The play ‘An Inspector Calls’ was written in 1945, but the play was set in 1912. After living through two world wars, Priestley writes this play trying to get across his point that unless the world becomes socialist there will be another World War. By setting the play earlier than it was written Priestley has to ignore all the events that have happened in the time between 1912 and 1945, for example, The Titanic and World War 1 and World War 11.
Priestley portrays this by using irony in the form of Mr Birling talking about Titanic â€¦ “she sails next week â€“ forty six thousand eight hundred tons â€“ New York in five days â€“ and every luxury â€“ and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable. ” This is irony because Birling is talking about the Titanic being unsinkable but now we know that she sank and therefore birling did not know the truth at that time. This is why Priestley set the play in 1912 but wrote it in 1945.
In the Theatre Production, when the curtains open you are shown the family and Gerald all sitting around a large dining table talking happily, with their maid clearing the table. All of them are highly dressed with the men in “tails and white ties”. At first you cannot hear what the family are saying, but you can make out a few words or lines. Priestley does this to make you want to hear more, he is inviting you into their world. He makes the few words or lines you can hear interesting so you want to hear more.
The stage details Priestley give help to set the scene of the book, and in the BBC production and in the theatre production he uses visual aids to help. He describes the type of house and furniture to show the time in which the play was set and what type of family the Birling’s are. In the theatre production we are shown a big Victorian style house and when it opens we see old wooden Victorian furniture and the family in their finery. This shows the time in which the play was set, as their clothes would have dated back to the time. All five are in evening dress of the period, the men in tails and white ties, not dinner jackets. ”
We get the picture of an Edwardian family celebrating. The stage directions tell us, ” The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and homelike. ” As the whole play takes place in the dining room, Priestly is constantly changing the occupants of the room, which makes us keep focused so we can see what is going on between whom. Sometimes just one person goes out, which doesn’t have too much effect on what happens, but a few times at least half of the family leaves, e. . Sheila and Mrs Birling go to the drawing room then Sheila comes back, but in the meantime the Inspector has arrived. I think leaving the set in one room keeps your attention more focused on the characters rather than the set.
By changing the characters in the room it makes the play more interesting and produces change. If all the characters stayed in the room all the time it would get very boring as there wouldn’t be any variation. By sending people out it makes it easier because most of the time the people left in the room are the people who are being interrogated, e. g. hen the inspector arrives the people in the dining room were Mr Birling, Gerald and Eric and Mr Birling was questioned first. At the beginning of the play Mr Birling comes across as a typical business and family man, he makes a lot of big speeches and believes in the tradition of the man being the head of the family. In his speeches he gives advice to Sheila and Gerald, talks about the war and the Titanic. This is when the irony occurs, because Mr Birling is trying to look cleverer than the rest of the family. He talks about the Titanic being unsinkable, but we now know she sank.
Mrs Birling is a higher class than Mr Birling and she sometimes lets it show: – Birling: “Well, well â€“ this is very nice. Very nice. Good dinner too, Sybil. Tell cook from me. ” Mrs B. : “Arthur, you’re not supposed to say such things.. ” She believes in the different classes not mixing, the high class and the working class. J. B Priestley describes her in the stage directions as a “rather cold woman and her husband’s social superior. ” Mrs Birling doesn’t let things get to her. She doesn’t like showing her emotions, this shows the period of the play.
When she is talking to Sheila about Gerald she brings up the fact that women don’t work â€“ “When you’re married you’ll realise that men with important work to do sometimes have to spend nearly all their time and energy on their business. You’ll have to get used to that, just as I had. ” When the family are celebrating Sheila and Gerald’s engagement and they propose a toast to them, Eric mentions Sheila’s temper. “All the best! She’s got a nasty temper sometimes â€“ but she’s not bad really. ” This is the only time her temper is mentioned up until the Inspector is interrogating her.
It is used as a link so that we can relate back to the beginning of the play, and understand her linking to the death of Eva Smith. Inspector: “And why did you do that? ” Sheila: “Because I was in a furious temper. ” Throughout the play Sheila can be very short, when talking to someone as though to say she wanted to end that conversation now! At the beginning of the play Eric comes across as a very young, immature person and being a bit tipsy and then when he suddenly laughs for no reason when everyone is talking Sheila says he is squiffy. Eric: “I don’t know really.
