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GCSE: J.B. Priestley
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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 is a modern morality play disguised as a detective drama." Show how Priestley uses the conventions of the detective story to put over a moral message to the audience.
Priestley uses this effect to his advantage by being able to aim the moral message to the audience. The playwright includes the conventions of a detective story in his play, in order to create advantages that are made as a result of a detective story. The mystery of the play is first introduced when Inspector Goole makes his surprise entrance to the scene of the Birling's large, suburban, house. In addition the tension of Scene 1 is enhanced when Goole makes hints that in the future he may need to interview more than just Mr. Birling. For example in Act 1 the inspector gravely advises Gerald: "Then I'd prefer you to stay".
- Word count: 1806
Priestly thought that by writing this play, he could help make people realise this needed to change. Firstly Mr Birling. He is a character we find it hard to sympathise with. He's head of the Birlings household and he believes that if you want to get somewhere in life you have to work hard to earn your living. Now that he's done that he's become very selfish and arrogant. Mr Birling said "the Titanic is unsinkable and war would never happen with Germany". This is dramatic irony as it shows he is not always right as the titanic does sink.
- Word count: 1159
What opinions do you think the audience at the first performance in London in 1946 would have formed about Mr Birling(TM)s character from this first part of an inspector calls?
It is set in Brumly London and all scenes are played out in the Birlings family home. In the whole play there are only 7 on screen characters; Arthur Birling, Sybil Birling his wife, Shelia and Eric Birling his children, Gerald Croft Shelia's fianc�e, Edna the maid and Inspector Goole. Another main character who is not seen on screen is Eva smith or Daisy Renton. She is the young girl who recently killed herself after getting cruelly treated by all the Birling's. Mr Birling reflects the attitude of Britain in 1912. They were a dominant country in the world and confident about their affairs. This is shown during Mr Birling's speech to his family about the future.
- Word count: 1791
Why do you think Priestley chooses to set the play in 1912? What effect does this have on the play(TM)s dramatic impact?
Despite the reference to the "desert plates" and "champagne glasses" there is still a lingering feeling of cold and disagreement within the family. There is also a sense of formality and distance between the family members as he writes that "men are in tails and white ties" and that it is "not cosy and homelike". He also emphasises the remoteness between Mr and Mrs Birling by situating them at opposite ends of the table We can draw contrasts from 1912 and 1945 on many occasions during An Inspector Calls.
- Word count: 2795
The characters in the Birling family are; Mr. Birling, Mrs. Birling, Sheila and their son Eric. Also amongst them is Gerald Croft a 'well-bred,' man who is engaged to the Birlings daughter, Sheila. The Birling characters see themselves as much better than others and are 'tremendously happy,' with their lives so far. The daughter Sheila is to be married to 'the kind of son-in-law,' that the Birlings always wanted. Not because he makes Sheila happy but, because his father is the owner of the Birlings rival company Croft's Limited.
- Word count: 1536
The inspector is shown to be a socialist, therefore he believes in helping and looking after each other. The Inspector wants to teach the Birling's how to behave towards other people. This play tells us about Priestly's concerns. It tells us priestly wants the audience to look after each other and help other people. This is because he is concerned about the way rich people treated poorer people at that time The genre this play belongs to is mystery. This because the plot of the play is very miseries and it keeps you guessing until the very end.
- Word count: 877
His other concerns are about the whole of society and the difference between old and young. This gap is shown in the play again with the old ignoring their responsibility for people lower in status in them and how they should not exploit them with their power. The young however are more impressionable and accept new ideas about life, like Gerald and Sheila both accepting unpleasant truths with their part in Eva's death to develop, which develops awareness and responsibility. These concerns are revealed by the Inspector who teaches this value to the Birlings and indirectly the audience.
- Word count: 1039
as dramatic irony, Mr Birling starts to make a speech about his view on the world he lives in, he believes that there will be no war "You'll hear some people say War is inevitable. And to that I say - Fiddlesticks!" of course the audience knows there was a war, a world war. likewise Mr Birling also mentions the titanic, "Why a friend of mine went over his new liner last week- The Titanic- she sails next week-forty-six thousand eight hundred tons-forty-six thousand eight hundred tons-New York in five days-and every luxury-and unsinkable."
