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Inspector Calls - Use of Characters to criticise aspects of British Society

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Introduction

What Aspects of British Society does J.B. Priestley Criticise and how does he Convey this Through his Presentation and Characters? J.B. Priestley uses his own experiences to criticise aspects of British Society. In 'An Inspector Calls' he conveys this through his characters while the plot unfolds. His clever use of the stage set up adds to the dramatic effect and hidden meanings of the play. With the drama being set in 1912 and the script being produced and put onto the stage in 1940's the spectators are able to understand the humour and poor judgement made in the drama. Through his own social experiences Priestly reveals to us the audience how families from higher up the social ladder really were. Growing up amongst socialites, as his father was a schoolmaster meant Priestley was able to portray the characters of the Birling family very well. His social awareness came when working amongst people who were passionate for the arts and enjoyed hot debate. A lot of this passion is channelled through the character of Inspector Goole. Another thing that interested Priestley was Ouspensky's theory, 'Existence is a cycle of lives from which we can only escape if we change for the better, a change which we can only make with the help of a particularly gifted or extraordinary person.' ...read more.

Middle

Comparing the two views on society really puts it into perspective for the audience of how wrong it is to be wrapped up in your own affairs and what can happen when skeletons are allowed of the closet. Priestley does that cleverly with the intention of getting them to think. He uses the two different reactions of the family to criticise the older generation Birling through the dialogue of younger generation Birling. It is effective as the audience are able to relate with the statements and the characters and understand his message fully. You could say that Priestley is enabling the audience to grow with Sheila and Eric. Even though both of them have wronged it is there shame and understanding of what they have done in their past actions which allows the audience to sympathise with them. Whereas with Mr and Mrs Birling the audience are shown a couple who are so desperate to keep their high status in town that they are unwilling to admit they have done anything dishonourable. For example when challenged about Eva Smith Mrs Birling says "I think she had only herself to blame," even though Mrs Birling refused her case because she thought Eva was impertinent as she came to her for help using the name Mrs Birling. ...read more.

Conclusion

Especially as they know that the Titanic sank on it's maiden voyage and two World Wars happened shortly after that speech. Priestley cleverly adds that time warp to show the audience that pretending what is going on around you doesn't exist will not make it go away, and it is better to open your eyes to the facts. Priestley kept his production simple and straightforward for the viewers to accurately take in and comprehend all the messages that were conveyed through the dialogue. This backs up the idea of keeping it all in one room so there is nothing in the background distracting the audience from what they really need to be concentrating on. On the whole Priestley uses these techniques to effect and obviously conveyed his point about society and how it could stop Britain from moving on and rebuilding what they have. Writing for an audience who are most likely to be predominantly middle class enables the audience to relate to the characters. During the play they would progress from ignorance to knowledge, which is exactly what Priestley wanted and achieved. He gave the Inspector the ability to question not only the characters but the audience as well as they would question in their minds traits that were similar to the Birling's and Gerald Croft's. ...read more.

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