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What dramatic techniques does J B Priestley use to sustain the audience’s interest in the play?

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Introduction

What dramatic techniques does J B Priestley use to sustain the audience's interest in the play? J.B. Priestley uses a great number of ways to sustain the audience's interest in 'An Inspector Calls' by using a variety of dramatic techniques. The play was set in 1912, and being set at this time, there was not only the opportunity for predictions, but also for a more drastic look at the relationship between the rich and the poor. The class gap of 1912 was much larger than that of 1946, and so was more noticeable to the audiences. Priestley tries to put a number of messages across to the audience with dramatic devices. In the play he teaches of how, '...man will be taught in fire, blood and anguish.' The whole play is centred around the inspectors' constant interrogation and questioning. This enables us to understand the characters' personalities, their morals, values, and abilities to realise their own mistakes and change. It is through this interrogation that most, if not all of the relevant information in the play is unveiled, allowing us to go from that state of ignorance to the state of knowledge. The character of Inspector Goole is mysterious. This air of mystery is intentional. He is mysterious because of his character. The name Inspector Goole is an obvious pun. We as an audience never find out who this Inspector is. There are many possibilities - he could be the ghost of Eva Smith avenging her death; he could be some form of cosmic balance, keeping people considerate; he could be amass hallucination brought on by too much champagne of something in the food. He could be anybody or anything. Priestley left the character as a mystery so as to have a larger impact on the audience, making them think more about the play, and helping them think more about the messages the play brings. ...read more.

Middle

Although the inspector was a hoax and the girl wasn't dead all the things that everyone did to her really happened. Sheila was trying to make everyone see that. She is really angry that her parents are just going to go on the way they always have and she says, "So nothing really happened. So there's nothing to be sorry for, nothing to learn. We can all go on behaving just as we did". Sheila doesn't like this and she lets them know how she feels. After this the family learn that a girl has just died after swallowing disinfectant and they all stare guiltily and dumbfounded at each other. Priestley uses the inspector's constant interrogation in order to develop the plot. The fact that through this questioning the audience, as well as the characters in the play move from ignorance to knowledge proves the effectiveness of this interrogation. The plot is also developed by the fluidity of the action, and how everything fits into place. He uses the dramatic unities of time and place very successfully, this is achieved by the whole play-taking place in that one location - the dining room and the events running incessantly throughout the play. These are examples of how the principle of the detective story is used to develop the plot of the play. Another example is the mood changes that are so effective in "An Inspector Calls", the atmosphere is so happy and the future seems so positive at the beginning of the play with the celebration of Sheila's engagement to Gerald; the mood gradually becomes more dull with it hitting a climax as the inspector delivers his departure speech and very bad things are predicted for the future. The use of this convention to develop the plot is also evident through the fact that reality is combined with the uncertainty of the inspector's and Eva's identities, which is a common occurrence in detective stories. ...read more.

Conclusion

It symbolises that you can't run from your conscience, as the Birlings will find out. Priestley uses the dramatic twist of the Inspector returning at the end of the play to emphasis this point, and makes it more effective by placing it just as the characters are beginning to relax. It serves to 'prick' the consciences of both the characters and the audience. At the end of reading the play, I was left feeling as if I would like to think I had learned from the example of the Birlings and the message it contained. As it is a play though, I would have liked to see it acted out. The ending is well crafted, leaving an open ending to add to the dramatic effect, but looking at it differently, there is not really another way to have ended the play after that plot twist other than an open ending where it was without ruining the play itself. I think the majority of people who have seen this play would have liked to think of themselves as an Eric or a Sheila. The aim of Priestley when he wrote this play, I believe, was to make us think, to make us question our own characters and beliefs. He wasted to show us that we can change, and we can decide which views we side with. He wanted us to ask ourselves if we wanted to be a Sheila, an Eric or an Arthur. Or, were we in-between like Gerald. Priestley wanted the audience to learn from the mistakes of the Birlings. I think that Priestley wanted to make a difference; not a world changing difference, but a small difference in the way people think. Then, if you think of every person who coming out of the play gave some money to a beggar in the street, you would see that Priestley did make a difference. It would have changed people's views on society, however small those changes would be, and so Priestley achieved his aims in writing the play using different dramatic techniques to sustain the audience interest and attention. ...read more.

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