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What messages does Priestley convey in Inspector Calls?

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Introduction

What messages does Priestley convey in Inspector Calls? Imagine a man, if you will, who has suffered the effects of two of the greatest wars in history. He has seen the Titanic sink, he has lived through the blitz, through trench warfare, and through Hitler. He feels betrayed. His country, claiming to be an intelligent and peace-loving nation, has gone to war twice within 40 years. They haven't learnt their lesson. The anguish and suffering that the First World has caused seems to have meant nothing, as war is waged once again. He knows his pleading to avoid yet more conflict mean nothing. So what can he do? He has to vent his anger. And in his fury he writes a book. That man is J. B. Priestley, the book, 'An Inspector Calls'. Some would say that this anti-climatic ending to a tragic story. However, ask anyone who has read the play, and they will tell you that in his book, Priestley has highlighted everything that is wrong with the world today. From the ignorance of the elderly to cold, heartless values of capitalism. The primary message conveyed by Priestley in An Inspector Calls is that the younger generations are generally more impressionable than the older ones. This is shown by the huge contrast in the reactions of Mr and Mrs Birling to that of Eric and Sheila following the revelations caused by the arrival of the inspector. Basically, the story revolves around the suicide of a young girl known as Eva Smith. The inspector of the title arrives at the Birling household during their celebrating of Gerald and Sheila's engagement. Upon his arrival, he interrogates each of the characters one by one, exposing roles in the death of Eva Smith. Each of the five characters reacts differently. Some are reluctant to accept their guilt while others are more than willing to confess their part in Eva Smiths eventual suicide. ...read more.

Middle

And where as the elders are willing to forget as soon as possible he says, "I'm not likely to forget". This once again conveys the message that the younger generation are more impressionable. However, once Mr. Birling realises that his son has stolen from him, one would expect that he would express a disappointment in his sons breaking of a trust that most father and sons share. Sadly, Mr. Birling is not such a person, and so he reacts instantly by trying to figure out a way in which to cover up this scandal and avoid a loss of money. This shows Priestley deep hatred of those who value money more than moral values. And indeed, this is a disguised attack on capitalism. Mr. Birling then follows suite of Mrs. Birling and instantly passes the blame to his son, showing no compassion for his own offspring. 'You're the one I blame for this'. This is a poignant way to express a characteristic of humanity. When even the most primitive of animals are willing to support their young, our supposedly advanced human race is ready to disown their family if it means saving themselves. Indeed, the fact that this is a true statement makes this a dark day for humanity. Until now I have discussed how the younger generation are more sensitive to their actions than elders. However, Priestley also want to give the message that this is not always the case, and that youths can be swayed to the dark side, as is the case with Gerald. Gerald has a much similar role to that of Eric. However, he does not impregnate her and he also truly cares for Eva Smith. Once he has confessed his crimes, he begins with repenting his sins. However, as Mr. Birling's words begin to take their toll, he soon becomes as cold and heartless as his future father in law. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is designed to be as accessible to the audience as possible and this production is no different. All aspects are exaggerated and the play is made in real time to help with the audiences involvement. Also, some of the characters actions are emphasised to show their personality and the affect that the interrogation is having on them. For instance, Sheila loses her clothing as the play progresses. This shows her 'walls' being broken down as the truth is unveiled. The house is shown on stilts, but in the background there are many identical houses that support John Dunn's comment about no man being an island. This is because the identical houses symbolizes that there are many people are in the exact same situation. Also, the whole play is set in one scene, this shows that there is no escaping the truth as there is no way to escape the scene. Also, when the inspector arrives, the house begins to break down and when he leaves, the house is totally destroyed. This shows that the truth has destroyed the entire family but when he has completely gone, they forget everything and begin to rebuild there house (aka their lives) as if nothing has happened. Finally, Priestley makes his final emphasis on the ability of the elderly to forget when the characters figure out that the inspector was a fake and so they instantly dismiss the night's goings on and continue with their lives. Conversely, Sheila and Eric refuse to forget what has happened and accept that they have to live with the guilt for the rest of their lives. In conclusion, Priestley conveys many messages and makes use of many techniques. Most notably the character interaction and stage directions. He manages to influence the majority of people that read this story to take note and attempt to change their outlook on life. Daldry manages to successfully translate this to the theatre and the result is a compelling story full of twists and turns that never loses sight of reality and one mans pain at the hands of an ignorant society. ...read more.

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