An Inspector Calls is a play based in 1912, although it was written in 1946 by JB Priestley. Priestley was a deeply political writer with a strong favour for Communism. Communism is the political belief that there is no rich or poor and that everybody is equal, indeed Communists also believe that there should be a planned economy and no wages would be paid to the workers as this money would be used to fuel the infrastructure and the economy.
When Priestley wrote ‘An Inspector Calls’, It was 1946 but the play was set in 1912 between these dates 2 world wars had happened, a attempted pan-European genocide of the Jewish race, a massive economic crash, War had been brought to a new level with wars now affecting civilians with the use of bombing on town and cities, and the introduction of nuclear weapons used to kill to thousands of innocent civilians. During this time Priestley had also witnessed multiple extreme governments emerge.
Don’t waste your time!
Order your assignment!
When the play was set thing seemed to be improving, electricity was a new luxury for the rich and Britain was still riding the wave of power from the British Empire. Being rich then was no bad thing. JB Priestley uses ‘An Inspector Calls’ to mock the rich and capitalists by making them seem naive and foolish: by doing this he is being didactic which means he is persuasively preaching to the audience. Priestley believed that capitalism was a bad political system.
His play shows how the rich don’t care for the poor and how capitalism is flawed. This highly didactic purpose however is combined with strong dramatic elements that make the menage palatable. From the start, JB Priestley uses the setting at the beginning to create a rose tinted view of the life that the Birling household experiences, which all the characters find very normal. This idea is shown by the lighting instructions in the stage directions at the beginning of the play. The lighting should be pink and intimate until the Inspector arrives then it should be brighter and harder’ this quote gives the impression that everything is quite literally fine and rose tinted until the Inspector arrives when things start to become more realistic almost as if the harsh light of day has been shed onto the Birlings little world when the Inspector unveils truths about Eva Smith and how people like The Birling’s make people’s lives like Eva Smiths so bad. ‘ The Pink and intimate’ light shows how unrealistic the life that the Birling’s live.
The light gives the impression that there is no bad in the world and this is supported by the harmonious party in which two industrial rivals have finally joined in unison by the engagement of Shelia Birling and Gerald Croft. The Birlings are celebrating this and the advances in technology that surely can only improve the world that they live in. The Lighting also shows the change of mood in the play: when the play begins the mood is quite jovial as Shelia and Gerald are celebrating their engagement. They all have had a good meal and there is a general jolly atmosphere.
Then things suddenly become more intense and severe with moods becoming darker as throughout the play the Inspector exposes The Birlings to more and more of the harsh realities of the real world. Priestley may also use the change of light to the brighter and harder light to replicate the harsh halogen like light of a police interrogation room this demonstrates to the audience that the Inspector is interrogating the Birlings before the dialogue even begins. The change of light may also give the impression that the Inspector has opened the Birling’s Curtains mentally so that they can now see the outside world.
Finally the change of light may also show the change in clarity of thought in the play. The Birling’s outlook on life at first is very deluded since they only socialise with the higher tiers of society without mixing with the lower tiers of society except when he deals with his workers, despite Mr Birling coming, from a ‘provincial’ lower class. He deals with the poor rarely. When the Inspector arrives he starts to bring truth into The Birling’s Perspective of how poor people live like when The Inspector starts to mention how people like Eva Smith or Daisy Renton live.
Revealing truths that the younger characters couldn’t imagine . Or as The Inspector puts it to the Birlings ‘putting ourselves in the place of these women in their dingy back rooms’ which possibly demonstrates that the inspector thinks that the Birling Family could n cope with the conditions that these young women live in. As well as harnessing the setting, Priestley uses the genre of a detective story to create a gripping and interesting story to keep the audience interested. It also allows for Priestley.
Priestley uses the genre to frame capitalists (such as Mr Birling) as Criminals even though nobody murdered Eva Smith (she committed suicide) but what suggests that capitalism promotes immoral behaviour. Birling tries to shirk off all responsibility of Eva Smith’s death by saying ‘obviously it had nothing to do with the wretched girl’s suicide’ (When he was referring to the sacking of Eva Smith and the link to her death) By Birling using the word ‘obviously’ it shows how oblivious he is to the fact that he might have some responsibility for Eva Smith’s death.
