Inspector Calls By J. B. Priestley was written post World War II, but set in the early 1910’s. This was a time of great innovation, with the “Titanic” making its voyage to New York, and trouble in the Balkans that was about to spread throughout Europe. Britain at this time was booming after the effects of the Industrial revolution. With this came social ordering, and a difference between the gentry and working class of society. The top 3 percent of the country belong to the Upper class and they contained a staggering 98 percent of the country’s wealth.
The Birling family are members of the Upper part of society, Mrs Birling being born into it, and Mr Birling achieving it through business. They are leading there lives the way they want to lead them, ignorant to the poverty and suffering of the working class, and indulge in their superficial nonsense they find so important. This is why the Inspector calls in on the family, and finally opens their eyes to the reality of the world, and their role within it.
These two chosen extracts are taken from the ends of Act 1 and Act 2. They both have vital roles in the revelation in the death of this mysterious character Eva Smith, both creating a dramatic climax to the end of each act. In Act 1 we see the introduction of all the characters, and an understanding of their personalities. This extract is taken just after the Inspector has made Mr Birling and then Sheila reveal their involvement in the downfall of Eva’s life. Sheila has just entered the scene after storming off crying.
She is upset and wallowing in her own self pity due to her role in having Eva sacked from her job at Millwood’s due to her own jealousy and subsequently having a role in Eva’s suicide. She is trying to convince herself she hasn’t done it before, and is quite selfishly thinking about herself, and how this has damaged her life instead of the life supposedly Eva Smith has lost, “I’ve noticed them giving me a sort of look sometimes at Milwoods”, the repetitive use of “I”, “I’ve”, and “I’ll” all back up this spoilt selfish response.
Within these extracts Priestly creates dramatic tension through verbal communication and non verbal communication through the stage direction in the book and the presentation in the stage production. In this extract the way in which the lines are delivered by the character is an important part of telling the story. After Sheila’s wallowing, the Inspector cuts in sharply with the harsh reality the characters have got to face.
He repeats this throughout the play, continuously trying to place their lives in reality and present the consequences of their actions. He uses harsh phrases such as “I was looking at that dead girl”, to make it real. He takes charge of the situation, and changes the focus of Sheila’s thoughts, and reiterates the style Sheila was talking in, and by him using his personal and possessive pronouns, “I said to myself”, “I’m here”, “I’m not going until I know what happened”, it redirects the focus to the death of Eva, where it should be.
The Inspector retells the story up to its current stage, everything the reader knows up to that point, and then suddenly reveals the next instalment of the mystery by mentioning the name “Daisy Renton”. Not only does this create interest for the reader, but the sudden instinctive reaction of Gerald and his startled question, “what?” suddenly introduces the next character to be interrogated by the Inspector. Gerald is actually shocked, and this is presented in his tone of voice, and his body actions. He may suddenly stand with such surprise, a sudden change in body movement draws in the audiences eyes, and his behaviour is from then on closely watched.
The Inspector then in contrast is quite calm and collective, and repeats “steadily” the fact that Eva Smith changed her name to Daisy Renton. This suggests that he is biding time to not only increase the suspense, but that he is acting steadily so he can keep a firm watch over Gerald’s reaction to the name. Gerald’s hesitation and lack of immediate honesty immediately suggests he has an involvement with this girl, and the need for a drink suggests a deep involvement and a great unwillingness to reveal it. This suspense builds the tension between the characters on stage, the fact that the Inspector knows, and Sheila doesn’t, creates a barrier between him and his fiancï¿½, and the lack of honesty within their relationship. Sheila’s watchful eye suggests her lack of trust and awareness of what is to come, “SHEILA merely nods, still staring at him”.