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"We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other." What is Priestley's main aim in An Inspector Calls? How successfully does he achieve it?

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Introduction

"We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other." What is Priestley's main aim in An Inspector Calls? How successfully does he achieve it? An Inspector Calls: a play or a parable? In fact, the play could be interpreted as both, as Priestley voices many of his concerns and worries through this play in order to deliver a strong and hard-hitting message to the audience. I aim to examine what this message is by researching and studying many of the social aspects of 1946 British society (when the play was first staged), and 1912 (when the play is set). By doing this, I expect to secure a general impression of some of Priestley's objectives in the play, as I will pinpoint the characteristics of society that may have influenced the writing of the play. By examining the themes of the play, I also hope to gain an idea of the purpose of the play, and the effect it would have had on the 1946 audience. To evaluate how effectively Priestley conveys his main messages to the audience, I will analyse the ways that Priestley makes the audience feel involved, and how he manages to sustain the audience's attention. I will also study the dramatic devices and the way the play is structured with a similar intention of being able to evaluate how effectively he puts his message across. By analysing the historical and social context of the play, Priestley's objectives and aims in An Inspector Calls can be seen more clearly. ...read more.

Middle

are clearly addressed to the audience, and this would have been made very obvious in some plays, with the Inspector coming to the front of the stage to deliver his lines. In this instance, the Inspector implies that the line between guilt and innocence is finer than generally assumed, and the real nature of responsibility, or lack of it, lies in the way people react to their guilt. By the end of the play, there is a clear difference of the respect given by the audience between the Birling parents and Gerald, who show no remorse and shame for their actions, and the Birling children. Both Sheila and Eric learn to accept that we are responsible for others, and reiterate the Inspector's message after he leaves, acting as the mouthpiece during the Inspector's absence. For example, Eric is unmoved by the series of explanations that Gerald and Birling are busy developing desperately ("That doesn't matter to me"), as is Sheila ("That's just what I feel, Eric"). Not only does this help to provide a sense of continuation of Priestley's message so that the audience doesn't forget it, perhaps they represent the younger generation that Priestley hopes is still fair and open-minded enough to learn to accept the responsibility for others. The way the play is structured is also effective as the drama unfolds in one place (the Birlings' dining room), with the events actually taking up about the same amount of time as that which passes in the theatre. Also, the plot has been meticulously organised without any complicating subplots. ...read more.

Conclusion

I have meticulously researched the historical and social aspects of the play with the aim of understanding some of these aspects that influenced the writing of the play. By doing this I have gained a better idea of Priestley's main aim in An Inspector Calls. I have also studied the themes of the play in order to discover Priestley's ideas and concerns (which mainly focused around responsibility, status and deceitful behaviour). I have extracted these ideas and concerns not only from what the characters say, but how they say it and what they do. I have examined how the structure of the play has helped to maintain a sense of realism throughout. I have also studied how the stage directions have contributed towards the overall dramatic effect in the play. I have analysed the dramatic devices in the play (e.g. dramatic irony, guilt by implication) in order to investigate how successfully Priestley has engaged the audience's attention. I have also studied how Priestley has persuaded the audience to empathise with certain characters, and dislike others, as by doing this, the audience is inclined to accept Priestley's ideas and beliefs. I have also explored the purposes and effects of certain devices Priestley uses in the play with the intention of questioning how effectively Priestley conveys his message to the audience. Personally, I feel that he has maintained a simple structure to the play, despite having used a complex range of devices, making his messages hard-hitting and easy to understand, yet also thought-provoking and meaningful. I therefore believe he has very successfully achieved his main aim in An Inspector Calls. ...read more.

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