J.B.Priestley?s play, An Inspector Calls

J.B.Priestley?s play, An Inspector Calls
In 1945 J.B. Priestley wrote ?An Inspector Calls? however it is set in
1912 and is written in a murder mystery style. J.B. Priestley
explains throughout the story how all the members of the Birling
family and Gerald Croft is responsible for the death of Eva Smith.
Priestley makes the story interesting as he links up the events
leading up to Eva Smith?s suicide. Priestley also explains how we are
responsible for each other in society. J.B. Priestley also brings
ideas to life such as actors, staging and lighting.?An Inspector Calls? was written in 1945 but set in 1912 to show the
audience how industrialists like the Birlings and Gerald Croft were
responsible for World War. Priestley believed in a welfare state, he
wanted a welfare state because then the likes of Eva Smith would not
depend on families like the Birlings. The Inspector arrives after Mr
Birling?s speech; he slams the door as he comes in. He slams the door
to show he has come to look into and investigate their lives as well
as to show how we are all connected in society.

The play is set in a rich industrialist?s dining room. The lighting
is ?pink and intimate? as an engagement is being celebrated until the
determined Inspectors arrival. When Inspector Goole arrives the
lighting should be ?brighter and harder? as the Inspector has come to
look into their lives. The colour screen play is set in a luxurious
dining room, whereas the theatre production play is set in no mans
land and there are homeless people there, as well as a 1945 phone
box. The Birling?s house is elevated to show how they are cut of from
society. In the colour screen play there is a dramatic pause when the
Inspector arrives, but in the theatre production the house opens up to
show how the Inspector is going to investigate ?opens? their lives.
The theatre production is not realistic as the blitz occurred after
1912 and there were not any phone boxes in 1912.

Firstly Priestley uses Mr Birling, a lavish character in ?An Inspector
Calls? to represent the wealthy upper classes and industrialists.
Birling is described by Priestley as ?a heavy looking, rather
portentous man in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners but
rather provincial in his speech.? Furthermore, Priestley uses
dramatic irony to show how people like Mr Birling were responsible for
the war, for example Birling boasts ?the titanic, she sails next week,
absolutely unsinkable? both a modern and 1946 audience would have
known that this was the worst shipping disaster on record. Moreover
Birling claims that ?the Germans don?t want war? this shows Mr
Birling?s foolishness as world war one would have began about 2 years
after Mr Birling said those words.

Mr Birling also defines the investigation as ? uncalled for and
officious? this explains he is a foolish character as he thinks just
because he and his family are wealthy and well known they have no
right to be questioned, this also reflects on the fact how they are
cut of from the rest of the society. J.B. Priestley also describes
that Mr Birling is not a responsible person as he writes ?still I
cannot accept responsibility? this also shows Mr Birling?s belief of

Sheila the daughter of Mr Birling is described as a ?pretty girl in
her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited? she is
excited as it is her engagement with Gerald. She is probably pleased
with life due to her father?s wealth and the comfort she lives in.
Sheila is described as ?stressed? when she is informed about Eva
Smiths death as she felt drinking disinfect was a horrible way of
dying, and she played a part in the chain of events which forced Eva
to commit suicide. When the Inspector shows the photograph of Eva she
?looks at it closely, recognises it with a little cry, gives a half
stifled sob and then runs out? the effect of this is Sheila has a
guilty conscience. Sheila changes throughout the play as she starts
to accept responsibility and Acts more like an adult. Sheila is also
desperate to know the truth as she Acts very rhetorical. She asks
Gerald ?was it after she left milwards? When she changed her name, and
began to lead a different sort of life? This shows her frustration
and anger at Gerald.

Sheila?s role changes towards the end of Act 1, as she helps the
Inspector with his investigation. Rather than being loving and
romantic like earlier in the play, Sheila is very angry at Gerald
because he had an affair with Eva Smith which she earlier had no
knowledge about. Sheila may also be having revenge with Gerald due to
his Actions as she wants him to reveal the truth, Sheila asks and
informs Gerald ?why you ?fool he knows- of course he knows -and I
hate to think how much he knows that we don?t know yet ?you?ll see
you?ll see.? Sheila wants Gerald to co-operate with the Inspector.

The character playing Inspector Goole should have a strong stage
presence and should approach the other characters in a challenging and
determined mood. Some people think that Inspector Goole could be a
ghost as his name sounds same as ?ghoul? other critics suggest him
being a 1945 time traveller which makes a lot of sense as he is
wearing a 1945 costume. There also suggestions he is Eric and Eva
Smith?s son that was not even born! The Inspector describes the
events that led to Eva committing suicide as ?chain of events? giving
the effect that more than one event made her commit suicide.

The Inspectors role is to question the Birling family and Gerald Croft
about their appalling Actions. The pertinacious Inspector says to Mr
Birling ?better to ask for the earth? the effect of this is Goole is
on the workers side. The Inspector is an assertive character, because
when he is showing the photograph he only shows it to one person at a
time. He is ?cutting through massively? on the others who want to see
it. This links up with the idea of Gerald, Eva Smith being more than 1
person. At the end of the Act when Goole is questioning Gerald, he
already knows about the affair.

Dramatic tension is used in the fist Act to interest the audience.
There are eight main events which cause huge or little tension. I
think the event that causes a lot of tension is Sheila

And Gerald arguing as the audience will wonder will their relationship
come to an end, now Sheila knows about the affair. The Inspector
saying ?well? in an enquiring manner at the end of Act one makes the
audience watch or read the next Act, as well as causing huge tension.
I think Mr Birling?s knighthood alongside Sheila and Gerald?s
engagement does not cause much tension as it isn?t exciting or
mysterious. The Inspectors arrival causes high amount of tension as
he is described as ?creates at once an impression of massiveness,
solidity and purposefulness.? This explains to us he must be here for
a serious issue. The revelation of Eva?s suicide does not cause much
tension but causes enough tension to ensure us the Birlings have
something to do with her death. The Inspector showing Mr Birling and
Sheila the photograph builds up tension as he is only letting one
person see it at one time, when Gerald wants to see it Goole says ?all
in good time? reflecting on the issue something serious has occurred
and how they are all different from each other. Gerald is described
as ?shocked? at hearing the name of Daisy Renton this causes huge
tension as the audience may feel he knew her very well.

The Act ends in a cliff-hanger as the Inspector says ?well? which
interests the audience in to the next Act.

In conclusion ?An Inspector Calls? is a play about social
responsibility. Act one introduces the audience to characters and
themes in the play. However the final twist in the play is in Act
three. In my opinion the most interesting thing about the play is the
use of dramatic irony, the audience will know the comments are false
as the play is wrote in 1945.

J.B.Priestley?s play, An Inspector Calls 7.4 of 10 on the basis of 2841 Review.