‘An Inspector Calls’ by J. B. Priestley
In Act One of ‘An Inspector Calls’, how does J. B. Priestley use dramatic devices to convey his concerns and ideas to members of the audience, as well as interest and involve them in the play?
In Act One of ‘An Inspector Calls’, J. B. Priestley uses several different dramatic techniques to voice his concerns, ideas and political message about socialism to the members of the audience. He uses characters, lighting, sounds, props, dramatic irony and juxtaposition to convey his ideas and the techniques used also create and maintain suspense which cause the audience to become more interested and involved in the play.
Although ‘An Inspector Calls’ can fall into the mystery, suspense, detective or family drama genre, it is overall a didactic play, as it is purposely written to teach a specific lesson or moral. It conveys a strong political message, and so it promotes the idea of socialism, as a society in which community and responsibility are central focuses because Priestley believed that community was non-existent in 1912 and that the world and its people needed to change as people were extremely egotistical in that period of time. The play was set in 1912, just before World War One. This was a time when there were many strikes, food shortages, political tension and community division and so every man kept himself to himself and wouldn’t take on any responsibilities other than his family. However the play was written and published in 1945, just after World War Two and so Priestley uses hindsight to show that the way forward is socialism, and he implies that in order to move forward and to rebuild a country, people have to work cooperatively and take on responsibility for each other. However, even though Priestley uses the play to convey his concerns and ideas, he also wants to entertain his audience as that is partially the overall purpose of a play. Priestley used Inspector Ghoul almost as an alter ego to convey his ideas and to teach them to the Birlings.
The play was written in 1945 but was set in 1912, as it allows for Priestley to use dramatic irony. He uses this technique to turn the audience against Mr Birling; an example of this would be when Mr Birling talks about the Titanic and boasts about how unsinkable it is, “the Titanic – she sails next week – forty six thousand eight hundred tons – forty six thousand eight hundred tons – New York in five days – and every luxury – and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”. The use of dramatic irony in the dialogue is used to ridicule Mr Birling and turn the audience against him as he talks with pomposity and arrogance which does become quite unbearable, because the audience know with hindsight that the Titanic had sunk and so it highlights his arrogance and ignorance as a character. Priestley purposely wants the audience to dislike Mr Birling because the Birling family household was an example of the Capitalist family that was common amongst the higher classes’ in1912. They had no care for other people and so he wants the audience to disagree with the views and opinions of Mr Birling and this was a way in which Priestley could get the audience to agree with his concerns and ideas which he conveys throughout the play. Also Priestley wants us to see that the Birling family are cold, distant people and how Capitalism has corrupted them as a family and how each individual only cares for their self.
As mentioned before, lighting is used as a dramatic device in the play. At the beginning of the scene the lighting is meant to be “pink and intimate” to show a warm and joyful atmosphere in the Birling household and so relates to the fact that the Birlings are celebrating the engagement of their daughter. However this could also be interpreted as though the Birlings are quite mysterious and aren’t in a bright light and so they could be hiding/covering something up. However as soon as the Inspector enters the room...
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