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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. Eric and Mr Birling comparison

    more outspoken when ?he turned nasty?and threatened to make a row.? He relies on alcohol to speak up and this highlights his weak and insecure character, which is not helped by the absence of a father and consequently he fills this void with alcohol. Mr Birling has a love for money which is why he took shortcuts in his business - to maximise profits but this was later was revealed to be a pivotal role in Eva?s suicide. At the start of the engagement, Mr Birling want to treat ?Gerald like one of the family? and ?it?s one of the

    • Word count: 901
  2. How does Priestley make the Inspectors final speech so powerful?

    The plurals are stressed to show that there are many in her circumstances. This could suggest that the Birlings are advised by the Inspector to not be so self contained, and instead should be out there helping the people less fortunate than themselves. J.B. Priestley writes that they are ?left with us? which gives the audience a sense of responsibility seeing that the personal pronoun ?us? unites everyone and makes everyone feel equally responsible and involved within the society, and this idea of shared responsibility is continued with the repetition of the personal pronoun ?we?.

    • Word count: 1461
  3. How does Act 1 of "An Inspector Calls" reveal so much?

    Erics? unmotivated laugh halfway through the conversation brings to light his alcoholic tendencies, (although only being confirmed halfway through the play). With this cleverly organized structure of the play, Priestly suggests ambiguous possibilities of a clash to the careful listener or reader. Mr. Birling is the centerpiece of this part of the play, with his remarks indicating an egoistic, vain man, who is content upon raising his status amongst the upper class society. Mr. Birling recognizes his self satisfied attitude, and takes it as a compliment as he puts it, he is a ?hard-headed man of business.? Smug and sure

    • Word count: 1020
  4. Analyse the main themes in 'An Inspector Calls'

    The Inspector sees society as more important than individual interests. The views he is propounding are like those of Priestley who was a socialist. However, although the Inspector can help the audience to see their responsibilities, they must also want to change their behaviour, so Priestley also points out that we all have a personal responsibility.

    • Word count: 417
  5. An Inspector Calls: Do you think Mrs Birling is more to blame for the death than the other characters?

    Furthermore, much of the play?s success was reliant upon the dramatic irony which Priestley creates. We see this in Mr Birling?s flamboyant expression of his faith in technology, claiming that the Titanic was ?absolutely unsinkable?. Just like the audience who first saw the play in 1946, we identify that he is mistaken, and so we assume that other views are equally wrong. Mr Birling fired Eva Smith from her job at the factory. However, he claims ?I can?t accept any responsibility? for her suicide. The audience are likely to disagree with his statement as a consequence of his earlier foolishness.

    • Word count: 686
  6. An Inspector Calls Extract - Act One. W h a t d o e s t h i s e x t r a c t r e v e a l a b o u t ? M r B i r l i n g P r i e s t l e y s o p i n i o n s

    Mr Birling makes many incorrect predictions and therefore is much dramatic irony such as ?there isn?t a chance of war and ?absolutely unsinkable? when he refers to the Titanic which the audience of course knows sank the week following the engagement party and that two years following this the First World War began. This proves that Priestley thinks capitalism is an act of egotism Priestley is annoyed about the fact that the upper-class businessman, such as Birling, had no outlook on others and particularly the working class.

    • Word count: 725
  7. Explore the Development of the Character of Sheila in 'An Inspector Calls'

    She seems to be more affected by her engagement dinner being interrupted than by this girl's suicide. She is also superficial because she asks the inspector if Eva was 'Pretty?' This also implies that she cares about appearances since she decided to ask the inspector about how Eva looked. This links back to how spoilt she is because she was raised to care about appearances. Priestley also builds her up to be a hypocrite because she blames her father for her death when she says 'perhaps that spoilt everything for her', when ironically, that's what the same thing Sheila does.

    • Word count: 1062
  8. How does Priestly portray Mr Birling in Act 1?

    From these stage directions it reveals that Mr Birling is quite large in size which may help to give him a threatening appearance. However, this appearance does not seem to intimidate the inspector, because during some parts of act one the inspector has the higher status and controls the scene; this shows that his appearance is quite ironic. Arthur Birling is the father to Sheila and in act one he is hosting an engagement party for his daughter and her fiancé, Gerald Croft.

    • Word count: 1106
  9. How is Eva Smith presented in the play? What is the function of this absent character?

