Newest Review: ... and mining strikes. This allowed Priestley to keep his audience involved and one step ahead of the unaware Characters. The genre of the... more
An Inspector Calls: A Must See!
An Inspector Calls
Member Name: CinnamonBun
An Inspector Calls
Advantages: A well-written, superbly engaging and entertaining script on many levels.
Disadvantages: Cant think of any.
J.B Priestley was born in the year of 1894, in Yorkshire. He was aware at a young age of his talent for writing and he knew it was the direction he wanted to follow further. He rejected the idea of attending university, as in his opinion the world around him gave a better 'feel' than academia offered. So alternatively, at the age of 16, he later became a junior clerk with his local Wool firm.
During the time that WW1 began, John had signed up to join the infantry, and found himself in several incidents barely escaping with his life. Once the war was finally over Priestley attended Cambridge University where he left with a degree, and moved to London where he began his career as a freelance writer. His wrote many articles and essays which included many successes, but his first main achievement was in 1929 with the publication of his first of many novels to come, Good Companions .He later, in 1932, went on to write his first of a later 50 plays. Mainly his writing was based on controversial affairs, such as parallel universes and political issues.
At the time of WW2, Priestley began broadcasting a radio programme on a weekly basis, in which he expressed his opinions politically which lead to Conservatives accusing the radio station as favouring left wing (socialism). Consequently, the station was later terminated for the very reason. Priestley continued his writing career into the 1970's and later died in 1984 at the age of 90.
During the 1930's Priestley became very concerned about the consequences of social inequality in Britain, and in 1942 Priestley and others set up a new political party, the Common Wealth Party which argued for public ownership of land, greater democracy, and a new "morality" in politics. The party merged with the Labour Party in 1945, but Priestley was influential in developing the idea of the Welfare State which began to be put into place at the end of the war. Priestley made many broadcasts on radio in which he tried to promote and persuade people of the virtues of socialism.
Communal responsibility is the most discussed and maybe most important aspect of "An Inspector Calls". Priestley wants to teach us: Do not only look after yourself but also care for others. Arthur Birling in particular is a perfect example of this.
"But take my word for it, you youngsters and I've learnt in the good hard school of experience - that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own..."
Here Arthur is promoting selfishness, being irresponsible and having no social responsibility- which is quite the opposite to the views of a socialist such as Priestley. However this works to Priestley's advantage as at various points in the play the inspector-representing socialist views, often overrides Arthur making the inspectors socialist view more heard to the audience, influencing their opinions.
The Birlings, Arthur in particular accepts no responsibility and has no social awareness; he shows no remorse when talking of Eva's death, or that of his workers and the conditions they work in. In his speech to Eric and Gerald before the Inspector arrives he gives some 'advice' in which he speaks of how others should be treated.
"...But the way some of these cranks talk and write now, you'd think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a bee hive- community and all that nonsense."
Mr Birling carries traits such as arrogance, inconsideration, irresponsibility and no social awareness. It is the Inspector's role to teach the Birlings about collective responsibility, equality, union and consideration. He does so by use of guilt and shock, in hope of getting them to change their selfish ways.
Priestley purposely set the play in 1912, the reason for this being that this date represented a period when society was considerably different from the time that the play had been originally written. The play explored the issue of gender and class restrictions that existed in 1912 and that directed the way of society at the time. Yet, however by 1945, the vast majority of these 'restrictions' had been defeated. For example, during 1912 it was mandatory for women to behave obediently to, and wait on men. Expectations were high and even a women of a high-class and wealth could do nothing but marry on, and for those less fortunate and of low class, it was an opportunity for some cheap labour, much like that of Eva Smith. Though by 1945, the consequences of war meant that women's place in society had grown considerably. Priestley saw these unusual circumstances as an opportunity and wanted his audience to see the potential. Throughout his play he frequently encourages his audience to seize the chance that the end of WW2 had given them, to further create and build an improved, more socially responsible society.
By setting the play in 1912 it also gave Priestley the opportunity to include references to major historic events such as the HMS titanic, WW1 and mining strikes. This allowed Priestley to keep his audience involved and one step ahead of the unaware Characters.
The genre of the play: 'An Inspector Calls' at first glance appears to be that of the straightforward, detective thriller. However as the play develops, the genre seems to transform somewhat from that of ignorance to a 'whodunit' as the inspector interrogates his way through each of the Birling household. The Inspector controls the pace and tension by dealing with one enquiry at a time. The story is gradually revealed, piece by piece.
