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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. How does J B Priestley deliver his moral message in “An Inspector Calls”?

    - W. Robson, 20th Century Britain, 1983 W. Robson refers in his quote to the era that "An Inspector Calls" is set. He discusses the unjust classing system of the time and says that the "lowest-paid of all workers were the women in the sweated trades". This is a clear reference to Mr Birling's factory and to Eva Smith, who was once an employee of Birling. "The Edwardian age was probably the last period in history when the fortunate thought they could give pleasure to others by displaying their good fortune before them".

    • Word count: 2796
  2. Comment on the purpose and the approach of the Inspector

    They are much harder to break down if they are not questioned individually and in order of when they met Eva Smith. The arrival of the Inspector is very important because of the timing of it. Just before he enters, there has been a celebration dinner party going on in the Birling household, due to Sheila getting engaged to Gerald Croft. The family are all in high spirits. Arthur Birling thinks Gerald is the perfect man for Sheila, and their marriage will also create ties between his business and that of Gerald's father.

    • Word count: 1884
  3. An Inspector Calls

    At the start of the play Sheila is happy with Gerald. She is young, attractive and has just become engaged but her happiness is soon to be destroyed as is her faith in her family Her response to the tragedy is one of the few encouraging things to come out of the play. She is genuinely upset when she hears of Eva's death and learns from her own behaviour She is very distressed by the girl's suicide and thinks that her father's behaviour was unacceptable.

    • Word count: 1364
  4. Analysing what Priestley’s main aim is and has he achieved it in An Inspector Calls

    The speech is very powerful and dramatic it is quite similar to a political speech. The reason it is so dramatic and powerful is because of the use of 'we and us' and memorable phrases like 'fire and blood and anguish'. We can see this at the end of act three page 56: "We don't live alone, we are members of one body, we are responsible for each other." "If men will not learn this lesson they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish" What Priestly is trying to get across here is that we need to use collective responsibility in order to maintain peace in the world.

    • Word count: 779
  5. Who is most responsible for the death of Eva Smith?

    Priestley intends the inspector to appear as a socialist while Mr and Mrs Birling portray the upper class 'snobs' not concerned with the welfare of anyone but themselves. Sheila and Eric, however, are the new generation of thinkers, concerned about the good of everyone and believing that everyone should have an equal chance, not being condemned to suffering because they are of a lower class and social standing. It seems that Priestley is trying to show that these two have the same attitude as the new Labour government, ready to learn from their mistakes and to try to set things right in Britain.

    • Word count: 1209
  6. The Main Themes in ‘An Inspector Calls’

    I will discuss each one of these main themes in turn within this essay. Eva Smith is the only lower class person in the play, apart from the children playing in the street at the beginning of the play or maybe Edna, but she would be viewed as lower-middle class. She is seen as lower to the Birlings, and seen as just another employee by Mr.Birling, and as an impertinent little girl seeking help by Mrs.Birling. The largest theme within the play is that of responsibility.

    • Word count: 2327
  7. How far do you think each character is responsible for Eva Smith’s suicide and why? Which do you think is the most responsible?

    The audience knows clearly that Mr. Birling doesn't like the new ways of thinking the Inspector is implying. This may be as he is older and not as impressionable as his children. At the beginning of the play the lighting is very important as it helps to convey the situation to the audience: `(The lighting should be pink and intimate until the Inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder.)' This is a metaphor as it echoes the idea looking through `rose tinted glasses', as they are seeing only what the want to see when they are sat

    • Word count: 2644
  8. Tension in An Inspector Calls

    He doesn't understand why they couldn't have more money. Eric doesn't realise how much he has benefited from the workers having a low wage, but he is more humane than his father. After the inspector leaves the children are affected by what the inspector has shown them. The parents, on the other hand, are too set in their ways and are more affected by the fact that it could have been a scandal rather than the principle of the affair. The inspector keeps very mysterious throughout the play. By doing this he keeps the characters and the audience guessing.

    • Word count: 1473
  9. Show how J.B Priestley demonstrates his political views through ‘An Inspector Calls’. You need to establish the social/historical background of the characters in the play in order to do this.