- Word count: 1720
It is part of his deeply felt, genuine concern for humanity, not just the expression of a political opinion. Dramatic devices are used to build drama like Lighting, Props, Emotions on the characters faces, Stage Directions, words and actions of the characters, Dramatic Irony and the Setting of the Play. All these things create drama and help to keep the play interesting. At the beginning of the play we find the Birling family sitting down finishing their dinner. It is obvious that the home is of a successful and prosperous man.
- Word count: 5987
At that point Birling is aware that he is socially inferior to Gerald, and he tries to work his way around it. Birling also makes his wife take some port, because he wants to make Gerald think that they are all of the same social status. However, Mrs Birling is socially superior to her husband, and she only drinks port in moderation compared to Arthur and Eric. Birling unfortunately follows this up with another mistake, where after he relaxes, he tells his wife to thank the cook for the meal he and everyone else have just eaten.
- Word count: 2715
"The next time you imagine it, just remember this girl was going to have a child" this makes Sheila feel awful as children are very precious and to think that they ruined the life of a baby as well as a young woman is a horrible thought to deal with. "You see, we have to share something. If there's nothing else, we'll have to share our guilt" the inspector is letting them all know that it is important they admit to playing a crucial part in Eva's death and that they should all share the blame.
- Word count: 4658
The most emotional scene in the play is when Sheila Birling hears of the horrible death of Eva Smith. As the plot unfolds, she finds herself more involved with her death than previously thought. She then finds out that her fianc�e also knew the girl, as he had spent the previous summer with her using her as his mistress. Sheila, normally a very excitable and complacent girl, immediately becomes upset when she hears of Eva's death. "(Distressed) I went to the manager at Milwards and I told him that if they didn't get rid of that girl, I'd never go near the place again and I'd persuade mother to close our account with them."
- Word count: 660
Tension begins to surface from each family member when, one by one, it is revealed they have been involved with the girl and therefore, played a part in her death. Arthur Birling, factory owner and head of the household is a character with strong opinions which he takes pleasure in preaching to his family. He is the first to come under Inspector Goole's questioning when it is uncovered that he sacked Eva Smith from his factory when she requested a moderate pay rise.
- Word count: 1108
Along with this purpose the inspector also promotes the social views of Priestley that all people are responsible for each other. After Sheila returns from her somewhat traumatic departure after seeing the photo of Eva Smith she tells the inspector 'So I'm really responsible' at this the inspector replies 'No, not entirely...But your partly to blame...' This is the inspector dividing the responsibility quite deliberately. Also when Sheila refuses to go after the inspector starts to ask Gerald his part with Eva Smith the inspector says very calmly '...she'll feel she's entirely to blame, she'll be alone with her responsibility...'
- Word count: 1130
This is precisely the role in which you will be playing, as Sheila Birling. This play is about a Birling family who are joyfully celebrating their daughter's engagement to Gerald Croft. When inconveniently an inspector shows up investigating a suicide of a young-working class women. The moral message which Priestley was trying to give the audience was that he wanted change and he does this through the characters Sheila and her brother Eric, as the younger generation was easier to get through then the older. He wanted society to change, wanted to show the affect of responsibility and that change was important.
- Word count: 2296
It is also a representation of the drastic social changes that took place during these eras, when age, gender and class boundaries began to be breached. In the play, Priestley uses the inspector as a puppet to portray his own views and concerns about the country to his audience. The entrance of the Inspector is placed at a vital point, immediately after Birling's speech in which he shares his capitalist views claiming: "a man has to make his own way-has to look after himself".
- Word count: 1947
As you will learn some characters have more to blame than others I will create a reference to this at a later date. Priestly also tried to achieve a number of other things by writing this play when he did. so why did he Wright it when he did your thinking he did this because of the following reasons world war one and two, socialism, morality play these will also be explained later. As I mention earlier Priestley tried to achieve several things these being that he wanted to show the world the division between classes how you should not mix and every one has to sick to there class.
