An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley

by Andrew Perman | Tuesday 17th of January 2023

An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley

Published: 1945

Country: United Kingdom

Publisher: Heinemann

An Inspector Calls seems at first to be a straightforward mystery, a “whodunit” where the guests are conveniently assembled so that the detective can eliminate suspects until he finds the culprit. Although the play uses the conventions of a house party thriller, J. B. Priestley wasn’t interested in unmasking one villain – he had the whole of British society in mind. He plays with these conventions and the notion of time to create a drama with a strong moral purpose. 

The play is set in 1912, the year the Titanic sunk, two years before the First World War, and it was written during the Second World War, to be first performed just when that war was ending. Priestley intended the play to be a warning- in the Inspector’s words: “I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.” Such a warning remains relevant whenever the play is performed. 

The Inspector forces each character to face up to his or her responsibilities for the lives of others who are less fortunate than themselves. Some, however, try to forget his message... Until the final dramatic twist. 

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