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What devices does Priestley use to convey his central message in 'An Inspector Calls'?

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Introduction

What devices does Priestley use to convey his central message in 'An Inspector Calls'? Written in 1946, "An Inspector Calls" takes us into the world of the Birling family who are disturbed during a celebration by the arrival of a mysterious police inspector. A young girl has committed suicide and it is revealed by the Inspector how all members of the family contributed to it. When each member of the family find out that they have played a part in the death of Eva Smith, they react in very different ways and learn different things from the experience. After World War I, Priestley believed that society needed to be preached on how we all contribute to other people's lives, and that we need to be aware of the mistakes we make and learn from them, so they will never be repeated. He believed that we were all equal, and so wrote this play to give that message to his audience. The play is set in the Birlings household where the celebratory dinner is being held for Sheila and Gerald's engagement. The house itself represents the social standing of the family, since the furniture is described as 'good and solid' and the general effect is 'substantial and heavily comfortable'. ...read more.

Middle

The Inspector gradually extracts the truth from each member of the family and tries to get each of them to see the seriousness of their actions, and how they can stop it happening again. While he is teaching the characters he is also teaching the audience without them knowing. He lets them see how people can be selfish and self-centred, and teaches them as well that we are responsible for the people we know. Both the characters and audience go from ignorance to knowledge, thanks to the Inspector. He also holds super natural qualities just by his name "Goole" (ghoul). He acts like the conscience of the Birlings as he interrogates them into finding the truth and reveals the true character of each of the family. His name also gives a clue to what he really is, and to the final dramatic twist at the end. On his departure he makes a simple statement summarising the overall message, 'We are members of one body, we are responsible for each other'. Because the audience trust him they take in this statement, which imprints a dramatic ending as he leaves. ...read more.

Conclusion

Even though Eric and Sheila are the youngest of the family, they act the most intelligently. Priestley wanted to let the audience know that the young generation are our future, and that they need to be taught about other people, to avoid suffering, and to a certain extent, another war. One of the most important characters in the play is Eva Smith, even though she doesn't appear on stage. She represents everyone who is in a bad situation and in need of help. Priestley cleverly uses the name "Smith" because it is a very common surname, giving the impression that she can be anyone, because anyone can be the victim of somebody's mistake. Priestley's main aim in writing this play was to preach his audience on the importance of responsibility and how our actions affect other people, and used many devices to portray that message. Mainly he used his characters to achieve this, and included dramatic irony in the process. The final twist at the end draws the attention of the audience and the mystery of Inspector Goole interests them. I believe that Priestley succeeded in teaching his audience, though; maybe we have a long way to go before we all think of our actions and how they affect the people around us. Lauren Houlton ...read more.

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