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An Inspector Calls - J. B. Priestley

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Author: J. B. Priestley / Format: Hardback / Date of publication: 12 January 1993 / Genre: Education & Study Guides / Subcategory: Home Learning & Study Guides / Category: Children's Educational Material / Category: English Literature / Publisher: Pearson Education Limited / Title: An Inspector Calls / ISBN 13: 9780435232825 / ISBN 10: 0435232825

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      18.11.2012 13:18
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      Highlighting the delusional habits of capitalism and humanity.

      (This Review Contains No Spoilers!)

      Characters:

      Arthur Birling, owner of a successful mill, and politician - head of the house.

      Sybil Birling, elderly pompous lady, who spends her time meddling about with a Women's Charity - Mother to Sheila and Eric Birling.

      Eric Birling, the black sheep of the family - his best friend is the bottle, which in-turn makes him squiffy and so he seeks out services of hard-up prostitutes, who're eager to grab his wad.

      Sheila Birling, graced with feminine charm and an elfin feature - she uses both attributes simultaneously. A notable intelligence and goes for what she wants - Fiancé to Gerard Croft.

      Gerald Croft, a well accomplished gentleman, heir to the very successful family business who is Birling's competitor - Holds the dice to this game of monopoly.

      Inspector Goole, an entity of mystery, and the voice of reason - he'd be doing over-time if he embarked on his job in this era.

      Eva Smith, or is it Birling? Questionable liaisons indeed - there's more to Eva than meets the eye, not that you see her, of course. It's only a play, right?

      - - - -

      Dramatists brazenly state; 'Life is like a play, we merely go through the stages of our life acting it out;' from, 'As You Like it' - (William Shakespeare - 1600) Their well performed vocal conveys one of a deep thinking philosopher until you realise: "Isn't that from Shakespeare?" Priestley's, 'An Inspector Calls' takes it another stage on; as he amalgamates social etiquette and political persuasion onto a plate of Edwardian bumptiousness - you've got to admire Priestley's audacity as he chooses to uncover the sorry fiasco in the melodrama of stage. Priestley was the Hilary Mantel of contemporary literature in the mid 1940's, not duly for being a double 'Man Booker' prize winner but for portraying a bygone era - the year is 1912 and this is a time whereby the bourgeois was material for plays watched by the actual subjects and liked; which often left a big smirk on the face of the creator - Priestley was no different. There is something incedibly satisfying seeing the 'toffs' enjoying the 'who dunnit?' play, when really the joke is on them. Wilde was a pure genius at the craft, while the lesser known playwright J B Priestley embroidered suspense / intrigue into the narrative frame to make up for his insipid joviality. British culture and social etiquette wet the creative appetite for capitalistic orientated plays - many authors at the beginning of the twentieth century dipped into class and politics, and unearthing remarkable classics in the process.

      A common starter for these classics during this era was to slowly break into the narrative at the dinner table, an elegant one at that, in a large suburban villa in Brumley (Industrial town in North Midlands) - Dining was an opportunity of boastful converse and announcements that usually gets the mandatory gentry 'pat on the back' and illustrious plaudit; followed by a raucous, 'guffaw of delight' - Priestley structures the play with three acts - Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3 - Where two affluent families are joined via engagement: Gerald Croft to Sheila Birling - Birling and Croft are two competitive local business empires destined for marital bliss, so it seems. Bed-partners - and puts a new spin on, 'sleeping with the enemy'. An occasion to be squiffy, meaning (intoxicated), which Eric Birling knows far too much about, as he samples the socially forbidden fruits from the street corner - right under the toff nosed gaze of his Mother whom is too engrossed in 'keeping up appearances' Bouquet style, to take note. "Oh how spiffing, a licence to be squiffy and have a whiff of the 'iffy" - Cue Arthur Birling, head of the Birling household, Mill owner and politician speaks of the importance of integrity and having no skeleton in the closet in modern public life, to Gerald Croft (his impending son-in-law) - 'What a family!' pipes up Gerald - when suddenly a sharp knock at the door disturbed the jolly ambiance.

