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    The use of dramatic irony in J.B. Priestley’s

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    ‘An Inspector Calls’ is a well made play written by J. B. Priestley in 1945. Based in 1912 the play focuses on the Birling family being visited by Inspector Goole. No one quite knows who or what the inspector is as he has a ghostly sense about him. To the audience he could be a time traveller or a ghost, we never eventually find out, it is left to our imagination and helps to create mystery surrounding the character. The audience are watching the play knowing that it is set many years ago; this gives J. B. Priestley an advantage to use dramatic irony throughout the play, which allows him to make some of the characters look ridiculous.

    He also uses the Inspector to intimidate the Birling’s with his short answers and powerful tone. His sense of massiveness soon overpowers the arrogant Mr Birling and his right wing ways, and he soon begins to get the answers he arrived for. The Birling’s were celebrating the engagement of both Sheila and Gerald. However, once the Inspector arrives he soon has control of the whole situation making the atmosphere very tense. Mr Birling has a somewhat high status and tries using this to his advantage to intimidate the Inspector, evidently he realises this doesn’t trouble him and notices he has no authority compared to the Inspector.

    A sharp ring of the front door bell’ Priestley uses this technique to bring the play to a pause, whilst Mr Birling stops in his tracks to soon question who is at the door. This quickly adds tension to the scene making the characters to panic, in a sense, to wonder who is knocking at such a time. Soon enough both audience and characters come to find it is Inspector Goole. ‘At once he creates an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness’. Priestly uses the way the Inspector is characterised to create impact from the moment he enters.

    As soon as Inspector Goole arrives he swiftly has power over the atmosphere, creating a tense yet calm ambience of the household. ‘Looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking’ The Inspector intimidates each character by simply studying them before speaking. This gives the impression he has a lot of power, creating a big stage presence, before he has even spoken. As he begins questioning the characters, Mr Birling is quick to announce that he was ‘Lord Mayor two years ago – and I’m still on the bench – … ‘ to try and intimidate the Inspector.

    Answering with a simply ‘Quite so’ it soon appears that the Inspector has no interest in what Mr Birling has to say. Carrying on the Inspector tells the characters he would ‘Like some information… Two hours ago a young women died in the infirmary. She’d been taken there this afternoon because she’d swallowed a lot of strong disinfectant… They did everything they could for her… But she died. Suicide, of course. ‘ After his sharp, rather shocking news to the Birling’s, Mr Birling, being his usual obnoxious self, is quick to respond impatiently to the inspector.

    Telling the Inspector, ‘Yes, yes horrid business… ‘ this creates a sense of arrogance coming from Mr Birling, showing he doesn’t really care what the Inspector has to say and questioning why he is being told if he isn’t even concerned with such news. The Inspector is not friendly to the family and this is soon discovered when he answers to the Birling’s using a short and blunt tone. The Inspector uses this way of speech to show he has not arrived for a friendly chat and is simply at the house for business. The Inspector’s presence is soon resented by Mr Birling, as he sees no reason for the Inspector to be there.

    He is not concerned about what Mr Birling says, the result of which is to try to threaten and intimidate the Inspector. He brushes off the sarcastic comments of Mr Birling, and continues by ‘Cutting through, massively’ and carrying on his with his account or Eva Smith. He cleverly does this before Mr Birling continued to question the Inspector and became completely arrogant to what the Inspector has to say. Priestly created the Inspector very cunningly to show that people like Mr Birling, are soon made to look preposterous in what they are saying, which soon makes both characters and the audience begin to listen to the Inspector.

    Using the Inspector as his own voice, Priestley can get across his own right wing views and opinions on society, to then educate the audience on community and how we should all begin to look out for one another. This creates a dramatic impact as he soon begins to put across his socialist views, which teaches the audience, before it is too late, like in the play. The Inspector is still able to control the situation in a composed manner, talking ‘Calmly’ to the family, but still having complete control on the whole atmosphere and mood of the room.

    This shows how dominant and controlling the Inspector is on the family, with only using speech. ‘He walks straight out, leaving them staring, subdued and wondering. ‘ The Inspectors dramatic exit brings the whole play to a standstill. We then speculate, what happens to him next, and begin to wonder what the Inspector’s reason was for knocking at the Birling’s. On his dramatic exit, the Inspector leaves the family stunned and in shock, with no second thoughts of what has just happened. Before he exits, the Inspector reminds each family member of what they have done to help kill Eva Smith.

    Reminding them that they all shared responsibility for Eva’s Death. This adds the final touch of guilt to the family, as they are then left to think and reminisce of the consequences of their actions. Both audience and characters are then left in silence which adds dramatic anxiety to the whole theatre. Not knowing whether the Inspector will come back as a consequence, or if he is gone for good. Priestley cleverly created this atmosphere as to make the audience then start thinking about the characters actions, and the way they deal with the situation being placed in front of them.

    This then takes us back to everything the family had said, and to Mr Birling’s speeches before the Inspector arrived and interrupted. Making the audience continue discussing between themselves after watching the play about what Mr Birling had said and who they believe the Inspector really was, makes the well made play fill Priestley’s expectations. At the end of ‘An Inspector Calls’ Priestley has very ingeniously got across his views on second wing politics and social responsibility, using the Inspector as his own voice.

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