The use of lighting plays a significant role in conveying the mood and atmosphere of the scene. We begin Act One with a description of the scene, followed by an introduction to the main characters. Here we are told of how the lighting should be used.
"The lighting should be pink and intimate until the Inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder."
By using a pink, intimate theme of lighting, it portrays a sense of comfort, success and self-satisfaction, ultimately reflecting the characters' emotion and the mood of the celebrations occurring. This could also be linked to a phrase, 'looking at life through rose-coloured spectacles,' Suggesting that the characters are idealists, their take on life being forever optimistic, therefore the characters' perception of what actually goes on in their lives is a long distance from reality, and what they actually admit to.
At the significant moment of the Inspectors entrance, the lighting changes substantially, bringing upon his arrival a sudden change of tone. What was first a comfortable, intimate mood suddenly becomes harsh and informal, bringing an impression of exposure and a revelation of truth. This is a metaphor used to signify the Inspector shedding light on the lives and doings of the family. Like an interrogation, the harsh lighting represents the Inspector questioning the Characters, removing shadows and uncovering secrets.
The use of the doorbell as a device portrays a key moment in the story, as it symbolises the sudden arrival of the Inspector. The sudden ring of the doorbell interrupts the family's celebratory evening, angering Arthur Birling- who of which being full of arrogance assumes it is official business. This immediately snatches the audience's attention, as they eagerly await his entrance, by now the tension is growing increasingly higher. The audience, knowing the title of the play, 'an inspector calls' are aware that the Inspector is in fact the person at the door, however continue await his arrival with enthusiasm. The use of the doorbell is also an example of double-meaning as the doorbell has interrupted the family's celebratory evening, however, the Inspector will continue to do so but to a greater degree and with force.
Before Arthur is first introduced to the Inspector he says, "Show him in it may be something about a warrant."
At this point Arthur Birling is more than happy to welcome the guest. This quote also shows that Arthur is self-righteous and full of his own self-importance, as he acts 'big-headed' in front of Gerald and Eric.
Later, Arthur then attempts to befriend the Inspector, offering him drinks of port and goes on to day, "you're new aren't you?...I was an alderman...Lord mayor two years ago...I'm still on the bench."
Here Arthur is informing the Inspector that he's used to getting his own way, and that he believes he is above the law due to his high social status and class, this hints at corruption in society and links to Priestley's concerns.
Soon after Arthur and the Inspectors heated conversation Sheila enters the scene.
"Sheila: mummy sent me in to ask why you didn't come along to the drawing room.
Arthur: We shall be along in a minute now. Just finishing
Inspector: ...I'm afraid not...
Sheila: What's all this about?
Arthur: Nothing to do with you Sheila run along.
Inspector: No wait a minute Miss Birling.
Arthur: (Angrily) Look here, Inspector I consider this uncalled for and officious. I've half a mind to report you."
Here we see Arthur Birling is angered by the Inspector, we see that he feels intimidated by his presence and hates having his authority overridden, especially in his own home. This also signals corruption in society as it shows that the upper classes can easily abuse their high status' to get where and what they want, in this case he threatens to report the Inspector just because he is angered by the Inspector dominating the situation.
Gerald often makes remarks that question the Inspector's authority.
"Any particular reason why I shouldn't see this girl's photograph Inspector?"
This reflects egotism and denial in Gerald's character as he arrogantly believes that due to his wealth and father it places him above the law. He thinks that laws do not apply to him, and that he is 'immune' to any involvement to the death of Eva Smith.
When the Inspector arrives Gerald makes a comment regarding Eric's actions.
"Sure to be. Unless Eric's been up to something."
This shows irony, as all the characters have been up to something. This also shows that Gerald doesn't take the situation seriously, hinting towards corruption as just like Arthur he believes he's above the law, just because of his class and status, showing conceit and zero respect for the Inspector and of the law in general.
We see during Act One that Sheila is quite inquisitive.
"What business? What's happening?"
This shows Sheila wanting to hear what the Inspector has to say suggesting that she is 'fed-up' with being treated like a child and wants to be included in conversations and to know what's really going on in life and society.
At the moment when Sheila realises she played a catalyst in the events that followed Eva's death she immediately show actions of regret and is quick to accept responsibility.
