• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

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

Extracts from this document...


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.


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.


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.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE J.B. Priestley section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE J.B. Priestley essays

  1. In what ways does Priestley explore responsibility in An Inspector Calls?

    This is the reaction JB Preistley wanted to get from his audience. He wanted people to feel sympathy and care for each other and take responsibility for their actions. A successful method that priestly explores responsibilty is the effect of WWI.

  2. Discussthe role of the Inspector in the play 'An Inspector Calls'

    understand his point and puzzle about how this could possibly have happened to them. This shows Gerald's awareness and intelligence at this point of the play. To verify that his point is true, Gerald then makes a phone-call to the Infirmary, beforehand stating, "Either there's a dead girl there or there isn't."

  1. How does J.B Priestly explore the issues of social responsibility on 'An Inspector Calls'?

    This is how act two is closed, with Sheila saying 'Mother- I begged you and begged you to stop' Now it becomes clear that Eric has been involved with Eva as well and before act three begins the audience is able to reflect on the way that social responsibilities have been explored and addressed.

  2. An Inspector Calls. Explore the social and political views of the Birlings and the ...

    Just a knighthood of course." This tells us that Mr Birling's ambitious goal is to become a knighthood. Birling want respect and he is aware of his superior social class and status. When each character hears about the news of Eva Smiths death, each has different reactions towards the news.

  1. An Inspector calls Compare and contrast the way in which Arthur and Sheila Birling ...

    Sheila represents the younger generation in the play. At the beginning of the play we see that Sheila is playful and rather self - centred, enjoying the attention and importance that her engagement is bringing her. We see that Sheila is an attractive and honest character, as well as sensitive and na�ve.

  2. An Inspector Calls - Compare and contrast the reactions of the older generation and ...

    It is my view that Sheila is the voice of reason in the play, as she is the only person who, during the questioning, advocates truthfulness and caution, because she knows the Inspector has a plan to ensnare each person and then reveal his knowledge of what they have done

  1. Relationship between Men and Women in “An Inspector Calls”

    For the men, in this scene we see it's like a traditional thing to do, smoking a cigar after meals as Mr Birling says, "I like a good cigar." Implying that he only enjoys them without the company of the misses and after meals.

  2. What message do you think that Priestley is trying to give in 'An Inspector ...

    If he is not a real Inspector, what is he? A clever impostor (but nonetheless human)? The personification of the social conscience the characters all lack or suppress? A supernatural, God-like being (for he certainly seems to know what each character has done, without being told)?

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work