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How does Priestley use the inspector as a dramatic device to highlight the social issues in the play at the time it was set?

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How does Priestley use the inspector as a dramatic device to highlight the social issues in the play at the time it was set? 'An Inspector Calls' is a play written by J.B.Priestley. It is set in 1912 but written in 1945. The play is written in the style or genre of a detective mystery play. It starts with a death that they believe to be a suicide, and the plot of the play is used to investigate the death of Eva Smith. As the involvement of each of the members of the family is progressively established, the structure of the play becomes a typical trait of detective mystery as a 'whodunit' with the Inspector slowly unravelling the life of Eva Smith using each of the family members. Each member of the Birling family has had some connection and involvement with Eva Smith and has unknowingly, until their stories end and a new one starts, contributed to her eventual death. The audience is kept in suspense about who drove Eva Smith to her death as all the characters have had some association with her. Priestley uses climax at the end of each act to hold the audience in suspense but to also hold the audiences interest by the progressive revelations by their desire to find out who was ultimately responsible for driving Eva to commit suicide. With the carefully controlled plot he ensures the audience is left on tenterhooks throughout the play. ...read more.


He also lets them work out the answers themselves 'mother don't you see, but surely... I mean... its ridiculous.' which results in more family breakouts especially when they don't want to tell the inspector anything that might incriminate themselves 'well, we don't need to tell the inspector all about that, do we?' The inspector knows more about the Birlings family secrets than they do themselves and the great details he knows of Eva Smith heightens the great mystery that surrounds him. He knows of how her name changed, 'she used more than one name'. He also knows that she worked for the Birlings and the reasons when and why Mr. Birling sacked her, 'wanted the rates raised'. He also knows of Gerald's affair, Sheila's the cause of having Eva sacked, Eric getting her pregnant and Mrs. Birlings harshness when Eva came to her for help. He knows that everyone in that room had something to do with Eva Smith. How he knows it, we as the audience and the family themselves assume because he is an inspector and that he researches his cases, but that is then cast aside and questioned when we find out he's not a real inspector. He does not actually need to question them very thoroughly as they reveal their involvement with Eva Smith quite readily. They don't actually tell him anything he doesn't already know but he still prompts them to answer his questions, (Mr. ...read more.


They feel different to everyone else and that it doesn't make a difference if the man was an inspector or not. It revealed something about each and every one of them, it exposed their guilty secrets they had been hiding and striped away their show of fa�ade of respectability and showed they are corrupt inside. It creates a lasting impression on Eric and Sheila that distinguishes them from the other three. They realise that you should take responsibility and comprehend the effects on other people. The inspector is used as a dramatic device to expose the Birlings social irresponsibility and ignorance and make them see that their actions have consequences and not to abuse their powers. J.B.Preistley showed the discrimination between social classes and males and females. He tried to convey his ideas using the inspector to make people think and that the issues raised like; marriage between social classes was a taboo, like in the issue with Eric and Eva, and that people from upper class society shouldn't downgrade themselves by going to the places that Eric went to; these were thought of as the 'norm' in those times and to inform people of the time he wrote the play, 1945, more familiar with the times and effects that they caused on other people whatever class. It is Priestleys final sentence of the speech, 'fire and blood and anguish' that he finally makes everyone aware of the inspectors almost supernatural quality. Who or what the 'inspector' was is left deliberately unsolved by Priestley, almost as if to heighten the supernatural nature of the inspector. Siobhan Maine An Inspector Calls Essay ...read more.

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