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GCSE: J.B. Priestley

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John Boynton Priestley's biography

  1. 1 He was born in Yorkshire in 1894. He left school at sixteen because he believed that the world outside the classroom would help him become a writer. He said that it was the years 1911-14 ‘that set their stamp upon me’.
  2. 2 When World War One broke out in 1914, Priestley joined the infantry and by the time he left the army in 1919, he had seen active front-line service and narrowly escaped being killed. These experiences were to influence his future writing.
  3. 3 When he left the army he went to Cambridge University and although he finished his degree, he did not like academia and went to London to work as a freelance writer.
  4. 4 He soon became a successful writer of essays and novels and in 1932 he wrote his first play Dangerous Corner to prove that he could adapt his style for the stage. He soon established himself as a leading figure in the London theatre.
  5. 5 When World War Two broke out in 1939 Priestley continued to write his plays, while also writing and broadcasting on BBC radio. During this time he was producing his best work and wrote An Inspector Calls (1945) about the effects of an individual’s actions and the consequences of those actions.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 21
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    How does the character Sheila Birlings change in the play An Inspector Calls?

    5 star(s)

    When we meet Sheila she seems to be satisfied with life; she is also from a comfortable family and so is Gerald. When Gerald is presenting Sheila with her engagement ring she accepts it in an "[excited]" way and she spends a long time looking at it, (Birling says, "Are you listening, Sheila?"). Her relationship with Gerald seems to be fine on the surface but if you were to dig a little deeper you could see signs of problems. Sheila mentioned how Gerald never came near her the previous summer, but Gerald quickly replied with an excuse claiming that he was "awfully busy at the works all that time".

    • Word count: 1384
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Describe the importance of Sheila's role in the play An inspector calls.

    5 star(s)

    She constantly changes and develops as the Story is told. From a happy normal women whose about to get married, changing stance with knowledge of the affair becoming disappointed and heart broken and then finding out that she had contributed to the Eva Smiths death making her emotions dramatic and to the audience she is the thoughtful character that everyone loves. There is great irony in Sheila's character as when the Inspector first comes round and as he is questioning Birling, she says how mean he is like "I think it was a mean thing to do" and "But these girls aren't cheap labour- there people" which is her having

    • Word count: 674
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the way the characters between different generations is developed in An Inspector Calls

    4 star(s)

    The word ?mock? means, in this case, means fake and not serious, reflecting the attitude of Sheila at the start quite clearly, as someone who is not very serious about most things. Throughout the entire first act this attitude is continued until she meets the Inspector, with Priestley using such phrases as ?Half serious half playful? and ?light and easy? to describe her. Birling, on the other hand, is shown to be quite arrogant and stuck up, even stupid, at the start of the play.

    • Word count: 1466
  4. Marked by a teacher

    How does Priestley explore the theme of social responsibility in his play An Inspector Calls?

    4 star(s)

    For example, early in the play Mr. Birling states: "I speak as a hard headed businessman...for lower costs and higher prices..." This shows he is willing to put his business profits before the welfare of other people. The opening section of the play is a starting point for Priestley's exploration as he uses Mr. Birling as a generic paradigm of the senseless and corrupt bourgeoisie everywhere. This is because the writer's message is also his socialist ideal - we should use our powers in society in a sensible manner as even the most seemingly insignificant actions can lead to the suffering of others.

    • Word count: 971
  5. Marked by a teacher


    4 star(s)

    The slimy, good for nothing, weasel, he made it sound as if he had no choice. Well I suppose there's no point wallowing in the past, what's done is done and I'm not going to make things better by being bitter about it. I've got to stay optimistic and look to the future, even though the future is uncertain. There's no benefit system for girls like me, another fault of society. I suppose I'll just have to make my own way in life, just as always. Saturday 4th December 1910, I've some tremendous news! I've just been employed at Millwards.

    • Word count: 2060
  6. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss the way Sheila and Gerald's relationship evolves through the play. What hope do you think there is for their future happiness together?

    4 star(s)

    She says 'Is this the one you wanted me to have?' which shows her willingness to be controlled. Also, when the Inspector mentions Milwards, she says 'We go there - in fact I was there this afternoon - for your benefit.' Sheila appears to be affectionate and easy-going, but Eric suggests that she isn't always as she seems to be when he says 'She's got a nasty temper sometimes - but she's not bad really.' The first doubt of their relationship is early on in the play, when Sheila says '...all last summer when you never came near me, and I wondered what had happened to you.'

