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Priestley uses a 'Whodunit' genre to explore social problems. How does he do this in 'An Inspector Calls'?

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Priestley uses a 'Whodunit' genre to explore social problems. How does he do this in 'An Inspector Calls'? 'An Inspector Calls' is a "Whodunit" written by J.D. Priestley in 1945 and was first shown in Britain at the new Theatre on the 1st October 1946.Priestley was a socialist and in 'An Inspector Calls', the main theme explores capitalism versus socialism. This play is a morality play. Priestley communicates his message to the audience by representing capitalism by the upper class and the Birling family and socialism by the lower class and the Inspector and Eva Smith/Daisy Renton as this related to real life during this time. Priestley presents his arguments clearly through interesting characters, with very different views and a powerful story line with major consequences to individual actions. He presents this morality play within the "whodunit genre". Priestley uses a whodunit genre to demonstrate his social message for various reasons. The message is directed to the upper class so Priestley needed to make sure they saw it. Going to the theatre was popular with the upper class until 1939 when cinema became extremely popular, so as an attempt to retain a theatre audience Priestley used a detective thriller as these genres were clearly popular at this time as many people enjoyed Agatha Christie and Emlyn plays. They were popular detective thriller play writers. Another reason for using a whodunit genre would be that in the play most of the characters are usually thoroughly questioned by a detective so their actions, thoughts, and opinions can be explored deeply through the question and answer process. Also this would be perfect to demonstrate a social message as actions and consequences of a crime are shown and would make the audience think twice about making the same mistake. A detective thriller conventionally uses a number of elements that Priestley used. The victim in this play was Eva Smith and later on Daisy Renton, who was of the lower class. ...read more.


Then Sheila said she saw Eva smiling at another assistant as if to say "doesn't she look she looked awful". Sheila said to the Inspector "I was absolutely furious". So as a result, Sheila told the manager that if they don't sack Eva she would tell her parents to close their account at Milwards. From this story, Sheila has shown that she can act selfishly, jealously, childishly and use her power selfishly. However once she had realised what she had done she felt extremely guilty, and regrets her mistake. She says on page 24 "I've never done anything like this before and I'll never, never do it again to anyone". So finally the inspector succeeded in changing Sheila's views and making her realise that not caring for others will result in terrible things happening. Priestley uses Sheila an example for the upper class audience to give them hope that anyone can learn from their mistakes and become a better person. When the inspector finished questioning he explained that after Eva had been 'fired' she changed her name to Daisy Renton. As soon as Gerald heard this name he was shocked and Sheila noticed the look on his face and realised he knew her and tried to make him confess to whatever he'd done. At the beginning of act two Inspector Goole starts to question Gerald Croft. Gerald Croft was the son of an extremely important man that owned a very successful business. Through Birling's speech at the beginning of the play, Gerald showed he agreed with Birling's views- he says, "I believe you're right sir". Also during the inspectors questioning of Birling, Gerald was agreeing with Birling, about running business, and keeping labour costs as low as possible. This might suggest that he was a capitalist. At the beginning of the play Sheila asked Gerald where he was all summer and he told her he was busy at work, but she was not convinced, and was still saw his absence as a mystery. ...read more.


One of the most significant things said in the play was on page 56. when the inspector gives his final view of socialism and capitalism. He says " We don't live alone, we are members of one body. We are responsible for each other." Also for his final attempt to argue his case he warns " And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men do not learn that lesson they will be taught it in fire, blood and anguish. Good night." This comment is so powerful, and the reason why Priestley wrote this is to frighten the audience and suggest what will happen if they don't change their capitalist ways. He uses harsh words such as "fire, blood and anguish" to shock the audience as well as frighten them. After he says the line above he leaves the Birling's house and the stage. This is a very effective exit for the socialist as he has just stated his point extremely clearly and there is nothing left to say, so instead of waiting for a response he leaves the Birling's completely speechless and walks off in silence. And the reason for Priestley writing such a drastic exit is so the audience will never forget the inspector. J. D Priestley wrote this play with interesting dialogue, deep, realistic characters, and an effective story line that specifically dealt with the problems of capitalism. Through the thorough questioning of each character he was able to present these problems interestingly, without having to list them down, and so kept the audience entertained while expressing the true theme behind this detective thriller. Also Priestley wrote this play to appear it is about the Birling's mistakes but manages to direct the message at the audience and while watching this play, make them think of their own mistakes and I think that is what Priestleys main aim was. I think that Priestley wrote "An Inspector Calls" to demonstrate the true importance of socialism and the unimportance of capitalism and I think He definitely achieved his purpose. ...read more.

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