The Play ‘An Inspector Calls’ was written by J.B. Priestley in 1945 which is six years after the start of World War Two. The play is set in 1912, which is two years before the start of World War One. Priestley himself was a socialist and believed that everyone should help everyone else out. When Priestley wrote this play he was aged 51, this means he experienced both wars and meant that he must have wanted to do something that would help stop more wars. The wars he experienced could have contributed to Priestley’s socialist views also the wars would make him want to help stop more wars appearing which he tried to do by showing his socialist views through the play ‘An Inspector Calls’.
In ‘An Inspector Calls’ Priestley uses a mixture of the detective, mystery and the ‘whodunit’ genres through the character Inspector Goole to show the audience what might happen if they do not change their actions towards less fortunate people. Priestley wanted his audience to be aware of their responsibilities to people in different social classes and how the audience viewing the show affect society, in general. He also wanted the audience to see how if they do not change their greedy and uncaring ways quickly then they could be in store for more wars and anguish. Priestley does this when the inspector is about to leave when he delivers his speech ‘…I tell you that the time will soon come when if men will not learn that lesson then they will be taught it in fire, blood and anguish’. Priestley means that if we do not change our ways then we will keep on having wars until we do learn how to treat everyone equally.
In the play, ‘An Inspector Calls’ Priestley uses detailed stage directions, lighting changes and enables the characters to interact with each other. For example at the start of the play, the way the characters are seated against each other reflects their relationships with one another. In addition, the lighting of the play changes the mood of the play by using different coloured lights to create a happy mood or a tense mood. Priestley does this to help immerse the audience into the play, which makes it easier for them to see Priestley’s messages in the play.
The story of the play revolves around how each character that is interrogated reacts to their experience with the Inspector. When the play starts the Birling family and Gerald Croft are sitting round a table drinking, talking and being merry for the engagement of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft. The females then leave the room and let the males drink and talk. Soon after this, the Inspector enters the scene telling the males of the party about how a girl named Eva Smith committed suicide by drinking disinfectant. Mr Birling is questioned about her. During this Mr Birling reveals that he had fired her which, according to the inspector, started a ‘chain of events’ that lead to her death. Even after the inspector tells Mr Birling that he is partly responsible for her death Mr Birling does not accept any responsibility for the girl’s death.
The inspector then moves his enquiries to Sheila. Sheila tells us that she complained to the manager about her and tells him to fire her or she will not come to Milwards again and neither will her family. The manager fired Eva Smith. We then The inspector then mentions that Eva Smith changed her name to Daisy Renton. Gerald instantly gives away the he knew her after he hears that name. Eric and the inspector then leave the room leaving only Sheila and Gerald in the room. Gerald tells Sheila that he knew Eva Smith but he does not want Eva to tell the inspector.
The start of act two starts off exactly where act one ended. Gerald is questioned about how he knew Eva Smith. We find out that Gerald met her in a bar and then put her up in a house and she became his mistress. Soon she had to leave the dwellings of the house because Gerald’s friend, who he is looking after the house for, is coming back. Gerald gave her enough money to survive for a while. Gerald then leaves the house for a walk.
The inspector then moves his questioning to Mrs Birling. We find out the Eva Smith went to Mrs Birling’s charity for help. We then find out that Eva smith is pregnant and that is why she requested help. Mrs Birling and the charity refused to help her. Mrs Birling says to the inspector that the person who made her pregnant is at fault and he should claim all the responsibility for it. Everyone else sees that it is Eric that made her pregnant but it is too late. Mrs Birling does not see who it is that made Eva smith pregnant. Eric then enters the room and the curtains fall to end act two.
Again, act three starts where act two stopped. Eric is standing alone in a distressed mood. Sheila tells Eric what Mrs Birling said about the young man who got this girl Eva Smith into trouble. The Inspector the proceeds to question Eric and we find out that Eric is that father of her child Eva Smith is bearing. We then find out that Eric is stealing money and giving it to Eva smith. When Eva Smith found out the money is stolen, she refused to accept anymore. After this the inspectors leaves the family to argue amongst themselves. Gerald then comes back into the house. Soon the phone rings. Silence fills the room as Mr Birling goes over to pick up the phone. He then tells the Birling family and Gerald that an inspector is on the way to question them about a young girls suicide who died the same way as Eva Smith did.