    • Word count: 1552
  7. Marked by a teacher

    How does priestly make 'an inspector calls' a dramatic play?

    4 star(s)

    Dramatic irony is used to reveal Mr Birling's character in Act1. "Some people say that war is inevitable. To that I say fiddlesticks." Judging from when the play was written and when it was set, it is clear to the audience that Priestly is showing Mr Birling to be an ignorant man who is soon to be proven wrong in his theory. Priestly creates a dramatic moment in a hysterical outburst from Sheila. "Why- you fool- he knows. Of course he knows." Sheila is the first person to realise the inspector's game and is the only person, at this point, who understands his reasons.

    • Word count: 974
  8. Marked by a teacher

    The apportioning of blame and responsibility are central themes in 'An Inspector Calls'. Each character plays a part in Eva Smiths downfall. Show how the playwright explores these themes during the course of the play.

    4 star(s)

    Further and in the play we find out that it is the engagement of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft. At this point Edna clears the table and everyone begins a light-hearted chat, everything seems to be going smoothly. I think J. B. Priestley uses this cosy atmosphere so as to use dramatic irony to warn the audience that this atmosphere will not last long. I see this when Mr Birling changes to subject to the Titanic saying, " why, a friend of mine went over this new liner last week-The Titanic-forty-six thousand, eight hundred tons-every luxury-and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable" another subject to Mr Birling brings up is World War I by saying " I'll tell you......

    • Word count: 3811
  9. Marked by a teacher

    Questions and Answers on "An Inspector Calls"

    3 star(s)

    2. What tone is set in the opening exchanges between the characters? The tone set in the opening exchanges between the characters seems to be warm and kind. The whole family is celebrating a special ocassion, the engagement between Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft. 3. What does Sheila's engagement to Gerald mean to Arthur Birling? Sheila's engagement to Gerald means a lot to Arthur Birling. He believes that Sheila is going to make him happy, and Gerald is going to make her happy too. In addition, Gerald is just the kind of son-in-law Mr.

    • Word count: 2095
  10. Marked by a teacher

    How is Sheila Birling Presented in Act 1 of an inspector calls

    3 star(s)

    Although she is 'half serious, half playful' Priestley makes her seem more clever as she has suspicions about Gerald when she mentions 'last summer, when you never came near me'. This only becomes apparent to the reader when Gerald reveals that he had an affair with Eva Smith as well. Sheila makes an effort in act 1 to get her parents to approve of Gerald. When she receives the ring from Gerald, she is immediately 'excited', and Priestley shows this in her speech with the use of dashes as she asks 'Mummy - isn't it a beauty?'.

    • Word count: 573
  11. Marked by a teacher

    Inspector Calls essay. Act 2. In what ways does Priestley make this such a dramatic and significant moment in the play?

    3 star(s)

    Priestly showing Shelia's greater understanding of the situation unlike her mother who seems to still be in belief that she "...done nothing wrong."It is conveyed that Mrs Birling sees Sheila and Eric still as "children" and speaks patronisingly to them. She tries to deny things that she doesn't want to believe: Eric's drinking, Gerald's affair with Eva, and the fact that a working class girl would refuse money even if it was stolen, claiming "She was giving herself ridiculous airs."She admits she was "prejudiced" against the girl who applied to her committee for help and saw it as her "duty" to refuse to help her.

    • Word count: 809
  12. Marked by a teacher

    Mr Birling Act 1

    3 star(s)

    He is concerned with his social standing and is, as the modern audience would call him, a snob. He is convinced he is going to get a knighthood and doesn't want any scandal to get in the way of it, "'there's a fair chance I might find my way into the next Honours List." This becomes more and more ironic as the play unfolds, as the audience begins to learn of the story that Mr Birling started. Birling sees himself as superior to many, especially the Inspector. "Well, if you don't mind. I'll find out first." When the Inspector claims he will find out the reason why Sheila ran out of the room, Birling must take a higher stand.

    • Word count: 842
  13. Marked by a teacher

    Inspector calls attiudes towards women

    3 star(s)

    At the beginning of the play Sheila acts in a materialistic and stereotypical manner. An example of this is when she receives the ring from Gerald she states "it's perfect now I really feel engaged". This implies that the physical gift is the most important aspect which is an immature attitude towards marriage. In addition Sheila becomes upset and overwhelmed quite often, it is a stereotypical view of women to be oversensitive .This can be seen when the comment is passed to Sheila "you're behaving like a hysterical child tonight".

