Priestley also uses “dramatic irony” by setting the play in 1912. The play itself was written in 1945, which allows the audience to know future events following 1912. An example of this is that the audience have just started to restart their lives after the Second World War, yet 1912 is two years before the First World War. At the end of the play the audience are left with a sense that the events are going to start all over again. The failure of the older characters to learn from their mistakes of the recent past.
There is also “dramatic irony” in the characters talk of hopes for peace and prosperity, but the audience know these will not happen. This is illustrated by Birling wrongly and ironically describing the Titanic as “absolutely unsinkable” and saying: “you’ll hear some people say that war’s inevitable. And what to that I say- fiddlesticks! ” He also describes 1940 to there prosperity and rapid progress everywhere” when there was a great recession following the war. Priestley also changes the mood subtly. The play begins with a celebratory mood where each character is proud and congratulating each other’s success.
Then, as the Inspector arrives, the characters become guilty of their actions. The mood soon becomes sombre and even threatening. The Inspector’s final speech further increases this mood as the family realise that their family reputation is under severe threat. After the Inspector departs and the family come to terms with the fact that the inspector could have been a hoax, the mood gradually fills with relief. This however, is once again shattered by the telephone call concluding the play. He also uses stage directions to reflect these changes in the mood.
At the time of the party, he orders a ‘pink and intimate’ use of lights until the Inspector comes which changes the lights to ‘bright and harder’. The play is called a “morality play” because it questions what is considered morally correct. In a religious sense, a historical morality play is one that contains characters of “good” and “evil”. In this case, the “good” is the Inspector and “evil” is the family. Speeches made by Birling and some other characters in the family are reminiscent of the seven deadly sins.
Birling being proud of his actions despite being unfair to his workers and sacking the girl represents for example, “Pride”, one of the deadly sins. He says: “We were paying the usual rates and if they didn’t like those rates, they could go and work somewhere else. It’s a free country, I told them. ” “Greed/Avarice” is represented by when Mrs. Birling refused to help the girl. She says: “Go and look for the father of the child. It’s his responsibility. ” “Envy” is illustrated by when Sheila has the shop assistant sacked. She explains: “it just suited her.
She was the right type for it, just as I was the wrong type. She was a very pretty girl too. ” “Wrath/Anger” is described by when Eric finds out that his mother was the last to meet Eva Smith. He shouts: “Then-you killed her. She came to you to protect me- and you turned her away- yes, and you killed her- and the child she’d have had too- my child, your own grand child- you killed them both damn you, damn you”. Another deadly sin is “Lust”. It is represented by Gerald’s affair with Eva Smith. He describes: “She was young and pretty and warm-hearted and intensely grateful.
” In a dictionary, “Gluttony” is described as “excess in eating”, however, I believe that in this play, “Gluttony” is represented by “excess in drinking”, i. e. Eric’s drinking problem. He explains: “I began talking to her, and stood her a few drinks. I was rather gone by the time we had to go. ” “Sloth”, the last of the seven sins is represented by when Eric stole the money from the office because he was too lazy to work for it. He says: “I’d have managed somehow! I had to have some money” As the play progresses, the involvement with Eva Smith increases.
The audience sympathise more and more with her allowing the Inspector to put his point across more forcefully. He seems to want equality spread to the disadvantaged. He also seems to question the family’s conscience. He attempts to show that the family, especially the older ones are hiding behind their respectable family name but have no sense of morality. He points out what would happen if this inequality were allowed to continue. Throughout the evening his increasingly rude but calm tone builds up to the final speech where Priest ley’s political message is told.
This message would not have had enough emphasis without the gradual build up of the Inspector’s character. Priestley’s main aim is to shock the audience and in doing so, hopes that the second time around the world might learn from past mistakes by making the audience more caring and socially aware. He also makes the audience think about various themes relating to the play such as responsibility. It appears at first that the family are a normal, high-classed family who is fairly responsible and one that many families in the audience can relate to.
However, the Inspector shows that the family have a very narrow, self-centred view of being responsible and the Inspector’s role is to make these people aware of the much broader view of responsibility. This in turn makes the audience question their responsibilities. For example, Mr. Birling attempts to show that he is a responsible businessman by making as much profit as possible. However, the Inspector shows that he is irresponsible for those who work for him as he is very harsh on them in order to make a success of his business.
Even as a family man Birling feels that he has fulfilled his responsibility by providing the family needs, yet it is made apparent that Eric clearly does not see him as the kind of father to whom he could turn to when in trouble. He says: “Because you’re not the kind of father a chap could go to when he’s in trouble. ” Mrs. Birling appears to show responsibility within the community as a chairwoman of the Women’s Charity Organisation, however it is soon clear that she only sees a responsibility to help those that she feels are deserving of help.
This is illustrated when she says: “she seemed to me to be not a good case-and so I used my influence to have it refused. ” Even as one of the younger generation, Sheila also recognises that as a powerful customer, her personal feelings and bad temper can result in the misery for people who have no power. This is shown when she is made to confess:-“I was absolutely furious. I was very rude to both of them, and then I went to the manager and told him that this girl had been very impertinent. ” She also showed how narrow minded she was about her responsibilities when she said, “How could I know what would happen afterwards.
” Eric has little sense of responsibility. He drinks far more than is good for him and forces the girl into a relationship which has disastrous consequences on the girl. When it is revealed that the girl was pregnant, firstly, it shows how Eric’s lack of responsibility has resulted in her now having to feed and care about her unborn child as well as herself. Secondly, it makes the audience question his responsibilities as a father with a drinking problem, had the baby been born. Thirdly, it shows how terribly Eric has handled the situation by him stealing from his father’s firm.
This is illustrated when he is describing how Eva Smith treated her like an immature child:” She didn’t want me to marry her. Said I didn’t love her-and all that. In a way, she treated me-as if I were a kid. Though I was nearly as old as she was”. Although Gerald does show some responsibility when he rescues the girl from the unwanted attentions of another man and providing food and shelter for her, he eventually exploits the girl to satisfy his own sexual needs and then abandons her without knowing or caring about what happens to her as a consequence of this.
This sudden lack of interest shows how irresponsible he is and is illustrated when he is asked by the Inspector about what she told Gerald that she proposed to do after leaving her : “No. She refused to talk about that. I got the idea, once or twice from what she said. That she thought of leaving Brumley. Whether she did or not – I don’t know. Did she? “.