    I suppose?? This isn?t however what the audience feels. Eva Smith is not quick to give up as she soon finds another job showing her determination to have a decent life and works hard at Milwards. Another way in which Priestley uses Sheila to present Eva Smith is the praise worthy attribute of not blaming Sheila for firing her and not judging her as she was judged even though she was stripped of her last hope of a decent life.

    • Word count: 1807
  10. An Inspector Calls - Key Scene/Turning Point/ Theme

    The key scene occurs as Mr Birling is lecturing his son, Eric, and future son-in- law, Gerald on the nature of society: . . .a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own. His point of view is self- centred and entirely the opposite of the responsibility Priestley wishes his audience to adopt. As Mr Birling utters these words the Inspector of the title calls to show the Birlings that this attitude is both wrong and immoral.

    • Word count: 1149
  11. How does J B Priestley use the Inspector as a voice for social change?

    The Inspectors name ?Goole? gives off the impression that he is a mysterious and eerie character as ?Goole? sounds like ?ghoul?. The Inspector is first introduced on page 11 and the stage directions automatically give him importance and status; ?he creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness?. The stage directions also describe the Inspector as having a ?disconcerting habit of staring hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking?. This suggests that the Inspector sheds a light on each character and creates an impact when speaking to them.

    • Word count: 1901
  12. Inspector Goole and Mr Birling have perhaps the most noticeably opposing views and philosophies of any two characters in the play.

    Couple this with his hints to Gerald early in the play that he is in line to ?find his way into the next Honours list?, and the audience are shown how Birling feels that for one to be accepted, they must have privileges in society. This is not, however, a philosophy shared by the Inspector. Following Birling?s attempt at a threat (his claim that he plays golf with the chief constable), the Inspector ?dryly? responds that ?I don?t play golf?.

    • Word count: 545
  13. Discuss the literary device of dramatic irony and the use made of it by J.B. Priestly in An Inspector Calls

    ? If he be married, My grave is like to be my wedding bed.? Here, Juliet is saying that she will die if she cannot marry Romeo; however, the audience already knows that it is because she does marry Romeo that she ends up dying at the end of the play; ?A pair of star-cross?d lovers take their life;? Possibly the most obvious example of dramatic irony in Romeo and Juliet is in act 5 scene 1 when Romeo, after being informed of Juliet?s death by Balthazar; ??Her body sleeps in Capels? monument?? Rushes to Juliet?s tomb so that he

    • Word count: 1706
  14. Explore the role of the Inspector. How important do you think he is to the play, An Inspector Calls?

    This shows us that he is referring to the war where everyone was taught that they had to look after each other, everyone was in the same awful situation and the audience would have been aware of this at the time. Inspector Goole is an authoritive figure in the play, he acts equal to society and does not let the Birling?s win him over or push him down with their money, power or position; ?How do you get on with our Chief Constable/I ought to warn you that he?s an old friend of mine,? this tells us that Mr Birling

    • Word count: 977
  15. How does Priestley present the character of Sybil in An Inspector Calls?

    She is the only member of the Birling family to almost completely resist the Inspector's attempts to make her realise her responsibilities. This demonstrates her inability to change attitudes after a lifetime of high living and is representative of the upper classes being closed-minded and ignorant of the plights of others. Sybil responds in a cagey manner to questioning, unwilling to see how she had any part in the suicide of Eva Smith ? despite her being the young woman's very last resort.

    • Word count: 853
  16. Role of Inspector Goole in An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly

    He enters in a most appropriate way, "dressed in a darkish suit of the period?. He speaks very carefully. The inspector creates "an impression of massiveness." J B Priestley makes the inspector have a big impression to make him feel superior to the Birlings. The inspector has a habit of staring at the person before talking to them as a way of intimidating the person so that they feel he is more powerful than they are. He acts, at first, in a way that a normal inspector would. Such as when he refuses a glass of whisky because he is "on duty?.

    • Word count: 533
  17. What is the significance of Inspector Gooles final speech?

    The inspector sees society, much like Priestly, something that is more important that the individual interests of the public. Some more of Priestley's thoughts are conveyed in that speech, as he adds a clear warning on what could happen if some members, as well as us ignore our responsibility. In the speech, the inspector says ?if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught in fire, blood, fire and anguish?.

    • Word count: 545
  18. Who was most to blame for the Death of Eva Smith?