      Enter, Inspector Goole; his grave, ash toned face looked the same shade of grey as the smog outside - he is no fool, but he stares at five of them - Goole is a cross between, Peter Falk's Columbo and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, excluding the Simon Cowell hairline and 'Frank N Stein's' stiff knee-joints. His eerie gravely tone stated he was investigating the death of an Eva Smith, a working class girl who fell into bad company. The departed knew of the Birling family as written in her own hand - identifying, shall we say testing times with the Birlings. It has come to my knowledge each Birling had a valid reason to get rid of Eva. "Eva you did, or didn't!" - Goole embarks on his accusations to Art Birling - "Have yee mastered the 'art' of murder as well as making a killing in business?" - Birling claimed he knew of an Eva Smith who he employed eighteen months ago but fired her because of her involvement in a worker's strike. Of course it was justifiable and he did no wrong-doing. Eva was purely a crushed prawn in the salty sea of capitalism - a result of a plethora of tears from a plethora of working class Eva's. Sheila Birling, it was sheer jealousy of a pretty little mite, a fierce demand of, 'wanting to be the fairest of them all'. "Eva you've got it, or you ain't love - and you ain't!" - Edwardian ladies of a higher social standing do not warrant their beauty compromised via the likes of an ordinary Smith. Goole's stare got caught in Sybil Birling's throat, she couldn't ignore it as she would normally, she had to choke out she had encountered Eva while she was sticking her nose in at the 'Women's Charity' for under-privileged women who were destitute and needed financial help. Sybil croaked that the charity didn't serve to the likes of Eva Smith, thus Smith's application inevitably was denied. At this point, Goole revealed Eva Smith had an alias: Daisy Renton. "Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do" - Gerald announces he'd interacted with a female of that name in the local theatre bar and had given her money on a pretence he'd engage in extra curriculum activities as his mistress in waiting. "I'm half crazy all for the love of you." On that data, Sheila smelt a rat and promptly ends the Birling / Croft alliance. "There won't be any marriage". Mr. Squiffy wanting a 'whiffy of the iffy' alias; Eric Birling indeed was prompted by Goole to make his confession of impregnating a lady fitting the description of Renton or Smith. Either one, he didn't know the difference, too inebriated to take note of names - Only a desperate soul who had hit rock bottom would've succumbed to a rich drunk's advances. Eva / Daisy's demise all devised by the rich tapestry of the Birling lifestyle. "You knew she was pregnant didn't you Mrs Birling? - "Your precious boy, impregnating the likes of her, how disgusting, eh Mrs Birling!" - The difference is - "she'd look sweet, upon the seat, of a bicycle made for two; as for you Eric, you will always look squiffy". As the ghoulish interrogation drew to a close, the Birlings turned on each other. 'Dog eats Dog' - capitalism in full flow. During the blame games, Inspector Goole drifted off into the smog. Goole, speaks to the audience; 'Actions have their consequences'.

      Act 3, employs twists and turns; that begs the question who was Inspector Goole? Gerald Croft has news that lifts the intensity momentarily in the Birling household. There was an understanding that normality had descended, 'Moonshine' was flowing and the Birlings had repented to mend their ways, albeit Sheila still hadn't given the Birling / Croft alliance the green light, Croft hoped she would change her mind. "An Affair is an affair - ravaging a whiffy iffy, is worse than ravaging an iffy!" And there is nothing worse than that, in the mind of an Edwardian lady of a certain social standing. Such lurid acts will take time to forget. On the surface, normality had descended inside the Birling villa. 'What a family!' pipes up Gerald - when suddenly a sharp ring from the telephone disturbed the jolly ambiance. Not all is what it seems.

      This is Priestley's message to the developed world, done in a Hitchcockian style for impetus. An adaptation in 1992 from Daldry's awe inspiring screen production makes Priestley very relevant today. The term: "we're all innit together?" - proves we haven't learned anything about the nature of capitalism and what history tells us. No Goole could knock on so many doors - Highly recommended.

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        26.09.2009 23:23
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        An okay read, not to be read more than 4 times

        An Inspector Calls

        In Act one of "An Inspector Calls", how does J.B. Priestley use dramatic devices?

        An Inspector Calls is a play written by John Boynton Priestley in 1945, and based before World War I, in 1912.

        The story tells of a prosperous family, who fancy themselves aristocratic, and above the rest of society. They live in an entrepreneurial atmosphere, mostly however, filled with lies, prejudice, and greed. Priestly was known for his concerns about the social order of the world, and conveys this through morality in An Inspector Calls, giving his audience the chance to appreciate his values, and the ways he believed people should treat one-another; with the same attitudes and respect we would appreciate for ourselves.
        Many of his works have a socialist aspect. An Inspector Calls, as well as being a "time play":-a play that toys with a different concept of time, and becomes a central metaphor or theoretical device, it also contains many references to socialism, and the inspector is arguably an alter ego, through which Priestley could express his views. An Inspector Calls is namely classed as a "time play", as the family undergo a police investigation into a suicide which they later discover has not happened yet.
        An Inspector Calls focuses around the Birling family, this consists of: Arthur Burling; head of the family, Sybil Birling; Arthur's wife, Sheila and Eric Burling; Arthur and Sybil's two spoilt children, and Gerald Croft; rich and successful, and Shelia Birling's Fiancé.
        The Play begins with the family celebrating not only Shelia and Gerald's engagement, but Mr Birling's initiative to revolutionize his business along with Gerald's father, sir George Croft. The atmosphere is joyful and light-hearted until Inspector Goole arrives, and announces the death of a young girl-Eva Smith. This throws the family into disclosure as it is revealed that in one way or another, they all knew Eva Smith, and played some part in her suicide.

        Throughout the sum of Act 1 in An Inspector Calls, Priestly uses an extensive array of both dramatic and ironic devices to entail the audience into the play, and make the plot rational and plausible, whilst all-the-while enjoyable to watch.
        First and foremost, Priestly uses lighting as a dramatic device. Depending on the situation, and ambience on stage, the lighting adjusts to the appropriate brightness. For example, in the beginning of the play in the dining-room where the family are seated, the lighting is "pink and intimate"; signifying the closeness of the characters, as there is no tension or discord between them. The fact that the lighting is "pink" suggests that the atmosphere is warm and friendly, and as the audience would expect from an "intimate", evening celebration between families.
        This However changes when the Inspector arrives on scene. When the Inspector arrives on stage, the lighting becomes more intense, and concentrated on the most important character on stage; himself. This is shown in the text which states when the Inspector arrives, "it should be brighter and harder". Additionally, this gives you an idea about the Inspector's character, illustrating that he is of great importance, and is the bringer of a harsher, more realistic truth to the family, rather than the artificial "pink" that is being created on stage.