Suddenly I just felt I had to laugh. ” Sheila: “You’re squiffy” This is a clue linking to Eric’s involvement with Eva Smith, as later on he forces himself into her house, while under the influence of alcohol. When the doorbell rings and it’s the Inspector, Mr Birling is mid-way through telling Eric and Gerald about how “a man has to make his own way, has to look after himself â€“ and his family too of course. ” This makes the arrival of the inspector both important and dramatically effective. It also links to the title of the play and so therefore he must be a key character.
In the speech Priestly puts forward his views on socialism through Mr Birling when he says “But the way some of these cranks talk and write now, you’d think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive â€“ community and all that. ” Mr Birling is talking as a middle class working man and this shows the social and historic setting of the period. Priestly had strong socialist views he had lived through two world wars and believed that if nothing was done about the country’s views on socialism and capitalism there would be another world war.
These views are portrayed by Birling’s speeches about how a man has to look after himself. Priestly created Birling as a capitalist to get across his point that capitalism is bad. Birling would rather be proud and look after himself and his family well, instead of looking after everyone else. Before the Inspector arrives Mr Birling, Eric and Gerald are talking quite a lot, with some long speeches by Mr Birling. This gives a relaxing effect, as you are hearing about a normal family carrying out a normal life, and nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
However when the doorbell rings the relaxed atmosphere is moved aside and is replaced by curiosity. As the sharp ring of the doorbell cuts through Mr Birling’s voice he stops to listen. This almost makes the audience stop and listen as well and arouses their curiosity. The ring at the door is not mentioned until Edna the maid enters the dining roomâ€¦ “Please Sir, an Inspector’s called. ” The delay between this and the Inspector’s entrance causes tension because although Birling says it is probably about a warrant, the audience wants to find out for themselves what the Inspector wants.
Also before the doorbell goes Mr Birling is talking about how a man has to look after himself, then when we discover that a Police Inspector is at the door it creates a feeling of tension as it is going back on what Mr Birling said. Priestley, in his stage directions says, “The Inspector need not be a big man but he creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness. He is a man in his fifties, dressed in a plainish dark suit of the period. He speaks carefully, weightily, and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking. The Inspector shows his authority as soon as he enters the room, and flattens the idea of his coming about a warrant.
In a whodunit the Inspector is one of the most interesting characters because he is ‘the bringer of bad news’, he creates the tension and excitement in the play. The Inspector brings out the side of people you never knew existed, and shocks you with facts you never would have found out or thought about. As soon as the Inspector arrives he tells the family what he has come about, “Two hours ago a young woman died in the Infirmary”, this gives the impression that the Inspector knows a lot that the family and audience don’t.
This is also apparent as he questions the rest of the family during Act 1. When the Inspector is talking to Birling, Birling doesn’t show much emotion towards the Inspector’s questions, “Yes, yes, horrid business. But I don’t understand why you should come here Inspector. ” Birling seems more interested in what the Inspector wants with him than what happened to the girl. At first when the Inspector mentions Eva Smith Birling doesn’t remember, when he does however he doesn’t feel guilty about sacking her, “This girl Eva Smith was one of them. She’d had a lot to say â€“ far too much â€“ so she had to go.
He does not believe his involvement with Eva had anything to do with her death. This causes tension and excitement because the audience want to find out how Birling sacking her linked in with her death. There is also tension between Birling and the Inspector because the Inspector wants Birling to admit he is in the wrong, as he knows he is but Birling won’t. Sheila and Eric don’t agree that their father should have fired Eva Smith, the audience may feel the same way which could cause tension and excitement because they want to find out what happened next.
Sheila seems scared of the fact that she might have something to do with the death of Eva Smith. This causes a different feeling in the audience towards her and they may feel more sorry for Sheila than for Mr Birling as he didn’t show any emotions. This helps the play to be more dramatically effective because the characters react in different ways. Before the Inspector speaks to a character he tends to look at them for a while as though to intimidate them slightly.
