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GCSE: J.B. Priestley
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John Boynton Priestley's biography
- 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 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 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 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 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.
The play begins with numerous specific stage directions. This is so that all directors' interpretations of the initial scene will be similar and almost precise to how Priestley believes it should be. It is also important that he is very specific, so that directors can also understand how the character commits their actions, exactly how each character should look, and how each character generally behaves. Priestley is also very detailed because he wishes to create a particular tone. The setting of the opening of the play is 'the dining room' of a 'fairly large suburban house', and that it belongs to a 'prosperous manufacturer'.
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The upper middle class citizens would have no problem with the way the live, their money catering for their every need, but the people of the lower classes would be severely affected by the ongoing troubles. Priestley wrote this play in 1945, so all the happenings would have already occurred when this play was being written and completed. The first scene starting in Act One features a joyous and memorable occasion. It is the engagement dinner of Sheila Birling to Gerald Croft.
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"AN INSPECTOR CALLS" By J. B. Priestly has been described as a play of social criticism. What is being criticised in the play?
The first of which is Arthur Birling. Priestly writes him to be arrogant, pompous and responsible only for himself; also with an overthrowing of pride and control on his family. He represents the 5%of the population I mentioned, the wealthy capitalist businessmen. Priestly does this to show the audience what awful people these capitalists can be, and that there are such people in existence. To show this, Birling says: "Working together - for lower costs and higher prices" Basically describing the typical businessmen; trying to gain as much profit, by giving low wages, despite the knowledge of the struggle the workers live with.
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The role of the inspector uses collective language such as 'we' or 'we'll' to try and involve both the surrounding roles and the audience to the conversation. This differs from Mr. Birling because Mr. Birling says earlier on in the play, "but what so many of you don't seem to understand now, when things are so much easier, is that a man has to make his own way - has to look after himself - and his family too, of course, when he has one - and so long as he does that he won't come to much harm."
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The hungry people of Paris, who suffered from bad harvest, burst out their anger by attacking the Bastille prison. They captured the prison after a surprising day; this is supposedly to have sparked the start of the French Revolution. The anger spread to other parts of France and many people began to protest. Charles Dickens uses a variety of techniques to imply the contrast between the cities, London and Paris. Some of the techniques he uses are oxymoron and irony. Throughout the whole of chapter one he uses oxymoron. "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times".
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There were a lot of changes during this 33-year period: this is also portrayed in the characters of the Birling family. For example, Birling dismisses the idea of World War I happening, but two years later the war starts; this shows how not only he was optimistic, but the rest of England were. Arthur Birling is shown to be capitalist and old-fashioned, and is in favour of things such as the distinctions between upper and lower classes and that women were of a lower status than men.
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As the play goes on, Eric changes his views to be more of a socialist, and ends up being a much more compassionate, caring and considerate young man, rather than self-prioritised and selfish. >Priestley establishes an early impression of the characters' personalities and interests for the audience before the inspector comes so that we know what kind of people they are. We know that Eric seems to be quite quiet at the beginning, and his first line is after he laughs after Gerald and Sheila's conversation.
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In 1912, there were strong divisions between the upper and lower classes, but after World War one, and World War two, the Holocaust, the Titanic sinking, and the Atom bomb, there was a great want for social change between the upper and lower classes for the country to stick together in the event of another disaster occurring. As this social reform had taken place, the effect on the audience was likely to be huge, and would make both the upper and the lower class audiences realise just how bad the upper class treated the lower class during the pre-war period.
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Dramatic irony is increased several times throughout the act when Arthur Birling is naive on the progress and events across the world, which is an additional reason in which Priestly has chosen such a date to set his play. JB Priestly is a socialist, it's possible that Birling is the icon of a typical, strict middle class capitalist and Priestly is using the character to analyse the faults within capitalism. As the audiences are the members of the same society as Birling, it is ironic that Priestly is subtly insulting the society which will stereotypically be watching the play.
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There was also a change in social thought; there was more attention towards the poor, and also the status of women. The women's suffrage also protested for the rights of women, as it was a social, economical, and political movement aimed at extending the right to vote for women. There was a lot of rapid industrialisation and more economical opportunities which created an environment in which there was more social interaction and people became more liberal. I will be analysing a section of the play, which I have chosen to be from p45-49.
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The Inspector portrays Priestley's view of the class system, which is ever present in the society of 1912, and although (thanks to the socialist progressions like the introduction of a labour government) things had improved in this respect by 1945, society was still shadowed by a deeply rooted class system, dictating prejudices, actions, morals and other such traditions. One of the ways in which the Inspector does this is through his questioning of the characters; revealing prejudices that they weren't even aware they possessed.
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Consider Inspector Goole's Interrogation of One or More of the Characters in "An Inspector Calls" by JB Priestley. How might an Audience Respond to the Sequences You Choose?
