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How does Priestley use the Inspector as a dramatic device in "An Inspector Calls", and how far should we see him as the "mouthpiece" for Priestley's moral and social views?

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Introduction

How does Priestley use the Inspector as a dramatic device in "An Inspector Calls", and how far should we see him as the "mouthpiece" for Priestley's moral and social views? "An Inspector Calls" by J.B Priestley was first performed in 1945. The play was set in 1912 before the war; it centres on the wealthy Birling family. A visit from the mysterious Inspector Goole proves to be a horrifying experience for the Birlings as they learn that they have all played a part in the suicide of a young girl called Eva Smith. Priestley wrote this play intentionally as he saw an urgent need for social change and used the play to express his desire for social equality. Priestly attempts to convey his attitudes and ideas through the characters in the play. He uses the Inspector to voice his own opinions. The Birlings are used to demonstrate how not to behave. The time span between the dates used (1945-1912) is to make us aware of what has happened and learn from mistakes made. Priestley hoped his play would give society the chance to look back on the past and not just carry on life in the same way as before. J B Priestley took full advantage of writing in observation and makes sure that it will make the audience realize how wrong they may have been assuming future events. ...read more.

Middle

It also symbolizes the fact that he is an unstoppable force within the play and gives him the thoughtfulness that contrasts with the thoughtlessness of each character's treatment of the girl. His role in the play is not simply to confront each character with the truth, but to force each character to admit the truth they already know. He works methodically through the characters present one at a time, partly because he recognizes that 'otherwise, there's a muddle', and partly because, given the chance, the characters are all quick to defend each other, or to call upon outside help (such as Colonel Roberts) in order to avoid accepting the truth of what he suggests. He arrives just after Birling has been setting out his views of life: that every man must only look out for himself. The Inspector's role is to show that this is not the case. Throughout the play he demonstrates how people are responsible for how they affect the lives of others; his views are summed up in his visionary and dramatic final speech. Responsibility is one of the play's two key themes, and the Inspector is Priestley's mouthpiece for putting across his own views of this as a socialist. In his final speech, he is speaking as much to the audience as to the characters on stage. ...read more.

Conclusion

The inspector brings the play to a close, summarising Priestley's message when he says, "We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other" exactly the opposite of what we are told to believe by Mr. Birling, that everybody should look after themselves. Priestley conveyed his message well, showing us how the situation can be changed and who to depend on to change it. Each character is punished in a just way. Birling fears for his family's reputation; Sheila's ashamed of her actions; Gerald's affair has been revealed in front of Sheila; Eric has been revealed in front of his family as a spoilt and laughable man; Mrs. Birling's illusions about the respectability of her family have been shattered to pieces. But Inspector is not the one who brings about the punishment, it is the consequence of their own actions. when priestly wrote this play he wanted to show us that we can change, and we can decide which views we side with. Priestley wanted the audience and us to learn from the mistakes of the Birling's. I think Priestley wanted to make a difference in the way that people think. Then, if you think about each person coming out of the play and giving a penny to a beggar on the street or even a little thing as treating a person of lower class with respect that they deserve, I would say that Priestley has achieved his aims in writing the play. By Diana Rough 10L1 ...read more.

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