An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley
Title: How does Priestley's play give an audience a dramatic
experience in which they are made to think about how people ought to
live their lives?
Answer with reference to the script and any productions you may have
seen or heard about.
J.B. Priestley wrote 'An Inspector Calls' in 1945, at the end of the
Second World War and set the 20th Century drama in 1912, just before
the First World War. Many of the audience of the play therefore would
have lived through the horrors of the First World War and all through
the Second. J.B Priestley may have chosen to set 'An Inspector Calls',
at a pre-war date to compare society at these two points in time. The
precise setting of the play is on the night of Sunday 14th April 1912,
the evening the Titanic sunk. The Titanic was a symbol of the hopes
and achievements of the age, and was considered unsinkable. Perhaps
Priestley chose this date to symbolise the Inspector as the Iceberg
that destroys the Birling family's ship.
The Birling family are a rich, upper class family who have profited
from the Industrial Revolution. The Birling's are represented in 'An
Inspector Calls' as the uncaring class of the rich people in Britain.
In 1912, the date the play is set, Britain was strictly divided into
social classes; the Upper and Middle classes who took two thirds of
the countries income and the working class who numbered around
thirty-nine million and were often paid less than one pound per week.
Eva Smith and Edna, represent the working class and the 'do not
have's' of society in the play.
Mr Birling, the head of the house, runs his own successful company and
he and the rest of the Birling family are able to indulge themselves
with the vast amounts of money, the company is making. It is in this
setting that Priestley introduces the characters to the audience, at
the celebration of the engagement of Gerald Croft and Sheila Birling.
During Act One, Mr Birling gives a speech about how war is laughable
and an impossibility. There is of course irony in what he is saying,
as the 1945 audience and audiences today know that the First World War
started a couple of years after the play's setting and there was a
Second World War after that. The speech Arthur Birling makes is
ignorant about the future, as he says he talks from the view of a
hard-headed business man, but in my opinion he gets swept away in the
moment of celebration his family are having and seems to think that
his success will never burst. He also mentions people who see a
socialist Britain, as 'cranks' and ' you'd think everybody has to look
after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in
a hive- community and all that nonsense.' It at this climax in Act One
that Inspector Goole arrives and inspects the Birling family,...