        Priestly uses the "doorbell" ringing as a chance to interrupt the "pink" lighting, as a suitable change from the glow on stage, to a spotlight on the door, which the Inspector will walk on stage through. This is an effective dramatic device as it immediately changes, not only the atmosphere, but it sub-consciously influences the impression the audience will have on the Inspector, as a spotlight is used to draw attention to one particular importance on stage; inevitably the Inspector himself.

        J.B then goes on to use the plays least important character, Edna, as a further device to create drama through lighting, as when she announces that "an Inspector has called", Mr Birling asks her to "give them more light" before she leaves, illuminating them all up, and exposing them not only on stage, but to the Inspector's questions.

        As well as the above, Priestly uses the "doorbell" itself as a dramatic tool. Before the "doorbell" rings, Mr Birling is talking at Gerald and Eric about men needing to "make their own way" and "look after their family" and himself, as well as "minding his own business". In spite of this, the "doorbell" interrupts his speech, demonstrating to the audience that the Inspector is superior to Mr Birling. This contradicts the earlier element of Mr Birling's speech, where he implies that is of higher superiority than anyone else, and likes people to echo it back to him, and between others. The ringing of the "doorbell" also insinuates an important change that is happening to the family, resulting in elevated commotion throughout the audience.

        Subsequently, J.B also makes use of irony right the way through An Inspector Calls, particularly through the duration of Act 1. The blatant place where it is used is throughout Mr Birling's speech, ranging from the end of page 5 of the play, towards the end of page 7. His speech shows to the audience that Mr. Birling thinks very highly of himself and that superiority and money are his main concerns and welfares. He fundamentally sets himself up to fail in this scene, as he talks himself up in such a way-that the only way is down. Birling speaks of how the "Titanic is unsinkable", and how he says; quite matter-of-factly-"there isn't a chance of war" which, can only be proved wrong by the audience. This also contradicts Mr. Birling's beliefs about his knowledge and arrogance towards himself, as the audience actually know more than him-a clever use of dramatic irony on Priestley's behalf.

        A further example of dramatic irony J.B uses, is again through Mr Birling, whom he tends to create as the fundamental excuse to incorporate irony into An Inspector Calls, when Birling jokes to Gerald that his chance of a knighthood-which he boasts about accomplishing, , would be ruined if they got "into police court or start a scandal". Both Gerald and Mr. Birling "laugh" at this point, and Gerald concludes that they are a "nice well-behaved family". They both continue to "laugh" when Mr. Birling promises that they'll "try to keep out of trouble during the next few months". The entire conversation is established on irony, as their joke turns out to be inaccurate when the Inspector arrives on scene only a short while after.

        Next, Priestly uses a range of stage directions as a theatrical device, most predominantly in Act 1. J.B uses subtle directions to establish how the characters speak and respond towards each other-and most importantly, the Inspector. Stage directions determine how the characters must act to ascertain conversations or actions. Priestley manipulates his stage directions to create tension within the Birlings and the audience. Priestley ensures that his characters 'slip-up' whilst engaging in conversation, even before the Inspector arrives, to generate an uncertain feeling about some of the characters. Whilst Birling is speaking to the gentlemen about the representation of women's clothes, Eric answers "(eagerly)", "(but he checks himself)", making the audience question what Eric has been up to, and why he is suddenly quiet.

        Moreover, he uses stage directions to endorse further devices, such as irony. At the same time as Birling and Gerald are in discussion about staying out of trouble, Priestly directs that the two should "(laugh)", making the conversation seem light-hearted, and as a result, more ironic. On top of these instructions, J.B ensures that Birling's laugh is "(complacent)" or smug furthering the irony, as Birling appears to the audience as very sure of himself.

        Another example of the above comes from Sheila, as previously in the scene, she is feebly ticking off Gerald about his knowledge of port. "(Gaily, possessively)" gives you an idea about Sheila's personality, as "gaily" suggests she is a happy, unworried girl and that she is content not only with her life, but that she has no worries up to this point.

        However, "possessively" implies how she feels towards Gerald, and is important to acknowledge, as in the end of the play, she and Gerald brake off their engagement due to the Inspector's revelations.
        As well as this, J.B makes use of the setting of the play as a dramatic device. Priestley states that the set of the house where the play is set should be a "fairly large suburban house, belonging to a prosperous manufacturer". This is an effective device, as it describes the family, sub-consciously to the audience, as it becomes obvious that they are a "prosperous" or wealthy family. He also excludes any additional comfort from the setting, as he requests "the general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and homelike". This however, may not be noticeable before the Inspector's arrival, as the "pink" lighting creates an "intimate" environment, but becomes apparent after his arrival, and the lighting becomes intense.

