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How does Priestley use time as a dramatic device in 'An Inspector Calls'? How does this highlight the themes in the play?

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Introduction

How does Priestley use time as a dramatic device in 'An Inspector Calls'? How does this highlight the themes in the play? "Things could really improve if only people were to become more socially responsible for the welfare of others" as J.B Priestley once said. Throughout Priestley's life he was fascinated by the idea of time and uses this as a ground to base his stories upon. For many years, Priestley studied Ouspensky's theory; the belief that when we die, we re-enter our life again from the beginning, unless we learn from our mistakes. Priestley also studied Dunne's theory; the idea that you could be given the gift of seeing forward in time, as well as looking back so you can change your mistakes and avoid the consequences. These views and theories on time and society led Priestley to write a play, called 'An Inspector Calls'. 'An Inspector Calls' is a well-made play that attacks the social morels of his time. The play is set in 1912, but written in 1947, just two years after the Second World War. Edwardian society in 1912 was strictly divided into social class. J.B Priestley wrote the play for a middle class audience whilst highlighting the hypocrisy of the upper class. ...read more.

Middle

Placing the inspector's arrival here is a dramatic device, which challenges Mr Birling's view on society. As the play proceeds, the audience appreciate the important timing of the inspector's arrival and creates dramatic irony. This is due to the inspector teaching Gerald Croft and the Birlings that we have collective responsibility for everyone- a contradictory view to Mr Birling's. Priestley uses time as a device to expose the hypocrisy of the upper classes in Edwardian Britain. Up until Mrs Birling's confession, the inspector relates the events leading up to Eva's death in chronological order. In spite of that, Priestley chooses to reveal Mrs Birling's involvement before Eric's. Throughout Mrs Birling's confession, her prejudices are displayed through the inspector's skilful interrogation. She expresses her views on the fate of the father of Eva's baby, oblivious that this man is in fact her son. Her prejudice is displayed when she remarks that "the father should be responsible" and that he should "marry her". However previously in the play, Mrs Birling had already revealed her prejudice towards girls of a lower class, yet she is now innocently suggesting her son marry a girl from a lower class. ...read more.

Conclusion

Throughout 'An Inspector Calls' the older Birling's represent those who have failed to learn from their mistakes. The audience appreciate this after the inspector's departure, when Mr Birling remarks, "most of this is bound to come out. There'll be a public scandell." This shows us that Mr Birling's main concerns remain to be his social status and respectability within the community, despite the inspector's visit. However, Sheila and Eric represent the younger generation who still have a chance to learn and change. This is portrayed when Sheila and Eric lecture their parents about not learning their lesson: "You're beginning to pretend now that nothing's really happened at all...the girl's still dead isn't she?" In my opinion, the inspector in some respects is just the characters conscience in order to make them change their minds about life. I believe the characters in the play do have some hope and the inspector is there to help them, but only the characters themselves can decide if they want to be helped. In conclusion, this play is a comment on the society of the Edwardian age, as well as being a play about relationships on the whole. Priestley sets out to show the failings of that society and pass on the message that we have to confront out mistakes and learn from them. ...read more.

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