An Inspector Calls by J. B Priestly

An Inspector Calls by J. B Priestly was first performed in 1945. The play was set in 1912 before the war; it centres around the wealthy Birling family. A visit from the mysterious Inspector Goole proves to be a horrifying experience for the Birling’s as they learn that they have all played a part in the suicide of a young girl called Eva Smith. Priestly’s main aim was to encourage people to take responsibility for their actions, not to shift the blame on to others. Priestly attempts to convey his attitudes and ideas through the characters in the play. He uses the inspector to voice his own opinions.

The Birling’s are used to show how not to behave. He established each of his characters in the play the way he thought people were. The Birling’s were very worried about appearances. The way they dressed and how their house was decorated. Their house had ‘good solid furniture of the period’. `The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable but not cosy and homelike’. The lighting is pink and intimate before the Inspector arrives; they are hiding behind a wall of ‘stupid pretences’. It become brighter and harder when the Inspector enters, this is them being opened up to the world.

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At the beginning of Act 1 the Birling’s are enjoying a meal. The dialogue reveals that the family does not care about anyone but themselves. Arthur Birling believes `a man has to make his own way, has to look after himself and his family too’. Birling launches into a speech on community, he starts saying `the ways some of these cranks talk and write now you’d think everyone has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive- community and all that nonsense’. The Inspector enters at this point because he is there to disprove Birling’s point.

Priestly wanted the Inspector to appear to be intimidating. ‘He wasn’t a big man but he creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness’. Omniscient and omnipotent the mysterious Inspector Goole persuades the Birling’s to confess to their crimes. Even his name has ghostly connotations; he seems to know everything he is in control. It’s almost as though he knows the future. Inspector Goole’s dress sets him apart from the Birling’s. They are dressed to impress. `All five are in evening dress of the period, the men in tails and white ties, not dinner jackets’.

The women wear long formal dresses. The Inspector by contrast is dressed in a ‘plain darkish suit of the period’. He is dressed smartly but he is not concerned with status and appearance. Mr. Birling believes “its every man for himself”, to look after number one, and not to care for poor people to forget about community. He is very sexist as he tries to hide the truth form his family particularly from Sheila. He does this because he believes young girls like Sheila should be shielded from horrible things like death, because women are too weak to cope with harsh reality but he believes men can.

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