• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How does Priestly use the characters in the play to give a political and social message to his audience?

Extracts from this document...


How does Priestly use the characters in the play to give a political and social message to his audience? J B Priestly (1894-1984) wrote An Inspector Calls in 1945, right after the Second World War. The main reason that the play was written was to give the audience of his time a social and political message. The play is set in the fictitious North Midlands industrial city of Brumley in 1912. He wrote the play to give his audience a social and political message. John Boynton Priestly was one of the most popular, versatile and prolific authors of his day. Though he may not have produced an unquestioned masterpiece, his work in many fields of literature and thought, written from the 1920s to his death, is still highly valued. The best known of his sixteen novels, The Good Companions (1929), which has been adapted for stage, film and television, or Literature and Western Man (1960) which shows his works of popular history and literacy criticism are numerous. However, it was as a playwright and as a political and social think that Priestly was as especially important and certainly these two aspects of Priestly are what matter most in An Inspector Calls. Politically Priestly was a patriotic socialist whose love of his country could appear nostalgic, but was passionately convinced of the need for social change to benefit the poor. This is shown by the fact that he was proud of his grandparents being mill workers. During the Second World War his weekly broadcasts were highly influential and expressed his faith in the ordinary people of Britain. In the last year of the war Priestly was writing An Inspector Calls, which he saw as a contribution to public understanding, which might lead to a labour election victory after the war (as happened in 1945). 'We have to fight this great battle not only with guns in daylight, but alone in the night, communing with our souls, strengthening our faith that in common men everywhere there is a spring of innocent aspiration and good will that shall not be sealed' J B Priestly, 1940. ...read more.


eight hundred tons - New York in five days - and every luxury - unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable" The impossibility of war, and the promise of new technology-, which would have been by believed by many in 1912, but what would have seemed laughably optimistic to audiences in 1945. Mr Birling can see no reason why nations would go to war and upset the businessmen's quest for profit. It never occurs to him that other people might value other things more highly. In many ways, he is a stereotype for his time, and this is true for other characters in the play. Mr Birling is a caricature of the callous heartlessness of a capitalistic businessman. Birling is proud of his status; he and his wife set great store by his public offices and privileges. So sensitive is Birling about such matters that he even feels a little uneasy about Gerald Croft marrying his daughter, sensing that Gerald's parents may feel that their son is marrying 'beneath himself'. At the end of the play the possibility that he may be deprived of his promised knighthood upsets him far more than anything else: "Look for god's sake. Well my dear, they're so damned exasperating, they just won't understand out position or too see the difference between a lot of stuff like this coming out in private and a down right public" This shows that Mr Birling losses his patients with Sheila's determination to reveal their hypocrisy. It is a sad reflection on Mrs Birling's character that she is more upset by Birling's swearing than by anything else she has been told during the evening. Mr and Mrs Birling see themselves as upholders of all the 'right' values and as guardians of proper conduct. But both are exposed as self-centred and essentially heartless. They begin by trying to put the Inspector in his place, though emphasising their own position in society. ...read more.


Inspector Goole's name is an obvious pun or 'ghoul', a malevolent spirit or ghost. He could have been a spirit, sent on behalf of the dead girl to torment the consciences of the characters in the play, or as a sort of cosmic policeman conducting an inquiry as a preliminary to the Day of Judgement, or simply as a forewarning of things to come. Certainly it seems that Priestly did not want to promote a ingle interpretation of who the Inspector 'really' is. His dramatic power lies in this. To reveal his identity as a hoaxer or as some kind of 'spirit' would have spoilt the unresolved tension that is effective at the end of play. The stage directions for the Inspector talk 'an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness' and indicate he that 'He speaks carefully, weightily, and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking'. There is an air of menace around him and unlike the other characters he does not deviate from his moral position. He is single-minded in pursuing his chosen line of investigation. He alone is certain of his facts. The other characters question these facts only after he has left. Whilst the Inspector is present, nobody challenges his version of events. Those characters that resist telling the Inspector the truth suffer more than those who are open. The Inspector says to Gerald: "...If you're easy with me, I'm easy with you'. Notice that he deliberately tries to stop Sheila from blaming herself too much. How ever, he begins to lose patients with Mr Birling: "Don't stammer and yammer at me again, man. I'm losing all the patience with you people'. The Inspector is harshest with Mrs Birling because she resists the truth: "I think you did something terribly wrong..." He does not do this because of prejudice, as you see he persuaded all the characters to reveal things, which they would have rather not known, or the truth but some of the characters took this for granted so they got what they gave. By Abubakar Hatimy Abubakar Hatimy Page 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE J.B. Priestley section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE J.B. Priestley essays

  1. Write about Inspector Goole's role in the play. How far is he a believable ...

    Nevertheless, he lets everyone hear and interact within each enquiry. A real policeman would do this privately with one person, as it would dilute the questioning. As Sheila aptly puts it: "he is giving the rope to hang ourselves with" (p.

  2. An Inspector Calls - Social message.

    This would mean that, just as you can look back and see what actions led to your present situation, you could look forward and see the consequences of your actions. So, if you wished, you could change those actions and so avoid the consequences.

  1. The Inspector Says "We're all responsible for each other". Mr Birling Says "A man ...

    This is actually a bad point in these circumstances. I also believed she used her power - the daughter of the self-made-businessman to get her own way - in this instance, the sacking of Eva.

  2. Explain how Priestly manages to create a very vivid picture of the character of ...

    my own - mother had been against it, and so had the assistant - but I insisted. As soon as I tried it on, I knew they'd been right. It just didn't suit me at all. I looked silly in the thing."

  1. An Inspector Calls by John Boynton Priestly.

    I think a reason why Mr Birling sacked her was because he had no respect for the lower class, and would not tolerate someone from the lower class challenging his authority. Something to remember is that Eva could not challenge his decision because there were no workers rights, or unions in those days so she was alone.

  2. What is the moral message Priestly wants us to learn from the play an ...

    Birling becomes aggressive, after going from his original perception of a family orientated man who was dominating. But now I see him as aggressive and defensive. Towards the end of the play Mr. Birling again becomes a different person. Gerald says"... (he puts sown the telephone and looks at them)

  1. ''An Inspector Calls' has been described as a play of social criticism - What ...

    Birling is the head of an organisation that helps all women in distress, but she only does it so that she appears to be putting something back into society because she wants to look like she is a caring, upper class woman.

  2. Choose two characters from the play. With careful analysis of relevant sections of the ...

    This opinion that is shown to us is changed as we go further into the play. We see that after the inspector has interviewed her; the truth is let out, making the audience see her in a whole new light. Also Sheila appears to be a very self conscious girl.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work