When the Inspector shows Mr Birling the photo of the girl he stands between Birling and Gerald and Eric to block their path, neither of them try to push past but Gerald seems to question his authority, “Any particular reason why I shouldn’t see this girl’s photograph, Inspector? ” As the Inspector is already above Gerald he merely says “There might be”. To this Eric and Mr Birling both start to ask questions but the Inspector is not intimidated and gets straight to the point of questioning Mr Birling. Before he starts however he looks at Mr Birling until he returns his gaze.
Through this the Inspector is showing his authority over Birling. This gives the play a dramatic feeling as Mr Birling had been in the position of power at the head of the family until the Inspector arrived. When the Inspector brings up Sheila’s story there is a lot of build up and a slight role reversal as it is Sheila asking the questions rather than the Inspector. When the Inspector showed Sheila what appeared to be the same photograph as the one shown to Birling, “She looks at it closely, recognises it with a little cry, gives a half-stifled sob, and then runs out.
This is a very dramatic moment and creates a feeling of tension, as the audience does not fully understand the reason she did it. Sheila and Mr Birling’s reactions were very different and as more people are put under pressure the tension and anger mounts. There is an increasing form of conflict between the characters, as Sheila and Eric don’t agree with the way Birling treated Eva. As the characters’ stress levels go up and they start to get worried they start taking it out on each other.
After the Inspector has questioned Sheila he doesn’t move directly to ask Gerald questions, he says something which he knows will have an effect on Gerald, “So first she changed her name to Daisy Renton. ” This seems to shock Gerald but he doesn’t want to let it show. Instead he asks Sheila if he can have a drink. When the Inspector leaves and it’s just Sheila and Gerald left it causes tension between the two as Sheila had picked up on the way Gerald had reacted when the Inspector said Daisy’s name. At first Gerald tries to pretend nothing happened, “Why shouldn’t I have known her? ” “Oh don’t be stupid. We haven’t much time.
You gave yourself away as soon as he mentioned her other name. ” We almost feel angry towards Gerald and sympathetic towards Sheila. There is a lot of tension between Sheila and Gerald as Sheila wants to find out what’s been going on but Gerald isn’t willing to admit. At the end of the act Gerald wants to keep what he has admitted to Sheila a secret from the Inspector, but Sheila puts down that idea, “Why you fool â€“ he knows, of course he knows. And I hate to think how much he knows that we don’t know yet. You’ll see, you’ll see. ” This causes a lot of tension because the audience want to know what happens next.
Then when the Inspector comes in and says, “Well? ” We know what Sheila was saying was true and this gives the play a dramatic twist for the end of the act. As the play uses the three unities, time, place and action, this makes the end of the act a lot more dramatically effective and as the whole play takes place in the dining room this helps you to focus on what is happening and it makes the play easier to understand. The end of the act ends on a tense note, which makes it very dramatically effective, as you want to find out what happens in the beginning of the next act.
This is similar to the way television programmes end on an exciting note to make you watch the next episode. The National Theatre Production of An Inspector Calls is as dramatic as Priestley intended. When the curtains open you see an old style, large house, which is presumably the Birling’s. The house is the largest thing on the stage, which shows its importance. Then the house opens and you can see inside where you see the family around the table talking. While you can hear Mr Birling talking from inside the house, a man appears on the side of the stage who appears to be the Inspector.
He creates an eerie tension, as his presence is not known to the Birling family and he makes no noise, he merely stands and watches the house. The arrival of the Inspector and the use of stage help to make the start of the play dramatically effective. I thought the play An Inspector Calls was very well written and I enjoyed reading it. The first act was very good at setting the scene for the rest of the play and this made it very effective and useful. Priestley put across his views on capitalism and socialism through the form of Mr Birling and I thought this was a very good way of putting them across.
The family help to show what life was like in 1912 and how family life and life in general have changed, the clothes they wear, the way they speak, what they find acceptable are all different to the way we perceive things today. The social and historical context of the play is different to how we see society today. The social ideas are not so relevant to society today; we are now socialists so Priestley’s points got across. I thought the play was very good and exciting to watch and read with surprises along the way to keep you interested.