Furthermore Priestley may use this phrase ‘obviously ‘ to show that Birling and other Capitalists believe they aren’t working class, they obviously can’t be a criminals as that position is exclusively for the jobless working classes. Mr Birling and other industrialists believe that they actually give criminals jobs. Throughout the play, the Inspector treats the death of Eva Smith as a murder investigation even though Eva Smith committed suicide. Although the Inspector plays the questioning as if the Birlings were culprits.
The Birlings acknowledge that they shouldn’t be treated like criminals and this is shown by the quote ‘you talk as if we were responsible’. Throughout the play The Birlings deny responsibility for the death, but the consequences leading up to Eva Smith’s Death were mainly the Birling’s fault. Priestley uses this to show how ignorant capitalists are as they are happy to capitalise from other peoples suffering provided they do not get their hands dirty which in Priestley’s eyes was a form of theft as they were ‘taking’ without ‘asking’.
The Inspector gets the Birlings to answer a lot of their own questions by playing everybody off each other so that they eventually fall out with each other: – this is a quite common police interrogation tactic which also adds drama to the situation. In addition to stagecraft, Priestley uses status changes to give the play a disputing factor to keep the audience interested the characters that aren’t so outrageous. Throughout the play Shelia grows from a weak young lady that is under the thumb of her parents.
To a strong independent woman who wants to shirk off all the control that her parents and fiance have over her, This change making her one of the higher status characters by the end of the play. At first Shelia is treated by her mother as a young child, not the young adult that she is. This is shown by the quote ‘come along Shelia’. This shows how Mrs Birling views her as if Shelia was Mrs Birlings 3 year old or pet dog, shown by the patronising tone used by Mrs Birling. Mr and Mrs Birling consider Shelia to be a young child who is too young and irrational to make her own decisions. This is demonstrated by the uote ‘now just be quiet so that your father can decide what we ought to do’. This demonstrates how women are treated in the Birling Household. They are considered not to be as good at making decisions and that women should not hold a position where they can make decisions for themselves or others this idea is shown by ‘so that your father can decide what we ought to do’ this is particularly shown by the word ‘we’ because this shows that Mr Birling is making decisions for Shelia and Mrs Birling but not including himself in these decisions. By the end of the play, Shelia is a transformed character she grew up substantially in one evening.
At the beginning of the evening, Shelia was under the thumb of her parents and believed that her Parents could do no wrong. By the end of the play she has changed massively by becoming an independent young woman who has learnt that her parents are out of touch and ignorant. Shelia decides that she is more intelligent than her parents and picks to side with the Inspector. This gives a tense relationship between Shelia and her parents as they are not used to her going against their wishes, she also sided with someone Mr and Mrs Birling believe to be a liar.
This creates loads of drama this shows that the youth, although, young may know better and sometimes the old and the rich should listen to lesser people than themselves. Indeed as the Inspector comments the young are ‘impressionable. ‘ Shelia’s conversion offers a shining example for the audience to follow. Another interesting status change is between Mr Birling and the Inspector as they are both looking to have a higher status over each other. Mr Birling at first treats himself and the Inspector as equals.
This is shown by the use of the word ‘wretched’ in the quote ‘obviously it had nothing to do with the wretched girl’s suicide’ as Mr Birling expects the Inspector to agree with him as he sees himself and the Inspector as equals or possibly believing that he has a higher status but then the Inspector belittles him by saying ‘I can’t really agree with you there’ but as the Inspector proves that he has more authority over Mr Birling, Mr Birling tries to prove that he is better than The Inspector. As he does this he makes more of fool of himself by doing so. The drama in this conflict creates extra interest in their clash of ideologies.
JB Priestley made the Inspector calls a fascinating play by using the genre of a detective story and the use of status changes but the same time he used a didactic tone to achieve his political goals by bringing socialist ideas to the middle and upper classes and without the political aspect of the play it would have just been like any other detective story. Priestley used didacticism subtly because if it was too pushy people wouldn’t have watched it. People went to the theatre for entertainment and they wouldn’t have paid to go see it if it was obviously about politics and sounded like Priestley was being a preacher.
Priestley made sure that he exposed the typical theatre goers (the rich Conservative Upper Classes) to his left wing ideas by making them associate themselves with the play, Even if the audience werehostile to Priestley’s ideas they may have stayed for the plot alone. Priestley makes the audience empathise with Shelia and Eric as they had to think about their actions and emerge from the experience as different people although Priestley does say that some people can never change(such as Mr Birling) because they are too set in their old ways and too in love with their money to change.