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An Inspector Calls By J.B. Priestley

2731 words - 11 pages

An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley

An inspector calls was drafted in 1934 and remained unfinished for
many years. After completing several other works Priestley revised the
play between the years 1944-45 and it was performed to the general
public on stage by the "old vic company"

The play is set in 1912 where at this time divisions between classes
lead to a socialist/ capitalist economy. Priestley uses this to create
a framework for the play. This essay examines Priestley's use of
tension and ways in which it is used particularly at critical points
in the play. It also deals with moral issues relating to that time.

Act 1

The scene opens in a large spacious and comfortable dining room with a
calm, happy atmosphere as there is a small party celebrating Sheila
Birlings engagement to Gerald Croft. As the inspector enters the
established mood and atmosphere changes dramatically, this is
indicated by changes in the lighting which was a pink and intimate hue
has now turned to a brighter, colder and harsher nature, and creates
tension amongst some of the characters.

The inspector at once creates an air of massiveness, solidity and
purposefulness. He is a man in 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 which shows the audience that he is a key character
in the play and creates fear or intimidation.

The inspector informs Mr. Birling that there had been a young girl
named Eva Smith brought in to the infirmary only two hours ago. She
had swallowed some strong disinfectant and died of suicide. This
shocks the family and the inspector asks Mr. Birling whether the name
conveyed anything to him. After Mr Birling initially refuses saying he
did not know her the Inspector shows him a photograph of the dead girl
and he finally admits to knowing her, two years ago she had been an
employee at his works until he had fired her for protesting for higher
wages. When the inspector shows Birling the photograph he does not
allow anyone else to see it saying that it is the way he likes to
work, one person at a time. This might create tension amongst the
audience as it leaves the other characters in suspense of the girl's
identity. Mr. Croft asks Birling whether he should leave the room and
let Birling sort the matter out but the Inspector asks him to stay as
they all might be involved in a chain of events which would have lead
to the girl death. This develops tension and also fear amongst the
characters as they all might be involved and it also develops a sense
of suspense amongst the audience.

Gerald: And I don't see that this inquiry gets you anywhere,
inspector. It's what happened to her since she left Mr. Birling's
works that's...

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