In this essay I will be discussing why J.B Priestly wrote the play ‘An Inspector Calls’ and how he uses the to influence the social hierarchy in 1946. The play was set in 1912 in the dining room of the Birling’s house in Brumely, an industrial city in the North Midlands. The Birling’s consists of Mr.Birling, Arthur, Mrs.Birling, Sybil and their son and daughter, Eric and Sheila. The play also presents Sheila’s fiance, Gerald, the Inspector and the mention of Eva Smith. In the play the Inspector has gone to the Birling’s house to enquire about a girl, Eva Smith, who has committed suicide. The Inspector is there as he knows each one of the family, including Gerald are involved with the events leading up her death. I think the purpose of the play is to show how the higher classes should not just look out for themselves. Priestly wrote the play because when the war was present all the different classes had to mingle with each other as they needed to all help with making things for the soldiers, particularly women. Therefore it was as if classes didn’t exist anymore and Priestly did not want the social hierarchies to go back to what they were like beforehand.
The play was written in 1945 and performed in 1946. This was significant as the second world war had just ended and it was the time when the higher and lower classes where going back to their usual ways. Priestly sets the play in 1912 for dramatic irony as the characters are unaware of such things as the war. For example Mr.Birling says ‘The Germans don’t want war. Nobody wants war,’ which of course turns out to be wrong. Also it reflects how the higher class behaved before the war. This makes the audience realize how it has changed, but changed for the better. Mr.Birling talks to everyone convincing them that it is certain there will be no war. He says ‘The world’s developing so fast that it’ll make war impossible.’ He goes on to talk about the Titanic ‘ The Titanic - she sails next week … unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.’ Priestly uses this quote to make Arthur look foolish as he makes out he knows everything and doesn’t think about any other possibilities accept his own. Also the sinking of the Titanic is a famous event in History so it is very well known. This puts the audience at an advantage over the characters and makes them more involved as they know what happens. Furthermore Mr.Birling starts to talk about what they will be doing in the future. He quotes ‘In twenty or thirty years’ time - let’s say in 1940 … you’ll be living in a world that’ll forgotten all these Capital versus Labour agitations and all these silly little war scares.’ This quote once again shows dramatic irony as the audience know that in 1940 the war has not long broke out. It also makes the audience see Mr.Birling as foolish and senseless. The Inspectors beliefs and views are very much opinionated negatively towards the higher classes. He beliefs that everyone should look out for each other and nobody is better than someone just because of money or genetic backgrounds. These views and beliefs could also be looked at as himself Priestly’s beliefs as they are basically some of the main reasons for writing the play.
Before the Inspector arrives Mr.Birling is giving Eric and Gerald his advice on how to act towards people, ‘ you’d think everybody has to look after everybody else … a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own - and -’. At that point you hear a sharp ring of the door bell which is the Inspector. It is important that the Inspector arrives at this moment as Mr.Birling is expressing his feelings towards how you shouldn’t be looking out for other people which contradicts the Inspector’s views extremely. The stage directions quote ‘ The Inspector need not be a big man but he creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness.’ This is the audiences first impression of the Inspector which is that he is very dominant by his massiveness...
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