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Explore Priestley's Dramatic methods in Act 1 of 'An Inspector Calls' and explain how an understanding of the social and Historical contest of the play might be help to shape the audience's response to this scene as a whole.

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Introduction

Explore Priestley's Dramatic methods in Act 1 of 'An Inspector Calls' and explain how an understanding of the social and Historical contest of the play might be help to shape the audience's response to this scene as a whole. ' In Inspector Calls' was written by J.B. Priestley. In 1945, Priestley had experienced 2 world wars and so set the play in 1912 to give the Birlings a chance to change the world and to stop caring just for themselves and care for other people too. This shows us that Priestley was a didactic writer, writing to send a socialist message across. Mr. Birling contradicts himself when he says 'there's too much at stake these days. Everything to lose and nothing to gain by war" meaning there won't be a war because there's nothing we will benefit from by having one. Being set in 1912 meant that social status is quite an important part of everyday life. The social status was quite rigid and no one in a high class mingled with the lower classes accept in one workplace (as employer and worker). To understand the play you must understand this. One example of this is when Mrs. Birling says to Mr. Birling 'Arthur, you're not supposed to say such things' - when he had said for Edna (the maid) to tell the cook that it was a very good dinner and to 'tell cook from me'. This shows that Mrs. Birling married into a class below her own because Mr. Birling had 'new found money' meaning he had built up a fortune himself rather than inheriting it from his family. So he hadn't been brought up with the manners of an upper class of his stature. At dinner they are celebrating Sheila's engagement to Gerald. Mr. Birling is especially pleased because it gives him a chance to get into the Crofts firm and he can get into their wealth. ...read more.

Middle

' I'm still on the bench. It maybe something to do with a warrant'. Most of the talk is very light and no one suspects anything bad to happen, until the inspector comes in and says to them why he's there. When the inspector enters Mr. Birling had just finished talking about how there's all this talk about looking after everyone else as well as yourself, and how he thinks that 'a man has to mind his own business and look after himself...' This is really ironic because this is the exact opposite of the socialist message that priestly is trying to get across. The Birlings disagree about this because they are very individual. I don't think that the Birlings like the idea of having to look after all the poorest people in their society, 'a man has to look after himself-', they are just here for one singular purpose. This is very typical of the time and slowly it has got better, but the Birlings are a very good example of this. Priestley has strong socialist views on the way he looks at life. As he has been through two world wars this is hardly surprising. Priestly as like many others in 1945 were afraid of another world war, so to try and prevent it they used plays and other such things to get their message across. Priestley uses the inspector as his way of communicating with the audience and the Birlings. He is an interesting character because you don't know much about him. He just 'appears' and then when he's done questioning the Birlings he 'disappears'. An inspector is always interesting in a whodunit play because they are always very clever in their ways of detecting things. They always keep their methods secret until the end when everything comes out. When it does it is ever so obvious you are amazed that you didn't see it before! ...read more.

Conclusion

Basically there's one plot, one place and the same length of time passing in the play as in the theater. I personally thought that the beginning of act one dragged on when reading. For me the play didn't really begin until the inspector arrived. It is quite good having the long speeches etc, in the play to begin with because some of the things said are quite important- Sheila's temper for one. I thought that it was a good first act but I felt out of place because this was set 90 yrs ago! The play was more exciting when the inspector came in because; in the national theater production he was dressed in clothes from the 1950's so I wasn't the only outsider. I thought it was good the way that the characters were so unaware of what was going on until they were told. The play made me think of how different life was in 1912. Today we don't have 'social status' and no one is a higher 'class' to anyone else. We all mix with everyone. In 1912, they thought that poor people were lazy and couldn't be bothered to work, so they were treated like dirt. Today it's not like that at all. Priestley's Socialist message isn't clear at the end of act one but at the end of the play it's very clear. It shows us that people in 1912 were saying things like 'well a man has got to make his own way, got to look after himself- and his family too-' People were still much the same in 1945 but they were starting to see that, if they were to prevent another war, then they needed to look after everyone else as well an themselves. Today things are different. People do think about others but not before themselves, so it's still not perfect. We still have a long way to go. Priestly play was a good start to persuading people to change, but it takes a long time. All we have to remember is to treat others, as we would like to be treated ourselves. ...read more.

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