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Explore how Priestley prepares the audience for the play as a whole in Act One of “An Inspector Calls”.

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Introduction

Explore how Priestley prepares the audience for the play as a whole in Act One of "An Inspector Calls" The themes and concepts that Priestley explores in Act One provide the audience with the core of the plays meaning. The play is split into three Acts and Act One is of pivotal importance to the play as a whole. J.B.Priestley's "An Inspector Calls" is a well-made play that attacks the social morals of his time; he uses the Birling family, a typical upper class family of the time to criticise moral issues and project his own message. It contains all the ingredients of a well-made play; it is captivating, and it holds the attention of the audience. It achieves this by the use of climaxes, the slow unravelling of the plot and the use of the detective-whodunit style. In his stage directions Priestley ensures that the audience are aware of the Birlings status in society before the play has started by setting the scene in a "large suburban house". The house and furniture are described collectively as "comfortable" as against "cosy"; this is a subtle suggestion that not all of the characters are at ease with one another. In Act One Priestley introduces all his characters, their personalities and behaviour, including the one character who is intrinsic to the meaning of the play but who never actually appears. Mr Birling opens the play with "You ought to like this port, Gerald. As a matter of fact, Finchley told me it's exactly the same port your father gets from him." Birling's first line of dialogue shows him trying to 'social-climb' by showing that he too drinks the same Port that Gerald (in a position of higher status than Mr. ...read more.

Middle

From his arrival, the Inspector makes it clear that he takes his role very seriously. This is shown in the delivery of his speech and the dialogue he uses. The Inspector's authorative words, "one line of inquiry at a time" suggests to the audience that the Inspector may be at the house for some time and that he has other family members yet to question. This builds up the tension as the audience is left guessing who will be the next to be questioned and what effect they had on the life of Eva Smith. Eva Smith, the victim of the "chain of events" brought on by the Birlings, represents the stereotypical lower class worker of the time. She is a character of pivotal importance throughout the play with her role being to reveal other characters real feelings, thoughts and views on life. This is achieved through the interrogation of the inspector. She remains a mystery as the audience never actually meet her but her character is gradually revealed through the other characters reactions to her death. "She was very pretty and looked as if she could take care of herself" The very name 'Eva Smith' has been cleverly constructed as 'Eva' suggests 'woman' due to its biblical origins, and 'Smith' is a 'common' name which suggests that Eva Smith is a representative of all lower class women. Priestley uses this name to show that it could have been any working class girl that was affected and that there are many more still out there who need our help. Priestley uses many dramatic devices and structures to make an impact on the audience. ...read more.

Conclusion

Act One presents the audience with Priestley's understanding of the middle classes, of this time, through the life of the Birlings, very accurately, and sets the stage for this moralistic mystery to be played out. J.B. Priestley was writing the play for a middle class audience and was trying to speak up for the working class by showing how the Birlings and Gerald Croft were all involved in making a young working class girl's life a misery. Priestley wants to show us that we have a responsibility to others to act fairly and without prejudice and that we do not live in isolation. Our actions affect others. This is the concept of collective responsibility. Priestley says, 'things could really improve if only people were to become more socially responsible for the welfare of others'. We have to confront our mistakes and learn from them Act One begins the process of inspection into beliefs and morals for both the audience and the characters. In my opinion, in the writing of this play, Priestley's aim was to make us think, to make us question our own characters and beliefs. He wanted to show us that we can change, and we can decide which views we side with. He wanted us to ask ourselves if we wanted to be a Sheila or a Sybil, an Eric or an Arthur. Priestley wanted the audience to learn from the mistakes of the Birlings. Priestley wanted to make a difference in the way people think. The play gives the audience and society as a whole, time to change their actions towards others. That is, before an Inspector calls on you, to warn you that if the lesson is not learnt, it will be taught in "blood and fire and in anguish." Emily Capes ...read more.

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