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Produce an empathic response to character and themes in 'An Inspector Calls' basing your response on role-play activities, which demonstrates your understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts in the play.

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Introduction

Sam Tombs 10CY Candidate No. Centre No. 'An Inspector Calls' -A Play by JB Priestley Produce an empathic response to character and themes in 'An Inspector Calls' basing your response on role-play activities, which demonstrates your understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts in the play. An Inspector Calls was written post- World War Two around 1945. It is set in 1912, just before World War One started. In the stage production, the play is introduced with some 1940's dressed children entering the play from a hatch in the visible part of the stage. The stage is strangely curled downwards towards the left of the stage, and a telephone box with smashed windows is leaning inwards towards it. There is a 1940s radio on the right, which a young boy kicks until is begins churning out wartime music. A siren begins ringing, the children run underneath the curtain and the curtain lifts. On stage is a house on a street, with a street lamp and a smaller version of the house towards the back of the stage. The sky is dark and cloudy, and it is raining. An old woman, Edna the maid, sits near the house on a small chair. The family sit inside the house. The Inspector first enters the play from the auditorium in a ghostly and sinister way and is almost on the stage before the audience register his presence. He enters almost as if he has come from 'elsewhere', in an eerie and almost Christ-like way. ...read more.

Middle

Eva Smith is seen as a generic character, representing all such people from her social class and especially women in her position, for instance oppressed workers, or women into prostitution. "There are many Eva Smiths". There are also parallels between Eva and the Everyman character from an early 16th century morality play. This character personifies dispute between good and evil- themes in 'An Inspector Calls'. She also has parallels with Eve from the Bible- greed was the original sin from the beginning of time and was the beginning of Eva's problems. Eric, particularly, is not very responsible when he becomes the father of Eva's baby, and with his drinking habits. He steals money from his father, which shows extreme measures of irresponsibility. When Gerald goes with Eva he is acting irresponsibly as he is due to marry Sheila. Another key theme in 'An Inspector Calls' is collective responsibility. "We are all responsible for each other. If we aren't, chaos reigns" This was JB Priestley's message as a Socialist, and an example of his political beliefs. Social contexts in the play include the way in which women were treated in both the early 1900's-when the play was set- and the mid-1940's-when the play was written. This shows irony as in the 1900's women were most definitely seen and not heard (subservient), whereas in the 1940's women's rights began to be put into practise and as a result of societal changes during World War Two women were included in the main labour force. ...read more.

Conclusion

'An Inspector Calls' draws parallels to JB Priestley's first play, 'Dangerous Corner'. Both plays unveil the truth piece by piece, drawing the audience inside the play and building tension for them. Both plays include one of JB Priestley's favourite dramatic devices, the play ending as it begins, and a 'new start' being made. Another play by JB Priestley, 'Time and the Conways', draws parallels with 'An Inspector Calls'. The play begins with a study of a seemingly normal family, however several of which portray a hint of having an extra awareness or foreknowledge of events. The characters deteriorate in Act 2, and the worst of each character is exposed. Act 3 is a continuation of Act 1, as the characters see themselves through past events. Both of these plays are very similar to 'An Inspector Calls'. Taking all themes, characters and contexts into perspective, greed rises above all. Greed was the original sin, when Eve took the poison apple from the tree in Eden thus introducing evil into mankind. Eva Smith is an allegorical figure and was killed by each of the characters having tunnel vision, being immensely self involved, and greedy. The message of 'An Inspector Calls' is that people don't change. For instance, the two Word Wars, and the Birlings, excepting Sheila, do not learn anything form their experience. 'An Inspector Calls' is a continuous confession, which turns into a continuous accusation. "JB Priestley preferred writing plays to novels, he had a natural talent and sensitivity towards the theatrical atmosphere" from 'JB Priestley: The Last of the Sages' by J Atking (1981) "We are all responsible for each other. If we aren't, chaos reigns." ...read more.

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