    Had it been her own daughter, or even a women of a higher class, it is likely that Mrs. Birling would have considered her case more sympathetically and offered any help available. Mr. Birling too is a very class conscious person. Even when speaking to Gerald, who is a slightly higher class, Mr. Birling feels he has to prove himself. It appears that Gerald?s mother is not keen on the marriage due to the Birling?s status. However Mr. Birling tries to show off by talking of a knighthood he says he is bound to get, ?Just a knighthood, of course? This shows that though Mr.

    • Word count: 2911
  19. How does Priestley show tension is the at the heart of the Birling family?

    It is this adamant belief that each character?s opinion is the correct one that brings out the flaws within the Birling family, sometimes leading to confrontation. A prime example of this is the tension created by the two powerful characters in the play, Mr Birling and the Inspector, both struggling for dominance, leading to confrontation between the two characters. In some ways this is a symbolisation of the clash between the two powerful political concepts during this time period- Socialism and Capitalism.

    • Word count: 1575
  20. Discuss the ways in which Priestley reveals ideas about equality between sexes in An Inspector Calls.

    Priestley is a Socialist and an egalitarian, and so he has the sort of views that you would expect everyone to have in today?s day and age, but back in 1912, there was not as much freedom and equality of genders as there is now; also, Priestley used to broadcast short speeches on the radio, trying to persuade people to alter their thoughts to the socialist views, and showing them the merits and benefits of socialism, rather than capitalism. One way in which Priestley reveals ideas about inequality between the different genders by using the character and role of Eva

    • Word count: 2043
  21. How does Priestley show a difference in attitudes of different generations in the first act of An Inspector Call?

    They are completely unsympathetic towards the girl and take no responsibility for their actions as their domineering behaviour makes them feel as if they have done nothing wrong this can be shown when Mrs Birling states ?I think she had only herself to blame.? by stating this she reiterates to the Inspector that she feels she has no involvement in the death, by stating 'only herself to blame' in relevance to Eva's death is very cruel and self-centred, as she is clearly trying to revert back to it being Eva's fault therefore diminishing herself and her family out of the equation even though she can be considered to play a large part in her death.

    • Word count: 724
  22. How does Priestly show the difference in attitudes of the younger and older generation?

    Sheila doesn?t seem so inclined to think this way so this shows quite a big difference of opinion between the two generations. Priestly demonstrates this through how the two speak about the subject of marriage and how quickly Mrs Birling dismissed her daughter?s complaints. When the Inspector does arrive however, we see a big difference in reaction when he shares the occurrence of Eva Smith?s death. Mr Birling barely reacts at all, and seems as though he wants to brush the news aside.

    • Word count: 1390
  23. Evaluation of Key Quotes - An Inspector Calls

    ?You?re squiffy? This quote displays the slang terms of the set period, it is the first mention of Eric towards his drinking and suggests he drinks a little bit too much. It also points out the brother, sister relationship between Eric and Sheila. In my opinion it also shows that Sheila is comfortable in joining in with the banter. ?We really must stop these silly pretences.? This displays that Sheila clearly understands the message the Inspector is trying to get across, and in doing this characterises Sheila as being the only character capable of seeing the truth.

    • Word count: 1196
  24. Priestley presents ideas about responsibility in an 'An Inspector Calls'

    He implies that in order to move forward and to rebuild the country the way forward is socialism. Priestley presents ideas about responsibility in an 'An Inspector Calls' by portraying the inspector as a conscience, using him to represent a good example of responsibility in society. The clarity of Eric and Sheila's realisation of the consequences of their actions sends a strong message to the audience about responsibility. Priestley emphasises that everyone has a social responsibility and this is explored through different characters in the play.

    • Word count: 2395
  25. How does Priestley show that tension is at the heart of the Birling family?

    The Briling?s underlying tensions and unspoken fragile moral foundations were represented in Stephen Daldry?s National Theatre production which had the Birling house balanced unsteadily on stilts. Although the Birlings are an upper-class family and lead a very ?substantial and heavily comfortable? life, they do not fit the usual stereotype of an upper-class family. Whilst it is usually the father that is at the head of the family, in the case of the Birlings, Mrs Birling takes the lead. This is shown right from the beginning of the play when Mr Birling asks Mrs Birling to thank the cook for their dinner.

    • Word count: 904

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