"She looks closely, recognises it with a little cry, gives a half stifled sob, and then runs out."
This plays an important role in the play as this moment shows the contrast that Sheila represents towards the attitude of her father. This would become known to the audience as they witness a clear progression from na´ve innocence to mature understanding and social awareness.
This also shows that there is hope for the future and that ideas are changing; the younger generation are more supportive of Socialism and the idea of helping others and not just thinking of oneself. Priestley uses the play as an example of what can happen if we are ignorant to the feelings of others as this was an issue that he cared a lot about and one that recurred in several of his other plays.
During Act One the audience would be given a sense of unease through the ironic references to various important historic events. In Mr Birling's speech towards the beginning of the play, he mentions the impossibility of a war and refers to the titanic as being "absolutely unsinkable". With the play being published after two world wars and the sinking of the Titanic, Priestley makes the audience determine their view on Arthur of that of a fool as they would have been familiar with these events. Whereas the Inspector, who states in his final speech that "they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish" suggesting that there will be a war, is lifted by the use of dramatic irony. This makes the audience believe the socialist views of the Inspector instead of the 'foolish' views of that of Mr Birling.
The end of Act One ends in the middle of the Inspectors questioning of Gerald. "Inspector: Well?"
Ending with a question would leave an audience feeling eager and on 'the edge of their seats'. This builds suspense, and keeps the audience involved giving them an opportunity to surmise the situation and what's happened up to this point.
Priestley uses many character entrances and exits he does so to further the plot of the play. One of the most suspenseful being that of when the inspector leaves Gerald and Sheila alone, just after realising he may be involved.
"Where is your father Miss Birling?
He went into the drawing room, to tell me mother what was happening here. Eric take the inspector along to the drawing room.
As Eric moves, the Inspector looks from Sheila to Gerald, then goes out with Eric.
This provides the opportune moment in which the couple are left to discuss Daisy and the extent to that of Gerald's involvement. This leaves the audience feeling enthusiastic as they wait to discover the degree to his involvement and connection to Daisy Renton. This also reveals more about the characters and their (Sheila and Gerald's) relationship.
Sheila for example is given the opportunity to show the audience how she really acts outside the company of her parents. It also shows the type of man Gerald really could be and if he Is just really interested in sex. First impressions of Gerald told us that he was a respectable business man but after realising he was involved in Eva's suicide we learn that appearances really can be deceptive. This also suggests that Gerald's character carries two different identities, one in which his pretence is of a societal norm and the other used for that of more private affairs.
At the beginning of the play we, the audience take the Birlings at face value, forming all opinions of them entirely through their physical appearances. However Priestley changes our opinions of each of the characters, he reveals what they are truly like through speech and action. Priestley uses the Inspector's questions to draw out the true characters of the Birlings, showing them for what they really are.
Priestley uses many different methods to interest and involve the audience. Priestley throughout the play keeps the audience always one step ahead of the characters by use of dramatic irony. The use of lighting and the doorbell as a sound effect gains the full attention of the audience, setting an atmosphere that draws the audience in, making them feel involved. The device of that of the Inspector is one that is excellently portrayed. Although seeming to be that of a character, the Inspector is used to incorporate the socialist views and message that Priestley wanted to carry throughout. The character of Inspector Goole is the catalyst for the evening's events Priestley describes the character as creating 'an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness...' The Inspectors appearance alone makes the audience automatically feel respect for his character giving Priestley the 'upper hand' in using him to portray his message discretely. Overall each of these techniques allowed Priestley to fully control the extent to which the influence is accepted by the audience.
The message in which the play was created to carry is that of significant importance. The socialist views were effectively delivered to the audience in a way that earns the audiences accord. Priestley uses a character of lower class to represent the 'victim' of the situation. Throughout the play the audience discover every event of that Eva is mistreated for no real reason, all of which contribute to her unfortunate suicide. This combined with the socialist driven Inspector gives the audience a sense of guilt and remorse. Ultimately making them show a disliking for the Birlings and to agree to the views of that of Priestley, in which he believes in equality and social responsibility. Priestley believed in a society not bound by class and gender but where citizens were treated as equals, not like during 1912 (when the play was set) where those of high status could abuse their positions to get where they want and using lower classes as an opportunity for cheap labour. He believed everybody should show respect and show responsibility for one another and this message is one that is portrayed excellently and is one that is especially relevant today in our modern day community.
Summary: Well worth seeing!
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