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What dramatic methods does JB Priestley use in 'An Inspector Calls'?

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Introduction

What dramatic methods does JB Priestley use in 'An Inspector Calls'? John Boynton Priestley was born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1894. He served in the army during World War One and narrowly escaped death at least once. This had a big influence on his writing. After this, he became a playwright. A theme that occurs frequently in his plays including 'An Inspector Calls' is the effects of an individual's actions on the whole of society, and what would happen in the future. 'An Inspector Calls' is a play that can be put in the genre of a detective dramatic thriller. It tells the story of the Birlings (a prosperous family in the early parts of the 20th century). They are celebrating the engagement of daughter Sheila to Gerald Croft (son of a wealthy business owner) when a police Inspector calls to investigate the suicide of a young working class woman. One by one, every member of the family is interrogated until they reveal their part in her death. Priestley deliberately set the play in 1912, a time that the audience don't want to remember or ever wish to happen again. Eight million people lived on less than twenty five shillings a week which left many unclothed and unfed. Working conditions were terrible and there were no trade unions to defend workers' rights. There was a distinct class system; the upper class seemed to own and rule Britain while the working class had to pay for it. The audience watching the play in 1945 have lived through war and this has shattered many of the class barriers. There were more social services and people weren't expected to go without any help. Society was moving forward and the bitter past shamed and embarrassed them. When the Inspector comes in he manages to get the characters to reveal their dealings with Eva Smith. The audience finds out that Mr Birling sacked her from her job because she wanted more pay and Sheila used her father's name to have Eva sacked from her next job because she was jealous of her. ...read more.

Middle

Emmeline Pankhurst, the founder was arrested many times, went on hunger strikes and led many violent protests. Emily Davison, another Suffragette went as far as to throw herself in front of the King's horse and she died. Gerald is Sheila Birling's fianc� and is a very laid back and posh chap. He wants to be at ease with the Birlings but when the Inspector shows up he says "perhaps I shouldn't be here". This shows us that he's the type of man who will not stick around to help anyone in their troubles but will run away as quickly as possible. Priestley gives the audience clues about the fact that his and Sheila's relationship is not going so well. Gerald says "I insist upon being one of the family now. I've been trying long enough, haven't I?" As Sheila does not reply, with more insistence "Haven't I? You know I have." Sheila does not say anything at first then she states "Yes - except for all last summer, when you never came near me, and I wondered what had happened to you." The audience wonder what he was doing throughout that time, and it's a big clue about his involvement with Eva Smith or at least someone else. Mrs Birling is very snobbish and haughty. Eva Smith came pregnant and helpless to her charity organisation as 'Mrs Birling' claiming that her husband had deserted her. Mrs Birling found this very impudent and was prejudiced against her (which she had no problem admitting). Eva finally admitted the truth; that the father of her child was a drunken youngster who had stolen money to help her, and she didn't want stolen money anymore. Mrs Birling, in her arrogant manner says "As if a girl of that sort would ever refuse money." She makes assumption about Eva based only her class. It's as if she thinks that people from a lower class than her don't have morals and virtues. ...read more.

Conclusion

Is Priestley saying that the wars happened because of their inability to care for one another? Gerald returns bringing the news that the Inspector was a fake letting the audience and most of the characters to breathe a sigh of relief. The tension slips away from them, and they start to relax. But before they can properly celebrate the phone rings informing them that a girl had just been permitted into the infirmary who had committed suicide by drinking disinfectant and that an Inspector would be arriving shortly to question them. This is the last thing the audience are expecting and the fact that the curtains go down as the end of the play leaves them baffled. Who was the Inspector? Was the experience the Birling had even real? Was he some sort of angel, or a dream? There are many loose ends in as he audience leave and this is what Priestley was aiming for. He wanted the audience to think about things, and not have everything clearly stated. Priestley wrote the play because he wanted to make certain that life after the war was better for everybody than before and he hoped that through his writing he could influence people and change society. He believed that we should all help each other as we are all part of the same community. He wanted his audience to feel the need to sympathise and care for each other and take responsibility for their actions. He used the Inspector to indicate the conscience of the nation and through him challenges each of the characters that represent a part of society. The Inspector says "We often seem to make the greatest impression on the young ones." He shows that change is more likely to come through the young (Sheila and Eric) rather than through the older generation (Mr and Mrs Birling) or the upper classes (Gerald). The play is still widely watched and appreciated because everyone can still understand the message he was trying to get across and this is why the play is still very effective. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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