An Inspector Calls: How Does Priestly Use the Character of Sheila to Deliver His Message to the Audience

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Saimah Anwar “An Inspector Calls”
How does Priestley use the character of Sheila Birling to deliver his message to the audience?

J.B Priestley wrote this play in 1945 a period after two appalling world wars- The Holocaust and the Atom Bomb. He set his play in 1912 when class and gender were what ruled society- along with money of course. Through his play Priestley encourages people to seize the opportunity the end of the war had given them to build a better, more caring society and put an end to the “Golden Age” Which Winston Churchill of the Conservative party favoured. However Priestley favoured Clement Attlee of the opposing party Labour; he thought Labour were more fair and equal and spoke the truth, Priestley thought many people had forgotten the truth, that the rich had all the power and the poor had nothing during the “Golden Age.” His play “An Inspector Calls” serves to remind people that the “Golden Age” was not as carefree as Churchill made out; in fact, it was the rich who held all the power over the poor. Society was ruled by money, class and gender! “An Inspector Calls” is based around “Everyman”- a morality play. The story of “Everyman” is that you should do good deeds throughout your life because friends, wealth and prosperity don’t go with you when you die, but your good deeds will! It is also about every mans journey to repent their sins, so they may pass into heaven. “An Inspector Calls” uses the inspector to portray the guilt and responsibility of each character where as “Everyman” uses death. An excellent saying which is said by the inspector, Symbolizes the moral of these two plays: “You can never escape your actions” The inspector’s main objective is to make the family realise what responsibilities they have and that their behaviour has an influence on others. Furthermore: sin, power balances, death, family life, wealth, class, responsibility and guilt are all important themes in “An Inspector Calls.” All these themes are portrayed throughout the play to show the audience what it was like in 1912- socially and morally. Sin is part of all our daily lives in today’s generation; the seven deadly sins which the different characters in “An Inspector Calls” are all guilty of are: Lust, sloth, envy, gluttony, avarice, pride and wealth. Sin is a key theme in “An Inspector Calls” as is repentance, this has religious connotations; the play was written after all at a time when people needed a lot of faith, after two world wars and at a time when nuclear arms were beginning to materialize. In “An Inspector Calls” JB Priestley uses dramatic devices such as lighting and setting to set the atmosphere of a play, for example at the start of the play the lighting is a pink light this portrays a sense of comfort, success and self- satisfaction, ultimately reflecting the characters’ moods and emotions of the celebration occurring. This could also be related to a phrase, “looking at life through rose-coloured spectacles,” Suggesting that the characters are idealists, their take on life being forever optimistic, therefore the characters' perception of what actually goes on in their lives is a extensive distance from reality, and what they truly admit to. At the significant moment of the Inspectors entrance, the lighting changes substantially, bringing upon his arrival a sudden change of tone. What was first a comfortable, intimate mood suddenly becomes harsh and informal, bringing an impression of exposure and a revelation of truth. This is a metaphor used to signify the Inspector shedding light on the lives and doings of the family. Like an interrogation, the harsh lighting represents the Inspector questioning the Characters, removing shadows and uncovering secrets. The use of the doorbell as a device portrays a key moment in the story, as it symbolizes the abrupt arrival of the Inspector. The ring of the doorbell disturbs the family’s festive evening and...
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