- Word count: 2860
Using the play, Priestley attacks the social standards of the time, a time in which people were just concerned for themselves with no concern for the welfare of the community. Priestley was a socialist and believed that people should either share their wealth or help those in need. In several of his plays he tried to persuade people to become socialist. He uses 'An Inspector Calls' to voice some of his beliefs e.g. what can happen if we ignore the feelings of others.
- Word count: 3125
At the beginning of the play, Priestley sets out an extensive series of stage directions. He applies them effectively as a dramatic device, in that he uses them to show how the Birling family is cold, distant people and how capitalism has ruined them as a family. He illustrates how the family is very well of, examples are" dessert plates" and "champagne glasses" as well as other expensive items. However, there is also a sense of formality and distance between the family members as he writes that "men are in tails and white ties".
- Word count: 1408
The play is a mystifying and exhilarating mix of many themes, including greed, vanity and rejection, as well as love, sex and secrecy. I feel that the play conveys a deep message without being melodramatic. 'An Inspector Calls' tells of the bourgeoisie Birling family celebrating the engagement of their daughter Sheila to an aristocratic man, Gerald Croft. The catalyst to the play, Inspector Goole, arrives and completely alters the situation, by forcing all the characters to examine their own consciences, which leads to a dramatic ending.
- Word count: 534
In Act One of An inspector calls(TM) 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 the play?
Edna is the Birling's maid and appears sparingly in the play. She is used as a device to illustrate the Birlings' attitude to the lower classes and announces the Inspector's arrival. Inspector Goole plays the part of investigating the suicide of a girl called Eva smith. The inspector wants to show the Berling's that their actions have consequences, no matter how they are in society. Priestley's main concerns are that class shouldn't exist, everyone should be treated equally and not to be selfish. An Inspector Calls is also a morality play as it does teach the audience a lesson and has a meaning behind it.
- Word count: 1171
Croft how to live life and how there attitude should be towards others. During this play J.B Priestley tries to give these characters a lesson on equality and rights at the same time he tries to make them realize the mistakes and how money and status is not everything. The main theme of this play is responsibility. The inspector tries to make each of the characters take responsibility and to do this he tries to change his personality from being mysterious to being someone who ask many questions an even to the point of challenging the Birling's for the to cough out the truth.
- Word count: 1823
This shows him to be a capitalist, another thing that show him to be this is when he says "a man needs to look after himself" and "as if we were mixed up together... community and all that nonsense" this shows he follows the old ways of classes and thinks people should know ere they belong. When the Inspector questions him he reacts like the Inspector is doing something disgraceful and stays in denial "yes, well, we needn't go into all that" and "still, I cant accept any responsibility" show his denial to the suicide and "I don't like that
- Word count: 1402
Between 1912 and 1945, many important events occurred, including; both World Wars, the Holocaust, the sink of the Titanic and the Wall Street Crash (resulting in hyperinflation and the great depression). The overall message of the play is to be more socially responsible by taking care of your community as a whole body of people, and to accept that there are other people who are different, or are of a lower class. 2. Context Priestly wrote the play in 1945, it was set in 1912 however, as a way to reflect on how capitalists neglected their responsibilities as members of a society to care for others.
- Word count: 1350
In Act Three of 'An Inspector Calls', the inspector says: "We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other." Who do you think is the most responsible for the death of Eva Smith?
Both individual and collective acts of responsibility entwined their life with that of Eva Smith. Firstly, at the end of September 1910, Mr Arthur Birling discharged Eva from his works because she fronted a strike for higher wages. Left without a job for two months, she was now in desperate need for one. A "wonderful stroke of luck" meant that Eva found herself being taken on in Milwards, "a good shop" frequently visited by Sheila Birling. With a "fresh start" Eva worked happily for a couple of months until "a customer complained about her - and so she had to go".
- Word count: 1808