    In the play his socialist ideas are expressed through the characters and by exploiting some techniques and devices. Firstly I am going to write about the social and political climate of the day. Priestley wrote 'An Inspector Calls' in 1944, but the play was set in 1912. Priestley took into account the political and social climate of not just 1944 but also when the play was set in 1912. Because of the time in between the two periods Priestley could use historical events and facts for his own use in the play. An example of this is when Birling says in mid-conversation, "I'm talking as a hard headed, practical man of business.

    • Word count: 1143
  10. Who Is Inspector Goole?

    His name also has some significance in anagrams. Letters from his name can form the word LEGO, which I think could represent him breaking the family down to pieces and he bombards them with his inquiries. One rather far-fetched Conclusion is that that Inspector Goole is the son of Eva Smith who has come back from the future to seek justice on those who drove her to suicide. He might display this in the way that he seems to know an awful lot about her and her personal life.

    • Word count: 474
  11. How Would a Modern Day Audience Respond To a Performance of ‘an Inspector Calls?

    Sheila! And Eric! And Now Arthur! Nevertheless, she does have a nice side to her "Yes, Gerald. Yes, Sheila darling. Our congratulations, and the very best wishes" Gerald Croft is the son and predecessor of the rivals of Mr Birlings business empire, but cares more for his "soon to be wife" Sheila than the business (unlike Mr Birling). Sheila Birling is a self-respective young lady, who seems to respect her mother and father and has a great love of her fianc� Gerald. Eric Birling is the son of Mr and Mrs Birling and appears to respect his family though he does cause them embarrassment from time to time, in company.

    • Word count: 2263
  12. “An Inspector Calls”

    So Eva Smith/Daisy Renton and other workers leaded a strike. The strike did not last very long so Mr. Birling let most workers come back and carry on with there job. But he did not let Eva Smith/Daisy Renton and other workers who leaded the strike come back and carry on with there work. The Inspector works out by asking his questions and shows us that Sheila was also involved in the suicide of Eva Smith/Daisy Renton in a different way. He shows us that after Eva Smith/Daisy Renton got Sacked from Mr. Birlings factory she tried very hard and got another job in a big cloth store called Millwards.

    • Word count: 1980
  13. Imagine you are the director for a production of J B Priestley's "An Inspector Calls. Give detailed instructions to the actress playing Sheila about how you want her character portrayed."

    Sheila has had a middle class upbringing, which means her education would have been based on social etiquette. E.g. - How to look nice for her husband, how to treat servants and how to use social skills at dinner parties. Because of this, Sheila's character appears quite shallow to begin with. However when she discovers her actions in the clothes shop resulted in Eva Smith's sacking, her attitude changes and we begin to see that Sheila, as a character, has more depth than previously believed.

    • Word count: 1511
  14. The Diary of Eva Smith

    But then I stop. I look around me. The memories come flooding back along with the tears. I remember the dreary surroundings, the prisonlike atmosphere. Then my smile fades, the dreams disappear and recede into the distance. I remember the way I fit in so well with the shadows of my four cornered room. The blackness so dense no light can shine through, so hollow there's no escape and so infinite that there's no hope. Mr Birling with his elaborate talk on respect and earning what you get.

    • Word count: 3224
  15. Discuss the visual and dramatic impact of the production design in the Royal National Theatres “An inspector calls”

    The Inspector informs the family that they have all contributed in some way to the death of a young girl named Eva Smith. The play contains a mixture of deceit, abuse of power and unfaithfulness. Daldry employed the help of set designer Ian MacNeil who redesigned the opening scene and set it in 1945 and also in 1912. This won the play fantastic acclaims for its stunning visual interpretation and dramatic impact. The set was very dark and mysterious and included bomb damaged houses, this helps to make the audience realise the devastation, horror and damaging influence of war!

    • Word count: 654
  16. Arthur Birling is a rather portentous man in his middle fifties with a fairly easy manner but with restricted views and opinions

    It's a free country I told them". He didn't punish the workers who asked for more money but he turned them down because he thinks it's his duty to keep costs low and prices high but Birling realises he has no legal obligation to keep labour costs down so he does it for his own moral reasons. The girls then went on strike but came back a week later on the old rates a week or so after the strike began apart from four or five ringleaders who of course included Eva Smith.

