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An inspector calls By JB Priestley

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An “inspector calls” was written by J. B Priestly. It was first performed in Moscow in the summer of 1945. The play is about a family who are in the “New rich” category of the ladder of wealth in 1912. This was a sort of rank, which families were in depending on how rich someone or some people were. At the bottom was Working class, which were miners, servants & factory workers. Then came the Upper Working class, which were foremen in factory’s, which had some responsibility.

The New Rich were men or families which weren’t always rich or they weren’t born rich (mainly people who earned the money from the industrial revolution) this is the category which the Birlings were in (the family I’m writing about) Finally at the top of the table was the Aristocracy people, these were people who were wealthy with land or business or either they were born into the family when it was rich. The Birlings in this story are celebrating because the daughter of Arthur Birling (Sheila Birling) is getting engaged to a man called Gerald Croft who is very wealthy because his family is in the Aristocratic part of the ladder of wealth.

An inspector called “Goole ” calls in the middle of the celebration and explains that he is investigating a suicide of a young working class woman. He interrogates each person in the birling household until they admit they had in someway being in contact with the young woman before she committed suicide. By doing this Priestley is giving society the message that anyone can do something that could lead to something serious as what happens in this story. The play starts with Mr Birling talking about society shouldn’t look after each other. Everyone should look out for himself or herself.

This is why the play is set in 1912 & although it written in 1945. In 1912 Britain was booming with the Industrial Revolution. This was a problem to people like Mr Birling who didn’t think about “community” or looked forward to problems in the future because of the lack of foresight helped the cause World War 1. When this was shown in 1945 people would look and see how wrong Mr Birling was & showing us the cruelty & injustice of this type of society. By seeing this people had learnt how much fools the people like that in 1912 were. A good play in Greek drama keeps the place, action & time together.

A writer who did this was keeping to the “Three Unities” The Three Unities are Unity of place, which is a play that is acted out in one scene. By doing this it increases tension. In this case the Birling household is the unity of place. The Unity of action is that a play sticks to one plot throughout the whole story. In this story it is the suicide of Eva Smith. Finally is the Unity of time, which is when the audience is going through the same time process as the play. Eva Smith is never on stage, but everything that happens to her is reported or described to us.

In a way the inspector is like a Greek chorus; at different points in the play he sums up what happens in the present time. He also explains the lessons to be learnt. The Birlings are a “newly Rich” family that hasn’t always had money. With these sort o people around, they had a different attitude towards people lower down the ladder of wealth. When they meet Aristocrats they try to mix with them so they are looked at the same. We see this when Mr Birling is with Gerald Croft; He try’s to impress him by mentioning how he may be up for a knighthood at the next honours list.

The upper part of the ladder of wealth is very different because the Birlings treated Eva Smith like she was dirt. She was paid peanuts and lived poorly while the Birlings racked in the money and lived in a house with maids and butlers. They wore diner suits and drank wine. The play is similar to a murder mystery except in this case the inspector knows everyone is responsible. None of the Birlings think that all or one of them is responsible. At first we don’t know this. Sheila Birling is the person who realizes that the inspector knows the family is responsible for Eva Smith ‘s death.

This is why she is always moaning & telling her family the inspector knows even though they don’t know. E. G Sheila says to her mother- ” Mother don’t build a wall because the inspector will just knock it down” The play is produced dramatically by using the different lighting. When the Birlings are by they the lighting is intimate because of the close family celebration where everyone is happy and everyone loves each other. The lighting colours are pink and light red. When the inspector arrives the light turns bright white indicating tension and pressure in being applied.

The white light stays bright just like an interrogation room in a police station. From how the furniture is organised you can tell they are not a comfy family because all the chairs are made of wood (just like many other New Rich families in the 1900’s) When Britain was secure, it had an empire, unrivalled navy & was wealthy. Working Class and Upper Working class were happy with many jobs available. New Rich people, especially owners of companies were happy racking in the money for the amount work they were being supplied with.

In the play Eva Smith was a working class person who wo9rked and just wanted more money for all the work except Arthur Birling who was a greedy New Rich, sacked her. He treats her wrongly! She got a second job, she had everything a working class girl wanted but when Sheila saw Eva laughing at her, Sheila treated her like dirt and demanded she was sacked. In the 1900’s the lower class you were in, the worse you got treated. If you were a woman you were also working for a living. If you were high in the wealth ladder & a woman, servants did all the work.

This was good except women had no power; the men had all the power. In Eva Smith’s case she was bottom of the bottom of the wealth ladder. With the Birling family they were snobbish & Mr Birling said, “there is no such thing as community”. For the audience watching this play. They would hate the Birling family because in World War 1 & after, Europe was in ruins & community was the only thing that could put Europe back together. Also Mr Birling mentioned about the “unsinkable Titanic” & how it was an impressive vessel and it was the best.

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