An Inspector Calls

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In 1945, J.B. Priestley was 51 and felt very strongly about the state of government in England at that moment in time and thought that people were being exploited in England, so he had some very liberal views. He expressed many of these views to the public in the form of a book called, ‘An Inspector Calls’.

The play ‘An Inspector Calls’ was written by J.B. Priestley, in 1945 but was set in 1912. The play takes place in the Birling household on one evening after a family celebration. The celebration is of the engagement of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft. It is just after dinner when an inspector visits their house investigating the suicide of a young woman. As the play unravels we see that all members of the family are somehow involved in the suicide.

For many reasons, an audience may consider this play a detective story and nothing else. It fits with the stereotypical detective story format in a number of ways. Firstly it is generally about conducting an inquiry into the suicide of a young, working-class woman. “Two hours ago a young woman died in the Infirmary. She’d been taken there this afternoon because she’d swallowed some strong disinfectant.” This sentence also means that the death is announced very close to the beginning of the play, another trademark of detective stories. From the beginning it appears to be a mystery story but ironically we find out that they are all responsible. It seems that the initial purpose of this play is to make people pay for their actions and realise their wrongs. Other factors that make this a traditional detective story are the fact that there is evidence.

Although there are many reasons we could observe ‘An Inspector Calls’ as purely a detective story, there are also reasons why it is not your average detective story. The Inspector already has proof of the events leading to the suicide in the form of the diary. His manner of inquiry is somewhat unusual because throughout he appears quite rude to the Birling family, “You have no hope of not discussing it”. This shows that the Inspector has no need for courteous chitchat, he wants to get straight to business and he does not want to be distracted from the subject even for a second. Another difference from the common detective story is that the play does not end with an arrest. This is because no one has committed an act against the law, just immoral acts. The Inspector is not afraid to put the family down, to reprimand them. Also as we get further into the play, we begin to see even more suspects whereas in a normal detective story the number of suspects gets reduced. Finally, the characters do not immediately know who the victim is, “I seem to remember hearing that name, Eva Smith, somewhere. But it doesn’t convey anything to me.”

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It is noticeable from many of the Inspector’s speeches that he is determined to reform society. This is one of the main indicators that this play has a lot of basis as a social evaluation. One of his main messages is to do with everyone being responsible for one another, “We are responsible for each other, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish”. This quotation shows how seriously the Inspector feels about this, the fire, blood and anguish portrays war and hell. The death of Eva Smith ...

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