The following essay will question who the enigmatic inspector is and how J.B Priestly “the social critic”, incorporates dramatically effective devices into the play. I would like to begin the essay with some background information about priestly and why it is he decided to write this play. John Boynton Priestly was a socialist writer who used an inspector calls to convey his message of equality among all the classes; he had strong political views and was concerned about the inequality between different statuses in society.
Social Darwinism was widely practised all over the country and he felt it was wrong and unjustified. He was so concerned that he, along with others, set up a new political party called the commonwealth party. Priestly was a strong believer that future conflicts could only be avoided by mutual respect and understanding between the countries. Consequently, he became an active member of the early movement of the United Nations.
The play was written during the Edwardian era, also known as Belle poque -meaning beautiful era, when the British class system was at its most rigid. Coincidentally, it was at this time that socialism was beginning its rise which bought to attention the conditions of the poor and the status of women. It may have been due to Priestley’s potent socialist beliefs that the distinctions in class were given in such detail in the play. Moreover, writing it in 1945 but setting in 1912 meant that he could use gender and class as two controversial themes within the play. This enabled him to express a portrayal of what society was like before two wars had passed. Therefore, not only could he incorporate dramatic irony but also create characters that were flawed through ignorance of what the future holds, “the titanic- she sails next week and is absolutely unsinkable”.
It is also due to the variation in time that he allowed the audience to know that the status quo had changed, thus ensuring that spectators felt more involved by possessing information the characters do not. Armed with hindsight, the audience can now see through faade’s, disprove predictions and realise that some characters are flawed from the very beginning of the play, “you’ll hear some people say that war is inevitable, to that I say- fiddlesticks”. I have already established that Priestley’s own political opinions have influenced the play, and so I feel it would also be plausible for me to believe that the fictitious city of Brumley may have been influenced by the Northern City of Bradford where Priestley grew up. “An industrial city in the North Midlands”.
Considering that Priestly has influenced the play with his views and memories, he may have also used other sources to inspire his plot, like using the name Eva Smith as the victim of the play. Could this character have been based upon Eve, the first women god created? If so, then Priestley’s intention may have used her to represent all of the women in her class, or it may have been another ploy to incorporate irony by not only using a woman as the victim, but using a woman who gave into temptation.
Another interesting dramatic device may well be the recurrence of the message of unity within community. Throughout the play Priestly emphasizes the importance of interdependence in society “we do not live alone; we are members of one body. We are responsible fore each other”. I feel this is another message to urge the audience to understand what the end of a war had taught them. It may have been intended as a warning of what the refusal of learning from our mistakes would prevent.
Learning is a key theme of the play as the plot evolves in the sense that it is continuous and grows from ignorance and arrogance to realisation and shame. The way in which this is achieved is that the play progresses by everything taking place within the same day, during the same time frame and conforms to the same plot. A continuous plot also means that not too much attention is diverged from the message that the play is trying to convey. This structure could be regarded as dramatically ironic because as the plot progresses, the tension builds which all leads up to the inspector final speech.
From the very beginning of the play we can see that the Birling’s are members of the upper class as the stage direction include a maid. We can also see that Gerald is of a high status too, as his mother and father have the title; “Sir and Lady Croft”. It is also noted in the stage directions that Mrs Birling is “socially superior” to her husband so it becomes evident that status can be changed through marriage.
The stage is naturalistic as Birling is enjoying a meal with his soon-to-be son in law Gerald Croft and his family. The atmosphere is calm and serene although there is a hint of hostility as Gerald’s parents are not present at the engagement meal. When I say that the stage is naturalistic I implied that everything is very typical, the Birling household is a representation of what the ordinary middle class family of that era would look like “substantial and heavily comfortable”.