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

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Introduction

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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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.

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