An Inspector calls An inspector calls was written by J. B Priestley in 1934 and performed in 1945, 33 years after the war. But the play itself is set around 1912 just before the war broke out, the play is a neutralistic, mystery drama about a middle class family named the Birlings who all have a mischievous secret that involves the death of Eva Smith, which teaches people a lesson about social justice. When the play opens the Birling family are cheerfully celebrating the engagement of the beloved Shelia Birling and well-known bachelor Gerald Croft.
Just as Arthur Birling is half way through his memorable speech unannounced an inspector named inspector Goole abruptly enters. Inspector Goole has come to bombard the family with questions about the tragic suicide of Eva Smith. The inspector wants to teach the Birlings respect and morals about class and social justice. The inspectors character is actually J. B Priestley, he acts as the authorial voice as this was his way of getting his views across. J.
B Priestley was a socialist and believed in equality for all. But also his aim of the play was to entertain because if the play did not do that then the message, that everyone has a duty of respect to their fellow man, regardless of class i. e. rich or poor, would not get across. The dates were important as the play was set in 1945, the dates are relevant throughout the play as the audience watching was recovering from war and society didn’t have the pressure of capitalism anymore.
So they knew a lot of what the characters say isn’t true, making it humorous and ironic. The genre of inspector calls is a detective thriller. The playwright uses a variety of different dramatic devices to influence the audience. One of the main devices used was dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is used early on in the play as it’s a device used to convey Priestley’s portrayal of the character of Mr Birling as he speaks his mind in his speech about war “You’ll hear some people say that wars inevitable.
And to that I say fiddlesticks… ” “The new liner last week the titanic …. unsinkable” This is humorously ironic as what Mr Birling is saying is wrong because the titanic did sink and the audience knows this as it’s after the war. Priestley’s goal was to make the audience dislike Mr Birling as he is the antithesis to everything Priestley stands for. Throughout the play Mr Birling demonstrates this by showing that forming an alliance is more important to him than his daughters marriage “And now you’ve brought us ogether and perhaps we may look forward to the time when Crofts and Birlings are no longer competing but working together” this shows the audience that Mr. Birling is a hard headed business man and work comes first. The lighting at the beginning of the play is pink and intimate as the Birling family are lovingly celebrating a special occasion the engagement of Shelia and Gerald, we are told this at the beginning of act one as one of Priestley’s stage directions “the lighting should be pink and intimate.
This lighting represents the mood as everyone is happy and cheerful full of love for one another and the joining of the two families. But as the doorbell rings the lighting changes, becoming brighter and harder as Mr Birling discovers there’s a police inspector at the door “all right. Edna show him in here , give us some more light” this emphases how the mood as changed and how Mr. Birling is feeling, it has become more orquid as the chosen time the inspector arrives is coincidental to the conversation Mr Birling was having with Eric and Gerald.
The ringing of the doorbell plays a major pat at the beginning of the play as the time it rings is no accident just as Mr Birling is lecturing Eric and Gerald about its every man for himself, making his own way the doorbell rings “A man has to make his own way”, we hear the, “sharp ring of a doorbell” This gives a dramatic effect as its ironic because the person at the door is the inspector who is the catalyst of the chain of events as he is here to teach the Birling’s a lesson about equality.
When the inspector is first introduced to the Birling family he makes an impression of solidity and purposefulness making the other characters feel overwhelmed by his entrance.
The inspector has a particular way of investigating each person which Mr Birling can’t understand why, Mr Birling shows no respect towards the inspector by saying how he has ruined their dinner “ we were having a nice little family celebration tonight, and a nasty mess you’ve made of it now” The inspector only shows the photograph of Eva Smith to the person he’s addressing, the inspector remarks that he likes to work with “one person and one line of inquiry at a time” Also the order in which he asks the people the questions is the order In which the chain of events took place.
This annoys the other characters making them impatient. The inspector also says very little but direct important questions this makes the other characters reveal a lot about themselves especially the younger generation, Shelia and Eric, they show a lot of respect for the inspector and quickly accept their responsibility showing how much of an impact the inspector has on them. Throughout the play the character Eva Smith is no actually introduced as an actual real person but we still feel as if we know her more, or just as much as we know any other character involved in the play.