        Additionally, Priestley uses concealed props as a dramatic device, throughout the entire play. In Act 1 and throughout the extent of An Inspector Calls, the Inspector carries a "photograph, about postcard size" and shows it to each character individually. The purpose of this, being that he says he likes to work with "one person and one line of enquiry at a time", to avoid "muddle". This becomes a powerful tool of drama, as not only does it initially rattle the characters on stage, but fashions inquisitiveness amongst the audience too. As well as this, it generates annoyance, and intensity amongst the characters, especially Mr. Birling, as they are being made to wait, (something the high-born family would not be used to), whilst the Inspector prolongs his scrutiny of Mr. Birling, and his family before their eyes. The drama fashioned through this particular tool prolongs right through until the end of the play. This being when Gerald, questions whether the Inspector actually showed them all the same picture, or if truth be told, different photographs of different girls. The matter of how the Inspector had gathered such information about the Birlings and, how he had enough time to gather and correlate verification that they knew the girl in the "two hours" since her death comes into play also.

        Another tool Priestley incorporates to craft drama is most obviously, through Inspector Goole himself. Priestly incorporates the Inspector as a major conflict to the Birlings and their morals, and as the bringer of reality and realisation to the family. The Inspector is arguably Priestley's alter-ego, as he conveys the same socialism as J.B. On the basis of the fact that Priestley is trying to craft that socialists, such as himself, and unmistakably, the Inspector, have an upper hand over aristocrats, such as the Birlings in An Inspector Calls, the Inspector obviously dominates the Birlings immediately. The Inspector results in making each of them look very juvenile at times. An example of this being, 'I think you remember Eva Smith now, don't you, Mr Birling?', this shows that the Inspector governs Mr Birling, making him look and feel very small; a sentiment that as a conceited man, he doesn't feel too often.

        One of the most important devices that Priestley develops drama and commotion through is Eva Smith, the suicidal girl, and retrospectively, the most significant character in the play. The whole concept of Eva Smith is metaphorical, as Priestley composes her to represent the lower-class, lesser people that both he and Inspector Goole represent in the play and real life. Priestly crafts the name "Eva Smith" to relate to the audience, as "Smith" was, and still is today, a widespread surname, whilst "Eva" creates a pretty quality about her, therefore making her liked by the audience. J.B anticipates that this pretty, common name will associate a bond with the audience, and help them to further associate her with being a normal girl of the time period, and that she could have easily have been, and represents any low-class girl.

        This technique broadens when we discover she used a series of fake names, one of which was "Daisy Renton", this also being a pretty first name, however with a more unusual surname. This conceivably showing how when she changed her name, she endeavoured to make something of herself, believing that by having a more uncommon name, she be regarded as more than an everyday, low-class girl. An additional tactic was that as an audience, you never actually meet Eva Smith, guaranteeing that, not only do we as an audience believe everything that the Inspector tells us about her, but that as we do not see the "photograph"; it is left up to our mind to imagine her, thus sub-consciously, picturing a girl that appeals to an audience's individual mind; but fits the personality and traits we are told about her.

        Furthermore, because the image an audience would conjure up of Eva Smith would be particular to them, the sympathy and sadness Priestley incorporates about the girl become stronger, due to the fact that she has been re-created in the audience's sub-conscious.

        Perhaps the dramatic device that Priestley integrates most into An Inspector Calls is dramatic tension. J.B makes use of dramatic tension with a very ordinary structure, making the device realistic and credible.

        The final dramatic device used by Priestley at the end of Act 1 is a climax; often known as a cliff-hanger, and as a member of the audience watching the play, makes you eager to witness what happens next. Priestley uses this technique right at the end of Act 1, where he closes the Act and Scene with the Inspector asking what his story is, as he clearly knows-or knew, Daisy Renton a.k.a, Eva Smith. Priestley closes the Act with a single word from the Inspector, reinforcing his status amongst the Birlings, as he has the last word. "Well?", although written as a question, is more of an imperative command from the Inspector, proving his authority over the family, but also revealing his true knowledge about them, reinforcing Shelia's prediction that "he knows. Of course he knows. And i hate to think how much he knows that we don't know yet." Obviously, this juts adds to the drama and tension amongst the audience already, as it is about to be revealed how Gerald contributed to Eva Smith's death.

        The absolute final dramatic device priestly uses, is that this is when he chooses to end the Act, and most probable, call an intermission, leaving the audience buzzing with anticipation, and not actually wanting to refresh themselves.

        In conclusion, J.B. Priestly uses dramatic devices throughout the duration of Act 1 in An Inspector Calls repeatedly, however he keeps them fresh, and although some may be predictable, the time at which he uses them may not be. He crafts his characters specifically to ensure uttermost drama, and plays his stage-directions brilliantly.

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          12.08.2009 01:00
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          Well worth a read

          I studied this play for my Standard Grades last year and I really enjoyed it. It's a thrilling read and you should definately read the book or go to see the play onstage. Below is an edited excerpt of an essay I wrote on the play, which I feel is relevent to the task of writing a review.


          "An Inspector Calls" is a play by JB Priestley and is set in "the dining room of a fairly large suburban house, belonging to a prosperous manufacturer" and begins very cheerfully and positively, depicted by Priestley as "[The family] are celebrating a special occasion, and are pleased with themselves". The merriment of the party is interrupted by the arrival of an Inspector, asking questions concerning the suicide of a young woman named Eva Smith.

