An Inspector Calls 13

We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. How does Priestly present this theme through the use of character, action and dramatic devices? ‘An Inspector Calls’ by ‘J. B Priestly’ is a post world war 2 drama set in 1912. The play is set in the industrial town of Brumley, the play is set in the front room of the Birling household. The play follows the classical unities rule where the play is set in one place, this allows future interpretations of the play to be less imaginative in where they set it, but it does mean that they can add more detail to the set as it never changes.
The Birling family is a lower upper class family who have benefited from the industrial revolution. In the Birling family there are four members and one soon to be member of the Birling family; there is Mr Arthur Birling, Mrs Sybil Birling, Sheila Birling and Eric Birling. The soon to be family member is Gerald Croft. During act one they get a visit from Inspector Goole. Inspector Goole is a very secretive character who likes to keep his card close to his chest. The inspector is here to piece together events that led to a girl’s suicide; this girl is called Eva Smith.
Pristley is socialist, he believes in equality between everybody; he uses the inspector as his mouthpiece for his socialist views. The Birling family have capitalist views, these are that not everyone is equal; you have to work and earn money to be successful. They are also quite a smug family, who only have interests for there own priorities. The Inspector wants to teach the Birlings about social responsibility; social responsibility is about looking after everyone is your community, not just your own interests.

The play itself is set in 1912, but it was written in 1945 and first performed in 1946. This gives the audience hindsight into events that have happened in between that time. Mr Birling mentions the Titantic being ‘unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable’, although the audience knows this isn’t true as the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage. The characters in ‘An Inspector Calls’ are very important, as they’re views and beliefs play a huge part in the story. Mr Birling is self-centred man, with only interests in money. He believes money is more important than people.
He would rather sack someone instead of giving them a small pay rise, even if they were a very skilled worker, as in the case of Eva Smith. He is an avid believer in capitalism, he is a social climber, he started his business with nothing and climbed up the social ladder to where he his now. Mrs Birling is a very arrogant and snobby person; she chairs a charity called the ’Brumley Women’s Charity’. It was set up to help unprivileged women try get back on there feet if they are exceptionally poor. Although, Mrs Birling uses it as a social status to make her look like an individual that has social responsibility.
Mrs Birling is the complete opposite, she abuses her position as chair of the board, she has a big influence on the board, which she uses to turn down Eva Smiths application. She has the least respect for the Inspector of all the characters. She tries – unsuccessfully – to intimidate him and force him to leave, then lies to him when she claims that she does not recognise the photograph that he shows her. Gerald Croft is the fiance of Sheila. Gerald is the son of a very wealthy business man who is in a trade war with Mr Birling and his company.
Gerald and Sheila coming together in marriage is seen as a huge gain towards a partnership between the two businesses. Gerald is in his fortys, he has views of both the older generation and the younger generation. The inspector is worried that Gerald will follow the views of the older generation. The inspector see’s the younger generation’s views as the way forward in life as the older generations views are capitalist and self-centred. The two younger characters in the play, Eric and Sheila Birling are seen by the inspector as a shining light of hope for the future of the family as there views are open to new ideas.
Eric is seen by his parents as being venerable so they have kept him on a close watch. Eric seems embarrassed and awkward right from the start. The fist mention of him in the script is “Eric suddenly guffaws,” and then he is unable to explain his laughter, as if he is nervous about something. (It is not until the final act that we realise this must be because of his having stolen some money). Sheila is the fiancee of Gerald; she has views of the younger generation, but let her anger come over her when in the clothes shop Milwards in which Eva Smith worked in.
Sheila used her famiy’s wealth to force the Milwards manager to sack Eva because Eva smirked; Sheila claimed that Eva was mocking her. Although she has probably never in her life before considered the conditions of the workers, she shows her compassion immediately she hears of her father’s treatment of Eva Smith: “But these girls aren’t cheap labour – they’re people. ” Within the play ‘An Inspector Calls’, Priestly uses numerous dramatic devises to get across his message of moral, class and political influence.
The first hints of his central themes are imposed when Priestly describes the scene and setting of the first act. An immediate perception is given off towards the audience of ‘heavily comfortable house. ’ With this being a place of constant setting, a reflection of real time and naturalism is released. The lighting prescribed for the scene also creates the mood of the play. Priestly states within his stage directions the lighting should be ‘pink and intimate’ prior to the inspector arrives a shaded glow of rose tint then should grow ‘brighter and harder’.
In context and example of these stage directions are as pursued. ‘The dining room of a fairly large suburban house, belonging to a prosperous manufacturer. It has good solid furniture of the period. At the moment they have all had a good dinner, are celebrating a special occasion, and are pleased with themselves’. Another devise used to enhance the play writer’s dramatic concepts is the use of dramatic irony. These are used when the knowledge of the audience exceeds those of the characters within the play.
This technique of dramatic irony is in attendance when Mr Birling makes self-assured conjectures about the coming war and the ship Titanic being unsinkable. For example Priestley uses techniques to expose Birling’s naivety and generation gap. Tension is also secured throughout the play as each character holds significant connection with the suicide victim, Eva Smith, who represents the universal populace. By making Eva a representation rather than a real character the moral of the play is taken more literally. The contribution from each character also produces a deeper and more involved structure towards the play’s plot.
Timing which features as a critical decisive; with stage directions of speech, movement exits, entrances and sounds. A strategic illustration of this is the arrival of the Inspector instantaneously, subsequent to Mr Birling notifying Gerald about his imminent knighthood and regards of how ‘a man has to look after himself and his own. ’ The Inspector, the true mouth piece of Priestly adds a dramatic tone. The character is directed with the use of pace and tension and presents each idea and enquiry without conjunction, by observing and exposing each statement from an individual’s account.
This method slowly throws light on the core of Eva’s life and the real effect of classes on a wider population. Inspector Goole is the eponymous character in An Inspector Calls’ by Priestley who has many functions. Primarily, he is introduced to the play to interrogate the Birling Family and Gerald Croft, but Priestley also uses him to move the plot forward and as a device for the writer to voice his opinion, furthermore he controls movement on stage, encourage the characters and audience to learn from their mistakes and to create moments of tension and mystery.
The Inspector creates moments of tension in the play, mainly at the end of Acts One and Two where something happens and the audience is waiting for someone to confess their relation to the death. Inspector holds up a hand. We hear the front door. They wait, looking towards the door. Eric enters, looking extremely pale and distressed. He meets their inquiring stares. Curtain falls quickly. At this moment, the audience would be on the edge of their seat and because the Three Acts are continuous, this act change is just in the right place for creating a cliff-hanger.
This also happens at the very end of Act one where I have quoted above, and these moments aren’t just at the end of the acts, they can also be in the middle caused by a passing comment. “Naturally I don’t know anything about this girl” claims Mrs Birling. Inspector “well, we’ll see, Mrs Birling”. This is just a very short sentence but it gives the audience a hint of what is to come next and that Mrs Birling has a connection to the death and they just want to find out what it is. I think the Inspector is very successful in putting Priestley’s point across and that he captures the audiences’ attention really well with his gripping speech.
The Inspector is the creator of all of the drama, tension, intrigue and mystery in the play An Inspector Calls’ and he is used incredibly well to capture the audience’s attention. I think that Priestley, as well as using him as the main character in terms of development in the storyline, has really just used him to echo his own views. This is to give a rather obvious moral to this play saying that everybody’s actions affect everyone else and no one should be selfish as it could influence someone’s life greatly in a chain of events. Priestlys message is still relevant as the gap between the classes is ever increasing,

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