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J.B. Priestley’s play `An Inspector Calls`

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  • Pages: 4
  • Word count: 980
  • Category: Play

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In J.B. Priestley’s play `An Inspector Calls` Priestly uses many minor details such as setting, lighting and stage directions to create details of the characters personality especially Inspector Goole’s.

Firstly, at the start of the play the family is sitting around a table filled with left over food and the family chatting after their large meal. This is made clear in the original stage directions written by Priestly `the parlour maid is just clearing the table of … desert plates, champagne glasses etc.`. When the play was first opened it was just after the Second World War and the public watching the play were still on rations. This meant that as soon as the curtain came up the public was already making assumptions of the family’s wealth and greed. This is a good example of a subtle message that the writer is trying to send out to show the differences in the characters personality at the beginning of the play compared to the end when the Inspector arrives.

Secondly, at the start of the play the lighting is described as `pink and intimate` by the playwright in his stage directions. This gives a warm, secluded and unreal feeling to the stage. In contrast when the Inspector arrives in the play the lighting changes to become `brighter and harder`. This gives the effect of a reality but a harsh one. Also the Inspector brings the light with him, this is similar to the saying `Jesus is the light of the world`. So Priestly could be showing religious undertones figures as well as commenting on the family.

Thirdly, during the play the Inspector shows a sort of omniscience. In the play there are many instances in which the Inspector seems to know the future. One such time is when he says `”I’m waiting” “Waiting for what” (Mrs. Birling) “To do my duty”` just after he says this Eric walks in. Also the Inspector seems to know the whole story before talking to the secondary characters. This suggests that the Inspector has some sort of Omniscience again the writer could be seen as comparing Goole to an all powerful being.

Furthermore, `An Inspector calls` shares some aspects with a morality play. In a morality play the main character (often called Everyman) and he meets secondary characters named after their sin (e.g. the character might be called Envy) when the main character meets the secondary he learns how not to be like them (so they would learn how not to be envious). There are some crucial differences between `An Inspector Calls` and a morality plays. First the characters are named after their sin (for example Shelia is envious but she’s not called envy) also the main character, Inspector Goole, already knows how not to be morally wrong and is trying to teach the secondary characters how to be equally skilled as him-rather then the other way round in a morality play. This changes the characters into something different especially in the Inspector’s case.

Also, J.B. Priestly was a known Socialist for this reason throughout his play he portrays this and tries to use his play as propaganda to change people’s political views. He does this by using lots of subtle messages. One of the ways is by making us feel sorry for Eva Smith. He does this by making his rich family (the Birlings) mess up Eva Smith’s.

Additionally, he also shows certain characteristics in his characteristics. He makes his character Mr Birling (who’s very rich) look stupid by making him making him make wrong predictions of the future. For example Mr Birling says `the Germans Don’t want war`, this is an example of dramatic irony in which the audience knows something the characters don’t. In this case the writer is referring to the First World War which starts about 3 months after the writing of this play. Of course this makes Mr. Birling look very silly and idiotic just as the writer wanted.

On the other hand the Inspector (who is a socialist) looks bright and sharp witted compared to the Birlings. The writer makes this effect by when the Inspector predicts the future he gets it right unlike Mr. Birling. When the Inspector says `you shall all perish in the fire`, he is also referring to the First World War, but of course he makes an accurate prediction. This makes the Inspector seem almost like a perfect character with no dirt upon him unlike the rich snobby Birlings.

Furthermore, the ending to the play makes us think about the Inspector’s character. Throughout the play the Inspector asks almost all the questions and keeps his cards close to his chest but now and again the Inspector drops a few pieces of evidence that make us think. For example the Inspector says `we often do on the younger ones` this makes us think about who the Goole really is if he has done this more then once.

Lastly, also in the play J.B. Priestly uses many stereotypes of certain characters to help the audience become more attached to the characters within the play. An example of this is when the Family has just found out that Eric has got a girl pregnant and used his Fathers money to help her at this point Mr. Birling seems more angry at Gerald for stealing the money. This fits in with the money grabbing Fat Cat stereotype at the time. This helps the writer for it gives the audience a base for the Characters without being told it by the playwright.

In conclusion, the author uses many different aspects to create the Inspectors character. He makes the character to fit his political purpose as well as being an engrossing shadowy figure to keep the audience involved within the play so more propaganda can sink in.

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