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“An inspector calls” is considered a mystery play and is intended to
force the audience to think about themselves and the society in which
they live. However, it is written in an entertaining way.
The play is set in 1912. This is two years before the First World War.
The play was written in 1945 at the end of the Second World War.
Priestly wanted society to learn from its mistakes. In 1912 there had
been rigid class divisions, women were considered inferior and working
conditions for the poor were often unbearable. At the end of the First
World War, life did not improve much.
Priestly was concerned that people should learn from the mistakes of
the First World War. He felt that people should learn to look after
After the Second World War there were signs of change-Priestly felt
that people should make the most of these changes and build a more
caring society and welfare state.
Mr Birling is a central character because he is the type of person
Priestly wanted to teach a lesson. He is too concerned about his
social standing, business interests and is totally selfish. He
believes a man has to “look after number one” and “make his own way”.
Mr Birling’s physical appearance is he is “heavy looking”; he is a man
in his 50’s with good manners but rather narrow minded in his speech.
He believes he is always right and every action him and his business
do are the best that could have been done.
He also believes that he works for the good of his family. He is heavy
looking because he would stand out in a crowd with a big grey beard
and I can imagine Mr Birling being overweight.
Mr Birling likes to be in control. He likes to think he is the
dominant force of the family. Maybe sometimes he is a bit too
controlling. Sometimes he can be very bossy: “Give us the port Edna”.
Often he acts like a snob. He thinks that men are superior to women
and thinks he and his family are upper class. He treats women like he
cannot trust them. Respect is something that he lacks to lower class
The characters behave to him differently. His wife and children
respect him and do not stand up to him: “just let me finish Eric!” The
inspector does not treat him the same at all. Just because he is upper
class the inspector speaks to him a normal person. This gives me the
impression that the inspector feels that everyone should be treated
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very surprised that someone has just questioned him. He is not used to
There is also dramatic irony included in the play. This is when the
audience know something that the characters don’t: The titanic, sails
next week……..and is unsinkable” obviously the audience know that this
is untrue because the titanic did indeed sink.
I think an audience in 1945 will respect Birling. A lot of people were
still in poverty and respected rich people. Nowadays an audience would
think he is a posh snob because most people have some money in this
day and age.
The doorbell rings when it does because Arthur Birling is telling Eric
and Gerald what to do because he knows best and he does everything
right. Then the doorbell rings and he is in double trouble because of
the murder. This contradicts what he has just said to the men: “Ive
earnt in the good hard school of experience that a man has to mind his
own business and look after himself and his own and”-.
The mood of the play all the way through is very tense. This is
because no-one knows what the others have done. In the room the mood
is quite sombre because everyone feels they have been lied to.
At the end of act one the audience feel intrigued because they want to
know what Birling and his family have done.
The audience change their opinion at the end of act one because
Birling was doing what was right. Eva Smith also did things she
shouldn’t have. The Birling family realise that their family is not as
perfect as they thought. The family also learnt that it doesn’t matter
how much money you have got because everyone is equal.