CONTEXT To understand the context of the play, it's helpful to know a little about J B Priestley's life and his political views during the early 20th century - a time of great global change. He wrote An Inspector Calls after the Second World War and like much of his work contains controversial, politically charged messages. Keen to pioneer a new 'morality' in politics, Priestley’s chief concerns involved social inequality in Britain and the need for nuclear disarmament. The characters we see as the curtain rises are not the same as those at the plays conclusion. The events of the evening change everyone, as well as their Play written in 1945 Play set in 1912 The First World War would start in two years. Birling's optimistic view that there would not be a war is completely wrong. The Second World War ended on 8 May 1945. People were recovering from nearly six years of warfare, danger and uncertainty.
There were strong Class distinctions had been distinctions between greatly reduced as a result the upper and lower of two world wars. classes.
Women were subservient to men. All a well off women could do was get married; a poor woman was seen as cheap labour. The ruling classes saw no need to change the status quo.
As a result of the wars, women had earned a more valued place in society.
There was a great desire for social change. Immediately after The Second World War, Clement Attlee's Labour Party won a landslide victory over Winston Churchill and the Conservatives.
expectations of the future. Inspector Goole is instrumental in disturbing the harmony; a purposeful, mysterious character who forces the characters to confront each other's social responsibility, snobbery and guilt. But is the inspector as genuine as he seems? All these changes take place because of the visit of Inspector Goole. But who is Inspector Goole? And who is the girl whose suicide he is apparently investigating?
Priestley deliberately set his play in 1912 because the date represented an era when all was very different from the time he was writing. In 1912, rigid class and gender boundaries seemed to ensure that nothing would change. Yet by 1945, most of those class and gender divisions had been breached. Priestley wanted to make the most of these changes. Through this play, he encourages people to seize the opportunity the end of the war had given them to build a better, more caring society.
During the 1930's Priestley became very concerned about the consequences of social inequality in Britain, and in 1942 Priestley and others set up a new political party, the Common Wealth Party, which argued for public ownership of land, greater democracy, and a new 'morality' in politics. The party merged with the Labour Party in 1945, but Priestley was influential in developing the idea of the Welfare State which began to be put into place at the end of the war. He believed that further world wars could only be avoided through cooperation and mutual respect between countries, and so became active in the early movement for a United Nations. And as the nuclear arms race between West and East began in the 1950s, he helped to found CND, hoping that Britain would set an example to the world by a moral act of nuclear disarmament.
Mr Arthur Birling
• • He is described at the start as a "heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties but rather provincial in his speech." He has worked his way up in the world and is proud of his achievements. He boasts about having been Mayor and tries (and fails) to impress the Inspector with his local standing and his influential friends. • However, he is aware of people who are his social superiors, which is why he shows off about the port to Gerald, "it's exactly the same port your father gets." He is proud that he is likely to be knighted, as that would move him even higher in social circles. • He claims the party "is one of the...