This is because even though she is not present she is involved in every conversation all through the play, also because each of the Birling family tells a vivid story of how they new Eva Smith and how they were involved in her death. This creates a mental image in the audiences mind as they are watching, making them feel as if she is actually there. As soon as the name “Daisy Renton” or the characters see Eva Smiths picture it startles each of them “ with a little cry, a half stifled sob and runs out…” “(Startled) what” This shows how strongly each character is involved with her.
Even though Eva Smith herself isn’t present on the stage it is no accident that the names “Edna” and “Eva” are similar. The maids stage directions instruct her to hover in and out of the main room here the maids presents symbolises Eva smith and reinforces Priestley’s ultimate point about the abuse of power and the fail to take responsibility for ones actions. The exits and entrances of some characters are dramatically used to further the plot in many ways such as the inspectors entrance.
He appears just as Mr Birling is saying that its every man for himself “that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself” The inspector arriving at this time is significant as this is what he was come to do, teach the Birling family a lesson about equality not that you shouldn’t just care about anybody else but yourself as he is a socialist and J. B Priestley is getting his point across. Also when Eric tries to leave but the inspector refuses “if you turn in you may have to turn back out again” this tells the audience that somewhere along the line Eric s also involved in the death.
The exit of Shelia Birling is also significant as the way she runs out crying “gives a half selfish sob and then runs out” These stage directions tells the audience that Shelia is the reason for Eva Smith getting fired at Milwards. Another exit is the inspectors after Gerald is startled by the name Daisy Renton, here he looks from Shelia to Gerald “ the inspector looks from Shelia to Gerald then goes out with Eric “ this shows the audience that the inspector knows Gerald’s involved and that Shelia will get him to confess. Also the way the inspector enters at the end of the first ct, he comes in just after Gerald has confessed and asked to keep it a secret “The door slowly opens and the inspector appears” This tells the audience that the inspector knows about Gerald’s involvement as in the stage directions it mention about how he’s looking at them “steadily and searchingly” looking for the confession. A final entrance is Shelia Birling’s she heads into the main room just as Mr Birling has finished answering his questions and the inspectors ready to ask the next set, Shelia coming in at this time is significant as the inspectors asking the questions in order of which the events happen, and Shelia was next.
At the end of act one the audience discovers that tension is building up due to the secrets being revealed leaving them wondering what will happen next but significantly the audience have a little indication where the plays headed because so far we have learned that it’s not just Birling and Shelia but Gerald is also involved in Eva Smiths death or as he knows her as “Daisy Renton” because of his confession about is affair. But the audience may predict that more family members may have an involvement for Eva’s fate.
Act one is ironic on retrospect because at the beginning of the play the Birling family appears to be a normal happy respectable and wealthy family “ I might find my way into the next honours list, a knighthood of course” But then suddenly all is revealed after Mr Birling quotes a few self righteous accusations “the titanic is unsinkable…Russia will always be behind of course” and a hard headed speech about “everyman for himself” which Is when the inspector appears, to teach the Birling family a harsh lesson slowly until they realise their wrong doings, this is ironic because at the beginning of the play Mr Birling talks about not wanting to cause the least bit of scandal “so long as we behave ourselves, don’t get into the police court or cause the least bit of scandal-eh? ”. Their involvement in Eva Smiths death is in fact, clearly a lot of unwanted scandal, making his earlier statement ironic. The most significant method Priestley uses to interest and involve the reader is dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is used many times throughout Act one involving the audience in the play. Dramatic irony is used a lot when Mr Birling speaks about what he thinks “there’ll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere- except of course in Russia, which will always be behind naturally” This is extremely humorous, I think J. B Priestly has done this on purpose to show he audience that Mr Birling is always wrong making the audience lean towards agreeing with J. B Priestley’s views as they cannot take anything Birling says seriously due to all his false accusations. Priestley’s message is that everyone has a duty of respect to their fellow man; regardless of class if not it could lead to consequences. This is still relevant today as we still believe we should treat people equally no matter what their age, gender or class, but there are still people like the Birling family who are found in or society today who don’t believe in this view causing bullying or belittling people who are not as fortunate as they are. These types of people always suffer the consequences proven in inspector calls.