J.B. Priestley's "An Inspector Calls"

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J.B. Priestley's "An Inspector Calls" The play is set at the turn of the century and is centred on a wealthy family who are successful and prosperous at a time of poverty for many. They are oblivious to this, and given the fact that the play was written many years later the play contains much irony about the future, but not only does it make it question our history but also our future. The inspector is portrayed as being the champion of socialism, he is there to symbolise Priestley’s views. Essentially Priestley uses biased representations of capitalism, and socialism, reflected with Birling, and inspector Goole, to prepare the reader for his conclusive message. Priestley conveys this message of responsibility towards others in many ways throughout the play. He also criticises his views on the society at the time by using each of the other characters as dramatic devices to, symbolically, convey his message. Priestley was writing in 1945, while the play was set in 1912 even before the war. Priestley introduces the play right after the world war hence reminding the readers and viewers of the situations before the war. He compares these social situations of 1912 with 1945. His message contrasts these two periods of time with the help of inspector Goole. During 1912 there were a lot of differentiation between the upper and lower class, and very few belonged in between. He uses the inspector indirectly to point out the serious flaws in society which allowed disadvantaged Eva Smith to exist alongside the privileged Birlings. Due to the war the class society had been nearly wiped out. During 1912 almost every lower class family lived in houses rented from private landlords, very few had their own houses. Arthur Birling is shown in 1912 predicting that there will be no war, “I say there will be no war”, and this prediction was obviously wrong. This technique was used so that Priestley can again give comparisons between the two time periods. In 1945 Priestley tries to make the unaware percentage of people aware of the cruel society that existed in 1912. He shows that the war mixed people up, it broke down the class and occupational barriers that existed before and that a value was given to all men and women, therefore, in that sense there was equality. In the play the inspector is portrayed as an enigmatic figure, never revealing his true identity. His dramatic power lies in this, where revealing his identity would consequently affect the tension and suspense that is built up as the story progresses. To do this effectively, Priestley leaves several interpretations on the identity of the inspector.

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