          As the play progresses, the family's respectable appearance is shattered. Inspector Goole methodically works through the family, unearthing that each member has a shameful secret which had impacted Eva Smith's life, eventually leading to her death.

          "An Inspector Calls" deals with many social and political issues of the period, many of which are still relevant today. Priestley, a socialist, strongly believed that everyone has a certain level of responsibility for others in society. "An Inspector Calls" deals with the theme of Priestley's socialism, and the character of the Inspector frequently conveys Priestley's own view. The plot succeeds in showing the reader Priestley's political beliefs and it also shows that one's actions can have serious consequences for others if one does not act in a responsible manner.

          The play is set in 1912, just before the First World War, when the class system ran deep and people were willing to accept that others lived in comparative poverty. Though society had moved on and was far less class-ridden when the play was first performed in 1945, the importance of caring for others was just as relevant and remains so to this day.

          Dramatic devices such as irony are well used throughout the play, conveying concern and ideas to the reader, as well as arousing interest and a sense of involvement in the play.

          Priestley successfully portrayed the idea that there is a need to accept responsibility for others, both for individuals and for society as a whole. He makes it clear that his play is not just specific to that one situation, at that one time. The storyline appeals to many people because of its meaningful theme, interesting characters and the shocking twist at the end. It is this final twist which shocks the reader into remembering that everything is not okay after all; people are still dying and all is not well. The Inspector sums up the central theme of the play in his final speech: "One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us...We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other."

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            26.05.2009 16:44
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            Only worth reading if there is someone to point out the critical ideas

            I studied 'An Inspector Calls' for my English GCSE and was quite interested to find out that it was written in 1945 but set in 1912. There was no welfare state in 1912 and so the prupose of this play is to allow J.B Priestley the opportunity to express his opinions of both the economic and social systems of oppression. The idea as well of setting it in 1912 is I think rather clever. The audience is aware of the events that occured after 1912, this allows Priestley to paint the characters, who are optimistic, as buffoons. I think Priestley uses the Titanic as a metaphor for society during 1912. At first the Titanic appears to be big, impressive and a sign of good things to come when in fact it sinks. Thus representing the woeful events to follow 1912. Although the ideas and opinions contained within this play are quite fascinating it still remains that it is in fact quite boring. The story is dull and at points over complicated and nothing really happens apart from people sitting round a table talking. I think Priestley needed to find a better story for expressing his views.

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              06.05.2009 10:52
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              a very good thriller

              Dear Mr Jones
              I am writing a letter to inform you of a job available to you. The role is of Inspector Goole in the play "An Inspector Calls" Written by J.B Priestly. The play was written in 1945 towards the end of World War II, but set before World War I in 1912 to show how society was before the war brought about a change in attitudes towards those less fortunate. The purpose of this play is to highlight the issues of equality, no matter what colour, race, income or class a person belongs to. A prime example of this can be found on page 56. Inspector Goole tells The Birlings, "We don't live alone; we are members of one body. We are responsible for each other." Here the playwright's moral message is shown clearly through speech of a character that embodies J.B. Priestly within the play.
              The main role of the Inspector is to change The Birling's perception of the lower classes. He does this by implementing the death of Eva Smith, to imbue The Birlings with a sense of guilt and compassion in order for them change from being arrogant into open-minded citizens of an equal country. However, the inspector does not manage to convince all of the Birlings to change their ways. The inspector only manages to influence Sheila and Eric Birling. In fact Sheila is the most affected by the death of Eva Smith, and throughout the questioning of her family she tries to warn them that what happened was wrong and they needed to learn from it: "You mustn't try to build up a wall between us and that girl...The inspector will just tear it down." On the other hand, Gerald retreats into a guilty stupor in which he doesn't say much. That is not to say that he is not affected but he deals with his guilt privately.
              Sheila and Eric are unsurprisingly the most affected by the Inspector for reasons which Mr Birling states himself: "They're more impressionable." This is a rather cynical view but none the less true as they have not had a life time of grooming to become the perfect upper-class figure head. Another reason for this is that they have little or no experience of the real world. When they are told about the suicide of Eva Smith they don't know how to process this information as they have never before experienced anything like this. The Inspector can also be seen as a device to get the reader to think about their morals and conscience. As a reader, we see this in his emotive language in the description of Eva Smith. This renders her more real and human. The writer does this so that we (as readers) can empathise with Eva Smith even though we never actually meet her.

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                08.02.2009 15:06
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                A Great Play

                When my English teacher told us that we would be studying a play as part of my GCSE English course last year , I prayed that it wouldn't be something too difficult like Shakespeare ; something some of my friends had already begun studying in a different class. So when my teacher passed copies of this book around the class , I was hoping it would be something I would enjoy , as I tend to do really well in things I enjoy , however it is a completely different story if I don't enjoy something. Anyway ...back to my story....
                So....the teacher was handing round copies of this book. I grabbed my copy wondering what to expect. The cover hard....similar to that of the 'ladybird fairytail' books I used to have when I was little. The book is black and spooky , with an image of what appears to be a of a young girl who looks afraid. There are hands by her face although it is unclear whether they are her hands or someone else's hands. The cover has a spooky feel to it. I noticed that this book was written by a man I had never heard of before. His name , J.B Priestley.

                * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
                Before moving on I will tell you a bit about J.B.Priestley.

                Priestley was born on 13th September 1894 in Bradford. His father was a teacher , while his mother died when he was young. He attended grammar school and served in the first world war. Priestley's other works include ; Found,Lost , Found and London End. He died in 1984 aged 89 in Warwickshire.
                An Inspector Calls is a play written between 1944 and 1945. Subjects included in the play include relationships , wealth , class and morality.

                * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
                Our teacher told us , that we would begin work on this book straight away. I opened the book and was greeted by a list of stage settings. Usually , I would have skipped this part automatically , however our teacher read it out aloud to us. Once she'd finished reading the stage settings , she told us to turn the page , and from there we would begin studying the play. She chose members of the class to play a character and off we went into the world of 'An Inspector Calls'.

                *Characters *
                The play is based on the Birling family ; a higher class family.
                * Arthur Birling *
                Arthur Birling is the head man of the Birling family. He is husband to Sybil and father to Sheila and Eric. He owns a well known factory business. He is a selfish man , who considers his own needs before others'.

                * Sybil Birling *
                Sybil is a stuck up old woman , who looks down on others. She considers herself to be better than everyone else. Sybil is mother to Sheila and Eric , although they are grown up she still refers to them and treats them as children. Sybil is one of the 'head women' of a women's charity , which involves helping less fortunate women.
                * Eric Birling *
                Eric is probably the let-down of the family. Being a high status family , he lets them down by getting drunk on a regular basis and visiting prostitutes ; something his mother , although she is aware of his drinking problem , turns a blind eye to it .

                * Sheila Birling *
                Sheila is a smart young lady and very spoilt. She is pleased with her life and excited about her future. She is engaged to marry Gerald Croft (more about him later!). She always gets what she wants.
                * Gerald Croft *
                Gerald Croft is Sheila's fiancé. His father also owns a successful business , which means Arthur Birling and Gerald's father are business rivals.

                * Inspector Goole *
                Inspector Goole is the character that tries to make the Birling family change their ways. (More on that later). He is a spooky-ish man! It is unclear if he is an actual man , a ghost , ....although he is some kind of symbol. I think it is interesting how his surname is Goole , which is similar to that of a ghoul , which may mean that he is some kind of ghost.
                * Eva Smith *
                Although Eva is a main character in the play , she does not make an appearance ; not one. The play is based on an event which happened to here.

                * The Story *
                An Inspector Calls is set in the Birling Family's dining room. They are celebrating the fact that Gerald and their daughter Sheila are engaged. They have finished their meal , and as the ladies leave the men, there is a knock on the door ; a man who claims to be an inspector. He tells the Birling family that a young woman has died , and is there to question the Birling family. Although each member denies not having anything to do with it , Goole continues to question them , using clever ways , to get them to admit to having anything to do with this girl. Will Inspector Goole change how the Birling family see others or will they remain as they are ? Read Inspector Goole to find out.
                I enjoyed this play very much! I think this is the reason I did so well in my GCSE English exam. I like how one event affected the whole family in a way that they did not think they were responsible. I liked the characters for what they represented , even if they were horrible people. I liked how Goole was clever and mysterious , however one thing that did annoy me about the play , when I was studying it , and still when I'm writing this review is the fact that I don't know and will probably never find out what exactly Inspector Goole is. I also don't like how the play ends with a cliffhanger as I like to know what exactly happens.

                I would definitely recommend this book!

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                  27.05.2008 19:08
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                  ok, not great but not bad

                  It is an average book, would be better seen as a play obviously. A bit boring written down on paper but comes to life on the stage. Well written, I suggest you do not read this but watch the video or go and see it in theatre.
                  The play 'An Inspector Calls' was written in 1945 by John Boynton Priestley. It was during World War II that Priestley was inspired to create the play, and this, as well as World War I, greatly influenced "An Inspector Calls". The play is based on the detective thriller genre, and was one of many books of the "whodunnit" kind in the 1900's, along with Agatha Christie. "An Inspector Calls" is not a traditional murder mystery, as there is not a murder but a suicide. This makes it more like the 15th and 16th century morality plays. It follows the idea of the Inspector getting the Birling family to admit their wrongdoings and see the terrible actions of their consequences.

                  In 1912, being socially important was significantly more important than it is nowadays. Having a lot of money was seen as a huge luxury, as most people were low-earning working class 'slaves', used as cheap labour by company owners like Mr Arthur Birling. It was common in this time for the son and daughter of two owners of large companies to marry, as it helped to ensure a rise in their social standing and provide security to their status. This idea is used in the play, as it is set on the night of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft's engagement celebration. Both Sheila and Gerald's fathers own big companies, so the engagement and possible marriage of the two would create a friendship between the two companies, and therefore more social status. Mrs Sybil Birling is described by Priestley as being "her husband's social superior", which means she married down a class. This was most probably because Arthur Birling would give her security with his money, and she would give him her security in social status.
                  In 1945 when Priestley was writing "An Inspector Calls", the idea of social classes were less important as in 1912. After World War I and World War II, people had all begun to merge classes. During the World Wars, all men, from upper-upper class to lower-lower class were conscripted to fight in the war, and the women took over all of the jobs that the men had previously. This broke down the barriers social class. People's wealth started to even out slightly, leaving not many people extremely impoverished, as was before with the lower-lower class.