In my opinion, the inspector is in fact exposing Birling to not be as clever as he thinks, which is probably the way that the audience feels about Birling at this stage of the play. This would therefore, probably affect the audience's opinions of the characters; with the inspector being favoured more, for refusing to let Birling intimidate him. This idea of Inspector Goole exposing characters of the upper class such as Birling as everyday people who are no better than the lower class could be seen as the inspector's purpose, and his role in the play.
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"There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families." Margaret Thatcher, 31 October 1987 This quote perfectly outlines the general view of the capitalist classes pre-WW1; although 60 years later, the capitalist message still held strong, although this was what Priestley hoped to prevent. The play was set in the past to highlight through retrospection the failure of capitalism to the lower classes, and argue for the improvement of life for all in the future.
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One of the main characters in this play as you might of guessed is the inspector, The name "inspector "Creates more of a dramatic genre to the play this shows that there's obviously a dilemma to do with crime and the meaning of inspector to me means something in which is instantly solved. But then again creates a Pretty plain effect to the play, It would of been better if the inspector had a name something which was complicated. The air of authority, the reason why I have stated this because it would have gone perfectly well with in what his character does.
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What do you learn from this play about attitudes to social status at the time? You should refer closely to language, actions and characters in your answer.
During his stay, the family all reveal their involvements with Eva and arguments arise. It transpires that Eva was sacked, pregnant, abandoned and was refused help. In the end, after the inspector's departure, it is discovered that Inspector Goole was not actually a real police inspector. After then receiving a phone call informing them that an inspector was on his way, the Birling's are left completely puzzled. J.B Priestley's purpose in writing the play is to show the importance of social responsibility. He achieves his purpose through his characters and makes us feel more sympathetic for some and critical of others.
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In the middle of his speech the inspector also says "pay a heavy price" this makes the audience and the family think as its Mr Birling who will pay the heavy price after sacking Eva. Throughout the play the audience have this constant reminder of Mr Birling saying, "A man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own..." This later causes dramatic irony, as his attitude to life, affects people like Eva Smith. This is constant as Priestley wants us to realise the key aspect of it at the end of the play.
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Priestly main moral was "To care for others as much as you would care for your self." Another theme I could discuss is class. Apart from Edna the maid, the play doesn't include any lower class characters. However we hear a lot about the lower class as we hear about every step in Eva Smiths life. There are lots of upward characters like Arthur Birling and Gerald Croft. I think Birling looked at Eva Smiths as cheap labour while he was going to be rewarded a knighthood, this means going upper-class.
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Although Churchill (a Conservative) is seen as a war hero for leading the fight against Nazism (he led a coalition government of Labour, Conservative and Liberal elements) a Socialist government has won a landslide victory in the 1945 General Election. In the play Priestley sets out an effective series of stage directions. He applies them effectively as a dramatic device, in that he uses them to show how the Birling family are cold, distant people and how money has corrupted them as a family.
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Mr Birling is a very strong character in the family. He is described at the start as a 'Heavy looking, rather portentous man in his middle-fifties but rather provincial in his speech.' He is very proud of his achievements. He boasts about having been major and tries but fails to impress the inspector. He is very selfish but wants to protect himself, his family and Birling and Co. He can't see that he did anything wrong when he fired Eva Smith and said that he was just looking after his business.
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J. B. Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls' is a play with messages. What are these messages? How and why are these messages delivered?
Priestly deliberately made Birling to be perceived as negative because he wanted to discourage the way people saw Capitalist politics and to show people like Birling to be at fault. When Mr. Birling delivers his speech he makes many points which Priestly himself disagrees with, he shows this by using the inspector as a messenger to inform the Birling family and the audience that we shouldn't all "Look out for our own" which is how Mr. Birling put it. As far as Mr.
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There was little view of the path. The ship hip an iceberg and split. Many died with only a few survivors. In Post war England there was a class divide, the rich looked down on the poor. The poor were not treated as humans but more as vermin, leaches of society. It was frowned upon that any upper-class would associate with anyone of a lower class. Rich people believed that poor people had no rights. I believe Priestly wrote the play mainly to get to people to take responsibility for there actions and to understand that everything we do has consequences.
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Through the presentation of the character Inspector Goole, how does the audience realise that 'An Inspector Calls' by J.B Priestly is a twentieth century morality play?
'He is a man of 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' this description gives an impression of an alpha dominant male typical of an Inspector. Before the Inspector enters the lighting is pink and intimate reflecting the mood which is joyful as there has been a celebration, however when the Inspector enters the lighting terns brighter and harder, giving an impression that he's here to throw light on the situation.
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with fairly easy manners but rather provincial with his speech" priestly goes into lots of detail that is not necessary, but helps to bring the characters alive. Priestly makes shore the audience knows that Mr. Birling is portentous man (some one who is all for them selves) he shows this by making Mr. Birling say "....as if we were mixed up together like bees -community and all that nonsense. What he is saying is that there is no such thing as community, and everyone should look after them selves and there family. Priestly creates tension early on by having Mr.
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