An Inspector Calls – Theatre Essay
Introduction: This superbly crafted play by J.B Priestly ‘An Inspector Calls’ was written in 1945 and set in 1912. The play was written at the time of the Second World War. The specific setting is as the Titanic is to set sail for America. The world was also thinking about going to war with Germany for the first time. Life for the poor in 1912 was very insecure.
There was a lack of a Welfare State, which didn’t help the poor. For women it was almost the same they were treated like they did not have a mind of their own and the dominant males controlled them. An example of this from the play is, “Oh- Gerald- you’ve got it- is it the one you wanted me to have?” (Act 1, P. 4)
The play was structured well because it had dramatic and thrilling cliff-hangers one example is at the very end of the play when Mr. Birling receives a phone call form the hospital and he says, “That was the police. A girl had just died on her way to the infirmary- after swallowing some disinfectant”. The play was also set in real time like the classical Greek theatre, they believed a play should be set in real time.
The several themes in the play are: treatment of women, love, jealousy, mystery/secrecy and sinning money/capitalism. To get these themes across to the world and show how 1912 was like in society then was Priestley’s purpose in writing this play.
Section One- The Dinner Party:
The opening scene of the play is in the dining room of the Birling’s house in Brumley, an industrial city in the North Midlands. An evening in spring 1912. Mr. Birling, Mrs. Birling, Sheila, Gerald and Eric are sitting around the dinning table discussing about Gerald and Sheila’s engagement. This suggests that the kind of lifestyle they have is very grand and that they are a close family.
When the inspector arrives it is made dramatic by Mr. Birling asking questions about him and what he’s doing here, “An Inspector? What kind of inspector?” (Act 1, P.7) When the inspector enters the room his presents creates an impression of largeness and toughness.
He also speaks carefully, and looks hard at the person he addresses which gives an uneasy feeling.
The inspector shows a photograph of a young lady to everyone but Eric and Gerald. This builds the tension up a great deal because we now know that the photograph has something to do with them, but we don’t know quite what.
Section Two – Arthur Birling
At the dinner party, Arthur Birling talks about how the Titanic is unsinkable and that Britain won’t go to war with Germany. He also talks about his knighthood, “I gather there’s a very good chance of a knighthood”. (Act 1, P.6) This reveals he is a proud and negative character of the play.
Mr. Birling sackedEva Smith because she was one of the ringleaders of a strike over their pay. He shows no guilt on sacking Eva, the audience will respond by thinking he is insensitive and only cares about making money for himself. Arthur thinks his position is a high, powerful one because he is very bossy and thinks he can take charge of everybody else.
Section Three- Shelia Birling
Shelia feels a lot of remorse for Eva Smith being sacked she says, “I think it was a mean thing to do. Perhaps that spoiled everything for her.” (Act 1, P.14) Meaning that if Mr. Birling hadn’t of sacked her then she would have not committed suicide.
The audience should respond better to Sheila because she is more considerate and will think she is the nice character of the play.
At the end of Act One Sheila and Gerald arguing builds up the tension by Gerald begging Shelia not to tell the inspector what he did and Shelia tells him and laughs, “You fool- he knows…”. (Act 1, P.19) Meaning the inspector already knows what he did and keeps the audience in suspense making the audience wonder if he knows. More tension is added when she leaves the room and the door slowly opens and the inspector appears.
Section Four- Gerald Croft
When Gerald dumped Daisy by saying he is engaged to another woman and leaving her, the audience feels that it helped.
The audience might think he treated Daisy badly because he went behind her back by saying he wasn’t seeing any other women.
Section Five- Sybil Birling
She is very concerned and apprehensive to people in poverty because she strongly thinks it is very wrong.
The tension is built up at the end of Act Two by the inspector when he says he is waiting “to do my duty” (Act 2, P.35) and they are thinking what he is going to do. Eric enters and Mrs. Birling says, “Look inspector, you’re not trying to tell us that- that my boy- is mixed up in this-?” This makes us think that Eric might have something to do with this.
Yes I think that priestly is making a point and all the characters in the play are to blame.
At the end of the play there is a phone call of a suicide. I think Priestly put it in to add a final suspension to the play. And it makes a very good cliff-hanger. Also to make us ask ourselves questions, and wonder what might happen next, so he’s leaving it to out imaginations. Questions like “Who was Inspector Goole? How did he know about the suicide?”