                  The wars also removed the barriers of gender restriction. In 1912, women were seen as less important than men. Rich men married women of equal status and wealth, and while the men worked, the women would be expected to look after the house and have children. Poor women, such as Eva Smith and the other workers, would be used by factory owners like Mr Birling as a cheap form of labour. The inspector accuses Mr Birling of dehumanizing the workers in his factory, and only caring that they work for very little money. After the wars, Women were no longer just housewives, they had an important place in society and were able to work. In 1912, a group of women, called the Suffragettes, were battling to get rights for women to vote. The Suffragettes scared the government, who in turn put them in jail, just like the rebellious employees scared Mr Birling, who dismissed the revolutionary 'cheap labour'.
                  Priestley cleverly includes references to historical events through Arthur Birling. In the first scene, Mr Birling states that the Titanic is unsinkable. The play is set on the night of the Titanic's maiden voyage, and Mr Birling would not have known that in fact it sank on that very night. Shortly after in the same speech, he tells his daughter and Gerald that they will 'be living in a world that'll have forgotten all these Capital versus Labour agitations and all these silly little war scares'. We know that in fact is false, as elections and politics are as important nowadays as they were then. Mr Birling also describes 'silly little war scares' as he does not believe that anything will come of the possible war, but we in fact know that World War I came shortly after the time this play was set, and World War II shortly after that. Mr Birling states, also fallaciously, that 'Russia will always be behindhand'. In 1912 Russia was emerging from a Feudal past, and people wanted to get rid of the Tzar and instead start a Socialist government. Mr Birling laughs at this because he completely opposes socialism as it is the complete inverse of his beliefs. This initial group of historical events which Mr Birling wrongly predicts shows that even from right at the start of Act one, he is incorrect about many things. This shows he is not very intelligent and follows the crowd, believing the hypes and rumours going around.

                  And some other random notes about 'An inspector calls'
                  Common language - class and generation gap

                  Purple faced old man - port - Sheila doesn't want that for her father. Priestley laying groundwork for the generations - generation gap - look out for the teasing
                  Opening scene sets up relationships - mrs birling about what should be done - servants are to be seen not heard and not to be talked about in front of guest ie Gerald - mrs birling believes that men work, women look after the home - grew up in time when women had little rights - she is husbands social superior

                  Sheila and Gerald - something is wrong in paradise - half joke - lacks confidence so says things in half jokes - thorn in Sheila and geralds relationship - alliance between crofts and birlings which could fuse into a huge company
                  Inspector says that Birling takes out the human of the people working for him.

                  It's an ok book, but as i said earlier, go and see it in a play and it will be much better.

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                    01.04.2002 06:54
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                    I have studied An Inspector Calls for my GCSE English literature coursework, so here is the basic outline of the story... An Inspector Calls was written in 1945, just after the second world war. It is set on a spring evening in 1912, part of the Edwardian era. The first production of the play was performed in London at the New Theatre on the 1st of October 1946. The play was written by John Boynton Priestley who was a socialite. The characters of the play are Arthur Birling, Sybil Birling, Sheila Birling, Eric Birling, Gerald Croft, Inspector Goole, Edna (the maid) and Eva Smith. The Birling family are of high class and are very wealthy. Arthur Birling could be described as pompous, dogmatic, pretentious, sexist and stubborn. His wife, Sybil Birling, has similar characteristics as her husband apart from the fact that she is cold, snobbish and arrogant. Their daughter, Sheila Birling, is not really like her parents at all. She is more compassionate, warm hearted, affectionate, thoughtful, considerate and kind. Eric Birling is the youngest child of the family, and certainly acts like it. He is immature, emotional, loud, silly, ignorant, thoughtless and uneasy. Gerald Croft is the fiancé of Sheila Birling. He seems to be quite mature, self assured and confident. Inspector Goole is enigmatic, strong, determined, sharp, stern, formal, serious and forceful. Eva Smith is never actually seen in the play, she is only spoken of or about by the other characters. From what we can tell she is honest, sincere, caring, hard-working and attractive. The entire play is made up out of three main acts, in which the scenery, props and general background are changed. During the play there are a number of key scenes and speeches from all of the characters. At the start of the play, all of the Birling family seemed as though they were really friendly and got along really well. The first scene is in the Birling's house at the e
                    ngagement party of Sheila and Gerald, everything starts out well, but little do they know what is in store for the rest of the evening. Certain aspects start to spoil what could be described as 'the start of one of the happiest events of someone's life'. Things started to go wrong from the point when the Inspector arrived, the whole family felt an air of discomfort. The atmosphere changed considerably, the Birling's started to feel awkward from the moment Inspector Goole entered into their home. The Inspector explained the issue he had come to see them about. All of the characters are quizzed and questioned about the suicide of Eva Smith and in turn each character responds in a different way towards the Inspector, in some cases, giving away that they played a part in the build up to her taking her own life. It is then the end of the play and the audience are left wondering what the conclusion eventually was. Priestly wanted everyone to believe that they were all responsible for each other and that everyone should have equal chances and equal rights in their lives. Throughout the play there is a real sense of dramatic irony and symbolism. In many parts, the audience know important things which the characters don't. The characters don't understand that in Mr. Birling's regular speeches when he states 'fire, blood and anguish', he is actually referring to the war beforehand. Mrs. Birling told the Inspector of how she suggested that the father of Eva Smith's child should be punished, when really if she knew all of the background information and that her own son was the father, I do not think that she would be recommending that. The play gives an interesting insight into life in this period as it gives true interpretations of different types of people and also deals with morality and blame, which still apply today. Overall, I would say that Priestly has
                    achieved what he wanted to achieve. I found the play quite entertaining and interesting to read. It deals with a number of key issues compared to the time it was written in, as well as gripping the reader as the story twists and turns. Surprises are frequent and also well written. I was truly stunned by the turn the play takes in the end. By reading the play I can now understand how a perfect world can soon be broken down.

