“An Inspector Calls is a modern morality play disguised as a detective drama. ” Show how Priestley uses the conventions of the detective story to put over a moral message to the audience. The fact that ‘An inspector calls’ is a modern morality play disguised as a detective drama, means that the play is written with a unique style. Priestley assists the conventions of the detective story with his intelligent tool of manipulating time. This construction gives a strong moral message to the audience.
Priestley includes some basic conventions, such as a protagonist, a victim and also suspects to indicate to the audience that the play is similar to a detective story. One of the reasons that the action of the play is based on an investigation is to not only engage the audience and sustain their interest, but to also create tension and anticipation before the final revelation is revealed. A standard morality play gives messages to the audience that usually teach them a certain lesson that can be used in real life.
The resolution of Priestley’s play is evidence that there is a morality message to be conveyed. The swift, surprising, ending of the play suddenly puts the audience in the characters’ minds. Priestley uses this effect to his advantage by being able to aim the moral message to the audience. The playwright includes the conventions of a detective story in his play, in order to create advantages that are made as a result of a detective story. The mystery of the play is first introduced when Inspector Goole makes his surprise entrance to the scene of the Birling’s large, suburban, house.
In addition the tension of Scene 1 is enhanced when Goole makes hints that in the future he may need to interview more than just Mr. Birling. For example in Act 1 the inspector gravely advises Gerald: “Then I’d prefer you to stay”. This line entices the audience to begin speculating about future twists in the plot of the play. Furthermore, when the inspector firstly introduces murder to a respectable family, an element of mystery is introduced as the audience begins to speculate how the family may be linked to it.
As more suspects are gradually questioned about their knowledge of the victim; the audience is informed about her life because the inspector is able to recollect and tell the audience how she was progressively guided to her disturbing death. This use of technique by Priestley engages the audience because the story of Eva Smith’s life is slowly revealed until a great climax is reached. The Inspector also uses recapitulation in the play to summarize the previous story and re-inform the audience. This gradually creates tension as the audience is unaware of who will next be linked to the suicide of the victim.
The combination of suspects and suspense is a convention of a detective story that is essential in making the play interesting for the audience. The suspects that are involved in the death of the victim are: ‘Arthur Birling; Sybil Birling; Sheila Birling; Eric Birling and Gerald Croft’. Each of these suspects is shown by the inspector to be involved in the life and possibly death of a poor, working girl. The inspector reveals the suspects gradually so that the audience is stunned when many members of the family have been found out to have played a part in a single girl’s life.
In addition, suspense is created for the audience when suspects are revealed dramatically. This method makes the play interesting throughout for the reason that innocent-seeming members’ of a wealthy family are accused of making a girl commit suicide. Inspector Goole also carries out his enquires in a secretive style; an example of this is in Act 1 when Gerald exclaims: “Any particular reason why I shouldn’t see this girl’s photograph, Inspector? ” The Inspector’s secretive actions develop the suspense of the play as everyone is made a suspect.
Also because the audience is unsure of the potential surprise, they are kept on the edge of their seats and are also interested throughout the play. Priestley makes his protagonist a probing, charismatic investigator so that he can apply pressure to the suspects. This allows him to cut through concealments in order to discover the truth. An example of the Inspector’s authority and effectiveness with the suspects is when he indicates that Sheila Birling was also involved: “All she knew was- that a customer complained about her- and she had to go. ”
In order to put over a striking, moral message to the audience, the plot is developed towards the conventional detective story climax. This denouement is enforced by Priestley when connections between suspects and the life of the victim are steadily exposed; this point consequently shocks the observing audience and maintains their attention. As the plot develops the suspects are exposed by the detective and are consequently left feeling responsible and also slightly puzzled. For instance in Act 3 Eric admits: “And I say the girl’s dead and we all helped to kill her.
” Priestley effectively uses this convention of a detective story to create guilt before the twist is revealed at the end of the play. The ending of the play and any confusion is then resolved when the mystery is suddenly solved. This leaves the audience and the characters a moral message to think about. A detective story plot, (a start, development and end) is effective at engaging and satisfying the needs of a theatre audience watching the play. A developing plot builds up tension and then swiftly releases it in a surprising climax.