    • Word count: 861
  14. Marked by a teacher

    How does Priestley create dramatic tension in Act 1 of An Inspector Calls up until the arrival of Inspector Goole?

    3 star(s)

    The first few indications of tension are in the first few lines. The first line says, "The dining-room of a fairy large suburban house" The fact that the Birlings live in a suburban house suggests that it is a safe and peaceful place to live; but as we find out, it isn't like that at all, and it may just be a cover up for all the lies and secrets. Next it says, "The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and homelike" This shows that clearly the Birlings are wealthy and have a materialistic home; but by saying that it is not cosy or homelike it suggests that the Birlings are on edge, and are not all comfortable in each others company.

    • Word count: 1890
  15. Marked by a teacher

    An Inspector calls - Sheila and Mr. Birling.

    3 star(s)

    Mr Birling and Sheila's characters are hardly the same. This is shown by the language both father and daughter use. Sheila uses slang, whereas Mr Birling being a very important and respectable character doesn't use slang, binging from different generations. Sheila uses phrase like your squiffy to tell her brother, Eric that he is drunk. Her use of slang shows her youth whereas Mr Birling words and language show his self-important. When he interrupted by Eric he says things like just let me finish Eric, with out considering that Eric may have something important to say.

    • Word count: 1962
  16. Marked by a teacher

    An inspector calls - How does Priestly present the character of the Inspector?

    3 star(s)

    And has also wrote the Inspector is meant to be like "He is a man in his fifties, dressed in a plain darkish suit of the period. He speaks carefully, weightily and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking." The inspector has a way of getting information out of each member of the family even by using quite harsh words on them. I believe that the inspector meant to be seen as someone who has no time for the people he talks to and is shown when gets impatient with Mr Birling as he says "Don't stammer and yammer at me again man.

    • Word count: 594
  17. Marked by a teacher

    Mr. Birling and Sheila assignment on how they treated Eva Smith.

    3 star(s)

    He is proud of his status and is a social climber. He sees him & wife as upholding 'right' values and as guardians of 'proper' conduct. Mr. Birling welcomes Gerald Croft into his family as he represents a business link between his firm and that of Gerald Croft's father (a rival). He has an honest approach to life, he tells the Inspector that he wouldn't listen to Eva Smith's demand for a wage rise, 'I refused, of course' and is surprised why anyone should question why. Mr. Birling strongly believes that 'a man has to make his own way.'

    • Word count: 955
  18. Marked by a teacher

    What was J.B.Priestley's intention in writing 'An inspector calls'? How do modern interpretations support his message to the audience?

    3 star(s)

    Each member of the Birling family is also selfish, self-centered and arrogant. Mr. Birling is a business man, a self-centered, arrogant, money grabbing business man. He only cares about three things, they are; himself, his family and his business. He says, '...a man has to make his own way-has to look after himself- and his family too of course...' This quote tells us that he only cares about himself and his family and doesn't feel the need to even know that lower class people exist.

    • Word count: 1186
  19. Marked by a teacher

    What Is The Dramatic Importance Of Inspector Goole's Character In Priestly's 'An Inspector Calls' And What Things Would A Director Need To Consider When Casting This Role

    3 star(s)

    A director would have to consider this when casting the role. Inspector Goole has a great presence, 'he creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness'. Inspector Goole dominates the situation from the start and is not intimidated by Mr. Birling, Gerald Groft or anyone else in the family. Inspector Goole is always in control, '(taking charge masterfully)', he dominates the proceedings though-out the play, '(cooly, looking hard at him)', this also shows that Inspector Goole is not intimidated by anybody in the family and is in total control all the time.

    • Word count: 768
  20. Which character learns the most in "An Inspector Calls" and why?

    This is ironic because the younger generation in the play are the ones who learn the most, and the ones who understand the Inspector. Furthermore, throughout the play Sheila is treated as foolish and hysterical by her parents and her fianc�, because she is a young woman. However she is the only one who truly understands the Inspectors purpose. Priestley does this to show the audience that she is the character who has learnt the most because the other characters are too arrogant to understand the Inspector's purpose, or to realise that she is learning from her mistake, and is not hysterical.

