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How does the playwright J.B. Priestly develop tension in the opening section of "An Inspector Calls"?

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Introduction

How does the playwright J.B. Priestly develop tension in the opening section of "An Inspector Calls"? "An Inspector Calls" was written by John Boynton Priestley in 1945 and set in 1912, before the Titanic set sail and before there is any substantial talk of war. Bromley is a fictional place which is, in reality, Bradford. "An Inspector Calls" is a play in the guise of a detective thriller genre, as we later discover that there is an inspector attempting to gain information on an incident. Priestley had to disguise his play because at the time 1947, just after the end of the war, the most popular types of play were those written by famous crime and detective thriller authors. Inspector Goole whether a real inspector or not is Priestley's instrument for teaching the moral lesson in the play and that is if you don't care for the unfortunate, it will haunt you later in life. The play itself is very compact and has no sub-plot to distract the audience's attention from the central theme. ...read more.

Middle

J.B. Priestley's play on the moral issues of the 1940's can relate to any era. Priestley is able to use hindsight to make comments on events with dramatic irony. Birling makes his ironic speeches about the good times ahead, the "unsinkable Titanic" and "prosperity that will make war impossible", to characters that are unaware of future events and the lessons they will be forced to learn in "fire, blood, and anguish". For the audience the Inspector's view of the world is an alternative to that presented by Birling. The pompous Mr. Birling dominates this gathering that is soon to be interrupted by a man who will unearth events that reveal some of the worst aspects of the family's characters. Sheila is engaged to Gerald and Mr. Birling is expecting a knighthood to raise his status in society. In act one there are many points of dramatic irony in Birling's speeches, but nothing to warn us of the shocking arrival of the Inspector. Events soon gather speed and the tension rises as we learn of family involvement with Eva Smith, and the scandal of Gerald's affair. ...read more.

Conclusion

Priestley emphasises how out of touch Birling is by adding, "Russia will always be behind naturally". Birling really knows nothing of world politics and the irony is that the Titanic sinks and very soon Russia will show it's true political strength in 1914 when Britain is plunged into World War One. The audience know that Birling is incorrect about the events especially the Titanic, because everyone thought that it was indestructible. What Priestly is conveying is that like the Titanic Birling is steering into for possible destruction. Yet, Mr. Birling believes himself to be "a hard-headed, practical man of business". As a businessman Mr. Birling is naive to be confident of the future, but in his defence, there was a lot going on in the world that may create an impression of prosperity. What Priestley is trying to illustrate in these powerfully ironic speeches is his hatred for the businessman who is only interested in himself and making money. He doesn't like the idea of everyone helping each other "Community and all that nonsense". Birling's feelings are summed up in the last sentence of his speech before the Inspector arrives, "A man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own". ...read more.

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