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Explore the ways in which J.B.Priestley makes use of the inspector in An Inspector Calls.

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Introduction

Explore the ways in which J.B.Priestley makes use of the inspector in An Inspector Calls Priestley wrote this play in nineteen-forty five after having experienced himself the, "fire and blood and anguish," that we call World War One and World War Two. After having seen all those, "Eva Smiths and John Smiths and... their suffering," he attempted to reform the views and ideas that are the governing powers in a capitalist society. Priestley saw how the capitalist societies of Europe led to the loss of the lives of, "millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths." Priestley had witnessed how socialist newspapers had warned of the evils of living in a capitalist society, yet their warnings were not heeded. Similarly in the play, Gerald is given a chance to listen to the inspector's warnings, however he ignores them and sides with the Birlings. Here we see the inspector being used to represent a certain group that actually existed within society at that time. We see many different uses of the inspector and his character throughout the play. The first issue I will concentrate on is the element of timing, which was so evidently present in both class discussions of the play and during the production of the play that I saw. ...read more.

Middle

The inspector's omniscience is used to both scare and reassure the audience. It scares them because an outsider knows their faults but reassures them as they are told that they can change the future. This brings me to the third way that Priestley uses the inspector to predict the future. The inspector highlights everything that has gone on in the play by making his message absolutely clear in his speech, "We are members of one body... if men do not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish." As we are watching the play after two world wars we have the benefit of knowing who was actually right. In this way the inspector is used to make the socialist point of view seem like the right view and Birlings talk of the Titanic being 'unsinkable' and war being 'impossible' makes the capitalist idea seem completely wrong. But in the production the inspector's power to predict the future is undermined by the fact that he is wearing nineteen-forties costume and at the beginning of the play he is holding an orange which was not readily available to the British public in nineteen-twelve. ...read more.

Conclusion

This was a great improvement and I believed it added to the way Priestley originally used the inspector. After having analysed the play as a text and production I can see many ways in which Priestley used the inspector to convey his message of social responsibility. It is the inspector who moves the play forwards and creates tension between the characters and the audience. The inspector presents Priestley's idea that, "We don't live alone... We are responsible for each other." It is the inspector who makes the audience think and invites them to participate throughout the play. He behaves not like an inspector but a father confessor, encouraging each character to acknowledge their guilt for Eva's suicide. I think that the inspector represented Priestley himself and the way Priestley used the inspector in the play is the way he would have reacted during the play himself. Although it is clear that Priestley didn't want the audience to promote a single interpretation of the inspector, because this would've broken the unsettled tension about who the inspector really is. Priestley concentrated on using the inspector to break through into the minds of the audience. It doesn't really matter if the audience knows exactly who the inspector was as long as they get the fact the Priestley used the inspector to convey the socialist message of social responsibility. ...read more.

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