developing so fast that'll make war impossible". This shows dramatic irony and the audience would have reacted to this very strongly because they knew only 2 years later a world war was to break out. So the audience would have laughed at this and Mr Birling's wrong statements, the audience would have found this extremely amusing. In the playwright `an inspector calls` Inspector Goole plays a significant role in helping the Birling family see the error of their ways.

    • Word count: 2304
  22. What is the dramatic impact of the opening of the play An Inspector Calls?

    The party then merged with the Labour party, which as a result swayed many people to put Labour in charge of the government and develop the idea of a Welfare State. These themes and issues are a prominent part of the of the play, and the inspector especially is one who pushes these ideas, almost as if he is the voice of Priestley. Priestley describes the setting of the dining room at the beginning of Act One, saying it is "substantial and heavily comfortable" referring to the house being 'enough' for the Birlings' standards.

    • Word count: 2377
  23. An Inspector Calls Essay What does Priestley show the audience about responsibility?

    Just because she smiled however Sheila got the wrong point of view thinking that Eva was laughing at her but she was just jealous of Eva. She had remorse for what she had done unlike her father Mr Birling. When Sheila states `Yes, but it didnt seem anything very terrible at the time. Dont you understand? And if I could help her now, I would-`. She knows how she is partly responsible. She shows how she has remorse from her errors in addition she says 'Ill never do it again to anybody' which reiterates the difference between her and her father.

    • Word count: 1437
  24. Who is to blame for the death of Eva Smith?Each member of the family plays a role that led to her death therefore to find the most blameful for the death.

    He is responsible for forcing her to find a different occupation plus start a novel uncomfortable life. Even though he has got a right to sack her but he don't recognize that "We don't live alone... also he does not think what he does. Sheila a selfish girl, she just uses her to back up her plan so no one is in her way, she is jealous of nice-looking girls that's why she is jealous of her, therefore she is backing up so no one can compare her with Eva. Mr Gerald's opinion of being apologetic for her, now called Daisy Renton, is understandable.

    • Word count: 655
  25. An Inspector Calls. The author, JB Priestly, uses the character of Sheila to convey his theme of social responsibility.

    says Mr Birling. From this it is clear, Sheila couldn't care to listen to any news or gossip. Her ring dazzles and she is drawn to it as she will after the wedding. The Birling family is a healthy and wealthy family of the time who are privileged to be in their position, although they are abusing their privilege against the people who are not. Mr Birling's beliefs and attitude links to Sheila because she would be marrying at a brilliant time due to everything in life being splendid. They are talking about The War and how it is just Germans that have had too much to drink and are talking nonsense which was not true for they did start "World War Two".

    • Word count: 1649

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