    • Word count: 3651
  17. Examine the role of Eva in ‘An Inspector Calls’

    Their demand from this strike was a increase in their wages from 22/-6d to 25/-. This was helped by trade unions that brought about awareness about working conditions. Previously Eva had been getting on with her job very well it was only after she came back from her holiday she wanted better rates. Eva had actually been recommend for promotion, and her relationship with Mr Birling had been fine before this point but after that everything went down hill for her at Birlings This strike went on for a couple of weeks but not having any money started hitting the

    • Word count: 3507
  18. Inspector Calls Essay

    She had been working there for over a year and following the return of her holiday Eva Smith and some other girls requested a pay rise. The main reason for this was because the factory girls couldn't even pay their rents with the amount that Mr Birling had been paying them. He did not take them seriously because they were women and so the factory girls decided to go on strike. When Mr Birling said, 'he couldn't consider' the pay rise, (p15)

    • Word count: 1446
  19. Who’s Mostly To Blame for the Death of Eva Smith?

    He was also the victim of a gas attack. It was from these experiences that J.B.Priestly benefited from, for his writing. When finally leaving the army , Priestly took a place at Cambridge University to read Modern History and Political Science. Despite successfully taking his degree, he had found that academic life did not suit him and in 1921 he left for London with his newly-wed wife to work as freelance writer. The death of his wife did not prevent him from achieving consistent success as an essayist throughout the 1920's.

    • Word count: 1225
  20. Examine carefully the characters of the Birling family and Gerald, how do they share the characteristics of their class, how do they respond to the inspectors revelations ”

    His wife was born into money and in to a rich household. He is a self-made man which means that he has worked for all that he now owns. He is awaiting knight hood from the queen, which would put his social standing Even higher because it would give him a title, Sir. Gerald Croft was engaged to Mr Birling's Daughter, Sheila. The marriage would combine two of the big company's together, Croft LMT. and Birling's.

    • Word count: 512
  21. An Inspector Calls Diary entries

    Oh how I just wish I could return home. But it is so far away and I don't have the money to return. Oh god, I am so scared, all I wanted was to be given the chance to make something of myself, and now I am back at square one. But then, was working for Birling really what I came here for? Ok, so I've lost my job and I haven't any money. This is just an obstacle to overcome.

    • Word count: 1906
  22. The directing of John Boynton Priestley’s An Inspector Calls

    "The Inspector explains to the family about the death of a young lady named Eva Smith (but as you read the story you find out that she used more then one name) who was one of Mr. Birlings employees but had to leave the company after being discharged by Mr. Birling. I also choose to direct this act because I like the way the Inspector questions the whole family and finds out that they each met Miss Eva Smith and may have had something to do with her committing suicide, so they all feel guilty about the way they had treated her.

    • Word count: 564
  23. Diary Of Eva Smith

    Brumley has not achieved my dreams and aspirations but it is better than Oxley. 18th August 1910 Dear Diary, I wish I had never stepped into Mr Birling's cold and heartless office. After the summer, around a dozen employees including me decided to ask for a rise from twenty-two and six to twenty-five shillings a week. Mr Birling being an egotistic and merciless boss furiously declined, he proclaimed that it was his "duty to keep labour costs down" and as a result he dismissed fellow workers including me, as I was believed to be a "troublesome character."

    • Word count: 1284
  24. What Is The Purpose Of The Inspector’s Visit, And How Successfully Does He Achieve It?

    (Pg56, stage directions) 'He (the Inspector) walks straight out leaving them staring, subdued, and wondering.' As he leaves he knows what the touched household are saying, but I feel that he does not know the final outcome of his visit. I think that is one of the reasons that the Inspector did come is part personal. But I will concentrate more on these factors later on. Another contributor to the phantom case is the precise moment in which the Inspector enters the play. (Pg9) 'But what so many of you don't seem to understand now, when things are so much easier, is that a man has

    • Word count: 3511
  25. Why is the play “An Inspector Calls” still a popular play today?

    For instance Gerald says things like "Oh - I say" and "Hear, hear!" and his speech is more educated and precise than Birling's, whose speech is more relaxed. For instance Birling says things like "y'know eh?" and throughout the play Birling abbreviates words such as "them" to "'em ", subtly suggesting a less-educated and precise character. This non-extreme conflict of class observed in the opening sets the scene for the whole play and by being subtle it achieves effect, by gently introducing the key element of the plot ahead early on without overshadowing events to come. This sub-consciously familiarises the audience with the main theme making what's to come more affective and powerful.

    • Word count: 2481

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