Second World War

The play ‘An Inspector calls’ was first produced in London on October the 1st, 1946, at the new theatre. The play was written by J.B. (John Boynton) Priestly, who was born in Bradford in Yorkshire on 13th September 1894. He worked as a clerk before serving in the First World War and them taking a degree at Cambridge. He was known as a patriot Yorksireman, a radical. His policies were broadly socialist and he recognised himself for speaking for the common man. He much enjoyed the life and works of H G Wells, as is reflected in this very play in Act One.

1912 is the Setting for the play, in this very year the titanic sinks, Mr Birling Proclaims- ‘Unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable’ This reveals that middle class society at that time had a particular over confidence in itself, in this case, to a tragically undoing extent. 1917 begins the start Russian Revolution, (fictionally) back in 1912, Mr Birling declares- ‘ …and rapid progress everywhere-except of course in Russia, which will always be behind hand naturally.’ This may reveal that society has a conceited superiority towards Russia in its ideals.

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1939-1945 hails the start of the Second World War, (fictionally) back in 1912 Mr Birling announces- ‘The world’s developing so fast it’ll make war impossible’ This reveals that society has a misled, narrow-minded view on the likelihood of a war (this may link back to its over confidence in itself). Apart from being historical contexts that link to the play, these examples are also perfect cases of dramatic irony, this is because what Mr Birling says is precisely the reverse to what actually later on occurs. Indeed, the titanic does sink, the Russians do attain a level of equality with the other nations of the world, and finally, the Second World War does commence. This proving that Mr Birling is completely mistaken in what he is proclaiming, and clearly presenting the device of dramatic irony.

The play is set on a spring evening in the dining room of the Berlins house (a large suburban family house) and is so for the entire duration of the play. The play opens with the Birling family celebrating their daughter Sheila’s engagement to Gerald Croft, who has a wealthy father. This part of the play portrays a good deal about their characters. A police inspector going by the title of Inspector Goole calls to see the family to tell them that a young woman called Eva Smith has committed suicide by swallowing a large amount of disinfectant. As the Inspector goes on, he shows the family how each of them were some how connected to Eva, and the events leading to her suicide.

When inspector Goole arrives, he seems very professional and level headed, particularly in response to the offer of an alcoholic beverage- ‘No thank you Mr Birling, I’m on duty’. Furthermore, he is in no way intimidated by Mr Birling’s impatience and lack of welcome, after he declines the alcohol, this being an inquisition into the legitimatemacy of the inspector’s role- ‘You’re new, aren’t you?’

This is not without its sense of irony, considering that he is, indeed, an impostor. Also it is revealed that the inspectors name is Goole; this is also the name of a seaport town, implying that the inspectors role is to fish for information and trawl through the conscience, as if he were a fisherman of that town. When the inspector talks to the family, he constantly sees it fit to highlight the reality that Eva Smith is dead. For example, he says, ‘but she died in mystery and agony’,

‘That’s what I asked myself tonight, when I was looking at that dead girl’ I believe the inspector does this to gradually erode the family’s deceiving front; it’s as if he were a boxer, hitting them with less consequential punches until, finally, the powerful knockout punch is dealt, and the inspector is victorious; his prize being the family disclosing to him exactly what he desires to hear-the truth!

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