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J. B. Priestley said, "My plays are to be acted not read." Discuss the ways in which Priestley conveys his ideas about social responsibility to the audience.

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Introduction

English Essay - J. B. Priestley said, "My plays are to be acted not read." Discuss the ways in which Priestley conveys his ideas about social responsibility to the audience. The historical context of the play An Inspector calls was written by J. B. Priestley at the end of World War II. However, the play is set at the beginning of World War I! The play was first produced in Moscow, due to the fact that there were no theatres in London because of the Blitz. During World War II, there was some integration of social classes in the force, medical services, work and air raid bunkers. J. B. Priestley was a famous writer and broadcaster. His speeches used to sustain British people during the war. He was concerned about a possible return to a divided Britain, as is shown quite comprehensively in the play. His puts this idea forward by showing that the very rich are comfortable on one side whereas the many poor working people are having a very hard time and are sustaining the rich in their favoured circumstances. The play shows the division between the classes most blatantly. Also, just before World War I, Britain was at it's most economically successful. The exceedingly rich were in the most beneficial position as opposed to the working class in 1912, which had low wage (possibly even minimum wage or lower), no employment rights, no welfare benefits, and no representation by the Trade Unions. ...read more.

Middle

It is clear that they've had the conversation before but as she won't let it go it shows she's got a nagging feeling about it. She even gives Gerald a 'half playful, half serious' warning. * Eric seems shy, awkward and close to being drunk. However also a hidden edge to him. His sudden laughter is strained. What is he laughing at? * Gerald appears self-assured and someone who knows how to behave at all times. As we'll find out later, he's an easy liar. * Mrs Birling takes little part and what she does say reinforces the idea that she is a cold person who stands apart from the others. * Mr Birling is in a good mood but cannot resist making speeches. His comments show how wrong he can be: the Titanic would sink on its maiden voyage; there would be two world wars; depression, social unrest, unemployment and strikes would characterize the next three decades. Phase 2 Page 10-16 Useful Notes * Gerald's comments that perhaps Eric has been 'up to something' prove to be ironic as they have all been up to no good. Make sure stage directions are noted, especially with Eric's behaviour. * Priestly has built up the tension before the inspector arrives on stage. He has created a sense of false security in the relaxed dinner party but has also occasionally introduced a note of tension. ...read more.

Conclusion

* There is some development in the relationship between Gerald and Sheila - it moves from the romantic illusion to a more realistic understanding of each other. Phase Five Read from pg 40 to 49. * Look closely at what the inspector tells Birling on pg 40. People who have a position of strength in society have to accept the privileges and the responsibility that comes with it. This is Priestley's deeply held socialist philosophy coming through again. * Sheila's speech is also worth looking at in detail. It summarizes the situation so far and helps make Mrs. Birling realize she will have to tell the truth about her dealings with Eva Smith. What Mrs. Birling says on pg 45 that it is the father's responsibility to look after the baby is very telling? Not only is she condemning her son, but it also reinforces one of the major themes of the play - the notion of responsibility. * Birling reinforces the importance he places in acquiring a good status. Pg 45 'I must say, Sybil, that when this comes out...' Phase Six Read from page 50 - 56 Useful notes * Daisy Renton's activity as a prostitute is only hinted at. 'She wasn't the usual sort. But - well, I suppose she didn't know what to do.' (pg 51) Eric's sexual encounter with her is only half stated - 'And that's when it happened...' (pg 52). * Eric puts another dent in the veneer of respectability which cloaks the privileged classes. ...read more.

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