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                      30.10.2001 19:33
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                      The play ࠉInspector Calls” was written in 1945, but the original ideas were from 1944 – 45. This is after all the events of World War 2. The play was first performed in Moscow on the 1st October. The play is set in 1912, in this period of time there was a serious class divide, the poor and the rich normally had nothing to do with each other. In the end the author J.B Priestly makes this class divide very apparent. J.B Priestly was born in 1894 and left school at the age of sixteen. In 1910 he got his first job as a junior wool clerk. During the period of World War 1 he went and joined in for the infantry. After the war he came back and went to Cambridge University, he got all the degrees he wanted to but he decided the University life did not suit him at all. He left the University and became a freelance writer in London. J.B Priestly in Inspector calls is trying to show how families in the Victorian and Edwardian times were very arrogant to the things going on around them. J.B Priestly tries to us the inspector to show how easily a perfect world can be broken down. He managed to get a lot out of the family like Eric drinking problem and the theft of the money. The family did not know bout these problems except from Sheila. The entire family had been devastated by the inspectors visit and even though the inspector was not a real the force he had over the family was huge.

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                        16.05.2001 02:00
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                        I read ‘An Inspector Calls’ by J.B Priestley for my English GCSE and I was pleasantly surprised to find it not at all like the usual rubbish our school forces us students to read! In fact, it was quite the opposite, and I found the play extremely enjoyable. The play is set in mid-1900 England, at the home of a respectable middle-class family, the Birlings. Arthur Birling is holding a family dinner party to celebrate the engagement of his daughter, but the calling of a mysterious police inspector interrupts the festivities. He informs the family that a young, working-class girl, called Eva Smith, has tragically committed suicide, and begins his interrogation of each family member. As the play progresses, he cunningly reveals that they each are held partially responsible for the Eva’s death. The play ends with a chilling conclusion, which leaves the reader thinking about it for hours! I definitely recommend this play, it’s a fantastic read and can be enjoyed by anyone.

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                          28.02.2001 21:48
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                          Let me start by telling you the intro to this book, some of you may have heard of this book when sitting your GCSE's as you may have had to study it. This book is pretty old, but still a classic none the less. It starts with a family having dinner, all chatting happily when there's a knock on the door, an inspector calls. A body has been found that has been linked to this family "but how" they ask? The inspector replies by telling them a letter was found with the body with the familys name on it. As you read further into the book you realise the person who died is linked to each member of the family. 'll tell you the truth, i'm not a big book reader, but when i read a good book it tends to stay in my mind, and this book especially. Basically from the beginning you start to wonder who the killer is? and for what reason? In the end it gets explaind and you'll be amazed who it was and for what reason. overall, I recommend this book to all age groups, as its full of suspense, drama and more twists than a twister.

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                            24.12.2000 01:41
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                            I have recently had to read 'An Inspector Calls' by J.B. Priestley in school for my GCSE English, and I have to say that I enjoyed the book immensely. The play tells the story of a middle class, stuck up family who, together as group, cause the death of a young girl named Eva Smith. The father is a self professed 'hard-headed, practical man of business'. The mother is very concerned with class. The son is an alcoholic and the daughter feels guilty about everthing. The daughter's fiancee is only concerned with impressing the father. In 'An Inspector Calls', Priestley has written a play which guides the reader or veiwer through beautifully. The Inspector investigates each member of the family in turn thouroughly, making the play very enjoyable. The end is superb, but I won't ruin it for those who haven't read it. The writing style is very good for the play, which is set in mid-1900s England, with ironic references to war and the like from Mr Birling, who gets everything wrong, exposing himself as not the smart man he thinks himself to be. Overall this is an excellent play and I would recommend it to anyone.

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                              09.12.2000 20:43
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                              This is a very complex and intricately woven play that leaves the reader/ audience in a kind of surreal state. A girl kills herself and all of the members of the Birling family have reason to blame themselves for the death. The scene is set at the engagement party of Birling's daughter and the intensity of the plot grows and grows until the shocking and very clever climax. Priestley has created a play that is easy to stage and allows the audience to concentrate on the plot rather than the set. It explores the psychology of guilt and is paced that the reader becomes wrapped up in the whole affair as well as the characters.

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                            • Product Details

                              A party is disturbed by a mysterious police inspector's investigations of a young girl's death.