An Inspector Calls

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An Inspector Calls

By Katie Cook 10S1

J. B. Priestly was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, 1894. After surviving the First World War, he went on to study literature, history and political science at Bradford and at Cambridge. Priestly wanted to ensure life after the First World War was better than before and he hoped that through his writing he could influence people's ideas and change society. ‘An Inspector Calls’ is a play set in 1912 about the capitalist Birling family who are visited one night by an Inspector, Inspector Goole, who reveals that a young woman, Eva Smith, has died after swallowing a lot of strong disinfectant. He questions all the Birling family who are all revealed to have played a part in Eva’s downward spiral of depression and ultimately, suicide.

J. B. Priestly wrote ‘An Inspector Calls’ in 1945 but deliberately set it in 1912, a time where socialism was often losing out to capitalism. He was particularly concerned about the living conditions of the lower classes, represented by Eva, and the way the upper classes behaved, represented by the Birlings’ and Gerald Croft, Sheila Birling’s fiancé. Priestly believed that we should all help each other, which is the total opposite from what the Birlings believed. Priestly set the play 33 years after he’d wrote it, this gives the audience a knowledge that the characters don’t have. Priestly often uses this to make certain characters appear stupid and foolish. For Example, Mr Birling talks about "a time of steadily increasing prosperity." He also mentions that the Titanic is “unsinkable… absolutely unsinkable,” and that there will be no war in Europe. He was of cause wrong about all three of these statements. Mr. Birling is the most 'stupid' character in the play. Priestly portrays Arthur as a man who is very confident in his own beliefs, when we see Birling make these statements which we know to be false, the audience distrusts Arthur and all his views and beliefs. Priestly used his characters to show his own personal views. Through the dialogue and actions of the Birling family we, the audience, learn that Priestly is a socialist man who is trying to communicate with us through his plays. In the first act we are shown the unfairness of capitalism and made to think about our own actions and how we can better the lives of less fortunate people. He wanted people to feel sympathy and care for each other and take responsibility for their actions.

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J. B. Priestly uses several dramatic devices as a way of getting the audiences attention and establishing his themes and characters. Priestly uses dramatic irony to make certain characters, mainly Mr Birling, appear very foolish and stupid. Dramatic irony is where the audience knows more than the characters and because the audience is watching a play set in the past, the audience has a huge knowledge of things that the characters don’t. One example of this is when Arthur Birling refers to the Titanic as being “absolutely unsinkable.” We, the audience, know as a fact that the Titanic sank ...

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