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The Dramatic Methods Used by Priestley to Convey the Social and Moral Message of An Inspector Calls

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The Dramatic Methods Used by Priestley to Convey the Social and Moral Message of An Inspector Calls

J.B Priestley’s play “An Inspector Calls” is a medium to express his

thoughts and feelings towards socialism. Priestley was known to

sympathise with the plight of the lower classes. He was involved in

many socialist movements, and during 1934, wrote a book called

“English Journey.” This outlined Britain's complacency during the

prosperous Industrial Revolution, which had led to the slump of the

First World War.

During the play, Priestley portrayed these views in the form of the

Inspector. He uses the Inspector to act as a mouthpiece, displaying

and uncovering the lying and deceitfulness of the Birling family and

showing the moral and social message of the play. He conveys that the

actions and the thoughtlessness of the upper classes have

repercussions on the lives of the lower classes.

The play is set in the 1912, but was first performed in 1946.

Priestley used this to his advantage by creating a plateau to base

many examples of dramatic irony on. He could do this because of the

time settings. The play relies greatly on the audiences’

foreknowledge.

An early example of dramatic irony is in one of Mr Birling’s speeches.

Mr Birling is a self-made and a self admitted “hard-headed

businessman.” He lives comfortably as part of high/middle class, which

during the era is obviously a capitalist status. In the speech he

declares, “The world is developing so fast that it’ll make the war

impossible.” Already that gives us an insight to how invalid anything

he says is. It makes Mr Birling and his views of capitalism sound

uneducated ...

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...e play is successful at conveying the moral and social message. It

leaves you thinking about the gaps in class and status still are

intact today. I have always believed that status should be earned

instead of inheriting it, as Sheila and Eric did. However this view

was one sided and in today's modern world there is no right or wrong

side to be on, if it be capitalist or socialist. This is why I believe

that in parts the play is too didactic, and I feel J.D Priestley is

preaching to me. This is because the play “An Inspector Calls” was not

written primarily for enjoyment, but Priestley’s main agenda was to

show the moral and social message behind it. This is not what, in my

opinion a play should be. On the other hand, the novel has opened up

my eyes to the difficult debate and tensions between socialism and

capitalism.
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