    • Word count: 520
  21. What is the role of the Inspector in An Inspector Calls? How does J.B. Priestly use him?

    Sheila is tearful from the moment she learns of her involvement, while Eric becomes upset and depressed at Eva's death, and begins drinking heavily. The older Birlings, conversely, attempt to shift the blame off of themselves and onto the younger generation. "I'm absolutely ashamed of you," Mrs. Birling says to Eric, while she was the one who gave Eva the final push to commit suicide. The Birling family are turned against each other by the Inspector's questions. The older Birlings are all too quick to condemn the actions of the younger ones, while defending their own with very poor excuses.

    • Word count: 1329
  22. What is the role of the Inspector in An Inspector Calls. How does Priestley use him?

    Priestley constructed this clever twist for the ending of the play since it reinforces his message that we cannot avoid the consequences of our actions. J.B Priestley gives the Inspector a number of roles in the play. Priestley uses him to speak his thoughts and share them with the audience. His main role however, is to expose the truth about the Birling family to the audience. Priestley uses the inspector to teach the Birling family and the audience at the theatre, that "we are members of one body.

    • Word count: 1656
  23. Free essay

    In An Inspector Calls how does J.B. Priestley use dramatic devices to convey his concerns and ideas to the members of the audience, as well as interest and involve them in his play?

    In 1912, rigid class and gender boundaries seemed to ensure that nothing would change. Yet by 1945, most of those class and gender divisions had been breached Priestley wanted to make the most of these changes. Through his play, he encourages people to seize the opportunity the end of the war had given them to build a better, more caring society where everyone felt responsible for each other. 'An Inspector Calls' is a morality play in which the playwright puts in his belief that people should treat one another equally and that there will be consequences to your actions.

    • Word count: 953
  24. Write about Gerald Croft his role in the play, character and relationships

    He is essentially the same to Mr Birling, sharing the same views on women and business as Mr Birling. He is a smooth talker, using vocabulary synonymous with upper-class families and uses 'smarm and charm' to win over the Birlings. He also uses language to assert authority, for example, "Fortunately, it isn't left to you, is it?" where he tries to intimidate the Inspector. Unfortunately the Inspector merely rebukes him with a well reasoned and logical answer. He is confident, perhaps overly so, and this leads him to be big-headed and full of pride or hubris. He thinks he will always get away with it, whatever "it" may be.

    • Word count: 1507
  25. Write about Sheila Birling her role in the play, character and relationships

    She also seems shocked that not everyone is like her, being young, pretty and well-off. She is evidence of the gap in the social ladder between the lower class and the upper class. Sheila is what Eva could have been if she had been born to upper-class parents. Sheila is shown to have flaws in her character - Eric refers to her temper when he says "she's got a nasty temper sometimes", she is possessive and suspicious towards Gerald and his actions, having "(..., possessively)" written in her acting directions and questioning Gerald as to what he was really doing over the summer.

    • Word count: 1353

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • To what extent is each character responsible for Eva's death?

    "In conclusion the inspector was a very good role model not just for the audience, but also for the Birling children. Mr Birling was the most responsible for Eva's death as he harmed her first. There were two people that learnt a lot, they were Sheila and Eric Birling. This is because they were able to communicate with the inspector and understand what he said, the inspector may make them change in the future as they are both able to make up their own minds and understand when they have made mistakes. They try to help their parents understand what they have done to Eva and how they caused her to commit suicide. Sheila and Eric will be able to learn from their parent's mistakes, as they are the younger generation. 4"

  • An Inspector Calls Essay - To what extent can the tragedy of Eva Smith be blamed on the society in which she lived.

    "In conclusion to the death of Eva Smith, I don't believe you can blame any of the Birlings as such, as it was also related to social activities that took place in such a short time of Eva's life. If all the strife she went through didn't happen, then I don't believe that Eva smith would have killed herself. So in conclusion, Eva smith's death has to be blamed on a chain of events that unfortunately and unthinkingly happened at the wrong time of her life."

  • Compare and contrast the characters of Mr. Birling and inspector Goole. How does Priestley use dramatic devices to help shape audiences response to view represented in the play.

    "In conclusion Birling and the Inspector are two opposite characters priestley used birling and his views as the audience and the inspector as himself hoping he could change their views as it would help society. Priestly was getting across to the audience the message that, at the end of the day everyone's got to help with society or else all of us will die. Therefore the message is still relevant today "we do not live alone"."

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