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In Act I of An Inspector Calls how does J B Priestley use dramatic devices to convey his concerns and ideas to members of the audience, as well as interest and involve them in the play?

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An Inspector Calls - English Coursework In Act I of An Inspector Calls how does J B Priestley use dramatic devices to convey his concerns and ideas to members of the audience, as well as interest and involve them in the play? An Inspector Calls was written by J B Priestley in 1945 at the end of World War II but it was set in 1912 two years before World War I. J B Priestley was concerned about social conditions for working class people in Britain at the time he wrote the play. One of the main themes of the play is social responsibility. Priestley wants his audience to realise that society has to care for the poor and unfortunate. He does this by making the Birling family represent well off middle class society and using Eva Smith to represent the poor and needy. At the end of World War II Priestley wanted to change poor people's lives for the better and chose to use some of his plays, including An Inspector Calls, to improve public awareness especially among the middle classes. He was delivering a message to theatregoers like the Birlings that their actions affect the lives of others and they should care about less fortunate people. An Inspector Calls seems at first to be a classic whodunit but it turns out to be a morality play with a strong message about what is right and what is wrong. The fact that the play is set in 1912 before World War I and is staged in 1945 after the end of World War II allows Priestley to use dramatic irony to great effect. In Act I of the play Priestley uses a number of dramatic devices to explain his concerns and ideas to the audience, while involving them in the play. In the opening of Act I, the furniture in the room in which the play is set is described in the script in great detail. ...read more.


The Inspector has a clear role in the play as we understand from the title. He controls the characters by allowing them to make bold statements, which reveal their actions before the evening of the play. After Birling explains that he "refused, of course" to give his workers a pay rise, the Inspector asks "why?" which annoys Birling but makes him explain his actions in a way that lets the audience know he is proud of what he has done. He says "it's my duty to keep labour costs down." The Inspector then brings the family down with just a few words adding a strong moral viewpoint to each situation. A good example of this is when Mr Birling says about his workers who had asked for more money "If you don't come down sharply on some of these people, they'd soon be asking for the earth" and the Inspector simply replies "They might. But ... it's better to ask for the earth than to take it". By this method Priestley uses the Inspector to manipulate the characters so that they open up to him, each other and the audience. He slowly ruins the atmosphere of the engagement and the play begins to turn from a standard whodunit into a morality play. The reactions of the various members of the family to the Inspector in Act I also reveal Priestley's underlying message. Mr Birling's response is mainly to get angry and resort to his usual tactic of bullying and threatening as we see when he asks the Inspector how he gets on with the Chief Constable who is "an old friend". His hint that he will get the Inspector into trouble is not subtle. However, the Inspector has an entirely different impact on Sheila who is immediately distressed by the news of Eva's death saying "I've been so happy tonight. Oh I wish you hadn't told me". ...read more.


The Inspector describes the girl's death in strong terms saying the disinfectant had "burnt her insides out" and that she "died after several hours of agony." The girl is a really important character but does not appear in the play at all. The play is really a morality play with a strong message - think carefully about how you act towards other people because you might have the power to help them or ruin their lives. I think that the message in this play is just as relevant today as it was in 1945. We still have groups of people that our society does not help much and many think it is all right to ignore and reject them. For example drug users, mentally ill people, prostitutes, the homeless and immigrants are groups of people who may not have anyone to look after them and the rest of us might think they deserve all they get and that it is their own fault if they have problems. Priestley wanted to get across the message that middle class people have a responsibility to help those less fortunate than themselves. Eva Smith/Daisy Renton acts as a metaphor for the unfortunate underclass in our society. Priestley challenges the audience as the Inspector challenges the characters in the play about their responses to others. He shows this in one particular speech when Mr Birling complains that the Inspector has made a mess of their celebration, the Inspector says "That's ... what I was thinking earlier tonight, when I was at the Infirmary looking at what was left of Eva Smith. A nice little promising life there, I thought, and a nasty mess somebody's made of it". Priestley wants the audience to think about individual responsibility as well as society's responsibility and uses the mystery story and dramatic devices to interest and involve them in the play and get them to think about social justice and responsibility. ...read more.

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