Ideas of Community in An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley
"We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible
for each other. And I tell you that a time will soon come when if men
will not learn that lesson then they will be taught it in fire and
blood and anguish"
Inspector's Final speech.
An Inspector Calls is as its name implies- a detective play with a
twist. Written by John Boynton Priestely in 1945 after WW2, it is
based in 1912 in the industrial city of Bromley in the North Midlands
and is centred around the Birling's- a respectable upper middle class
family who all in some way contributed to why Eva Smith- lower class
girl, committed suicide- yet who shun their responsibility and then
reap the consequences.
In the years between 1912 and 1945, there were two huge world wars
that had affected millions of lives. The casualties had been
staggering and the destruction overwhelming and people were now
beginning to ask why- why had all this happened- why had so much
misery come about- who was responsible for it all?
Before the 1939, theatres had been extremely versatile in its styles
and it had been a popular form of entertainment with the people to
whom the theatre was a means to get away from the horrors of the war.
Theatre was also greatly influenced by playwrights and authors.
Brecht- a German director, poet and playwright of late 19th and early
20th century was incredibly famous for his plays in which he
introduced moral/ social and political issues (social division, racial
prejudices etc) and encouraged the audience to think about what the
moral and situations of the story were so that they could thereby
learn through them. Priestely believed very strongly in such matters
and these he showed through what he wrote and thought- he was very
politically minded and passionate in what he believed in, but was more
of a social philosopher and liked to think of himself as such. He
himself had fought in WW1 and had had close shaves with death on a
number of occasions- and it was these unforgettable experiences which
helped shape the direction of his writing.
It was with these influences and his own personal beliefs of community
and human socialism that Priestley wrote 'An Inspector Calls'-
characterising the Birling's and Gerald Croft as the standard middle
class family of the time- the suicide of Eva Smith as the tragedy
caused by their own mistakes (WW1) and the recurrence of the tragedy
as what occurred when they did not learn from their previous errors
The beginning of the play starts off relatively uneventful- a rich
middleclass family extolling their appreciation of their daughter
Sheila and Gerald Croft's (a rich young man) engagement.
In Priestley's performance, this would have been a fairly calm
tranquil scene- soft...