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John Boynton Priestley wrote 'An Inspector Calls' in 1945.

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Introduction

An Inspector Calls John Boynton Priestley wrote 'An Inspector Calls' in 1945. The play however, was set in 1912 during the Edwardian period in the fictional town of Brumley based upon the industrial city of Bradford. The play is about the visit by an Inspector to an apparently normal middle class family, the Birlings. The Birlings are celebrating Sheila Birling's engagement to Gerald Croft, who is also present, when the Inspector arrives telling them of the suicide of a young girl called Eva Smith. At first they deny any knowledge of Eva Smith when asked questions, but as the play goes on the Inspector manages to prove that they each had a part in her suicide. Eva Smith had committed suicide after a chain of events related with each member of the Birling family and Gerald Croft. One by one each of the characters unravel their story of their relationship with the working class girl. Mr Birling had her dismissed from his factory for demanding a small increase in the wages; Sheila ordered her to be fired from her job in a shop merely because of her pride; Gerald Croft reserved her as his mistress before leaving her abruptly; Eric Birling also had an affair with the girl and stole money to keep her living; and Mrs Birling used her influence to refuse help to Eva Smith when she needed it most, driving her to suicide. Priestley wrote this play with the intention of promoting his strong socialist viewpoint towards society. Priestley was very fond of politics, he believed capitalists voracity oppressed the working class and that collective responsibility was absent throughout the hierarchy of society. ...read more.

Middle

Birling's misguided faith in the progress of the future and its creations is emphasised by priestly use of dramatic irony. He claims that the liner Titanic - designed and built by people like Birling - is absolutely unsinkable and stresses the size of ship, 46 800 tons. However, a few weeks later, the unsinkable ship was at the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean with the loss of 1000 lives. Again Birling's visions have been shown to be totally incorrect. Birling has no time for the idea of socialism and workers' rights. Birling's grand predictions would have seemed particularly bitter and ironic to the audience who first watched the play in 1945. During this period the world was going through a disastrous war and Birling's wildly over-optimistic prophecies would be seen to be totally wrong. The audience knows that, with hindsight, all that Birling believes in is about to be torn down. Birling predicts that in twenty or thirty years' time that there will be peace, greater prosperity and happiness everywhere. When in fact, the world was about to be plunged into the carnage of the First World War. It is at this point that the Inspector enters the play, interrupting Birling in his speech. In this way he can be seen as Priestly's response to Birling's opinions and he soon begins to tear down the ideas that Birling flourishes on. On hearing of Eva Smith's death Birling is at first dismissive of what has happened, saying that he does not see what the events have to do with him. ...read more.

Conclusion

To the audience it may have seemed he had a telepathic power, it is as if he knew what they would say. An inspector calls was written by J.B Priestley in order to express his genuine concern for the lack of collective responsibility within the society he live in and for the lack of inequality. I believe Priestley used his characters so effectively that the audience may have understood the message he was trying to promote. In the plot of An Inspector Calls, the characters respond to the message that they are given by the Inspector in different ways. Sheila and Eric fully understand the idea that, as the Inspector says, "We all live as one body." Unsuccessfully they try to persuade their parents of the merits of these arguments. Birling and Mrs Birling stubbornly cling to their beliefs and Gerald also comes out on their side, although this could be a result of him trying to make the Mr and Mrs Birling happy with himself. By the end of the play the two older Birlings have still managed to keep up their self-deception whilst the audience can see that they are a very dysfunctional family. As well as teaching a moral lesson about community, An Inspector Calls reflects many of the historical, social and cultural attitudes that were prevalent both in the time the play was set (1912) and the time in which it was written (1945). In this way the play is Priestly's comment on the values of that period. Cultural and social attitudes of the time the play is set in are prevalent in An Inspector Calls. There is a marked difference between the attitudes and values of the older characters in the play and the younger ones. ...read more.

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