In act one of ‘An Inspector Calls ‘how does J.B.Preistly use dramatic devices to convey his concerns and ideas to the members of the audience, as well as interest and involve them in the play? The play ‘An Inspector Calls’ was written by J.B. Priestly in 1945, which was just at the end of the Second World War. The play is set in 1912, just before the First World War. The play was set at this particular time so that J.B. Priestley could get his message across more clearly. The message was that we all have to take responsibility for our actions, which can have consequences. John Boynton Priestly was born in Bradford on the 13th of September f1884; he was a writer who wrote many famous novels and plays such as; Dangerous Corner (1932), Time and the Conways (1937), When We Are Married (1938) and An Inspector Calls (1947).
An Inspector Calls is about a higher class family, ‘The Birlings’ and their relationship with a young woman called Eva Smith. The Birlings are from Brumley, the head of the house Mr. Birling is successful businessman and the owner of a large factory, where he employs hundreds of workers. The story picks up at scene where the family are celebrating the engagement of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft (a man with a higher status than Mr. Birling), there’s a knock at the door and an Inspector comes in and interrogates each member of the family, including Gerald, about a suicide of a young lady, Eva Smith. By the end of the play we find that they all have a confession to make and turn out to all have some involvement with Eva Smith, or Daisy Renton as she later called herself.
At the start of the play I think Mr. Birling is described as a “heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties but rather provincial in his speech,” And comes across as quite a controlling character. It is obvious how he tries to impress everybody, especially Gerald, when he says, “you ought to like this port, Gerald. As a matter of fact, Finchley told me it’s exactly the same port as your father gets from him.” Mr. Birling mentions that the party is gone of the happiest nights of his life, and this suggests that it’s not only Sheila he his happy for but himself as he will be able to have a stronger connection with the ‘Croft’ family.
At the beginning of this play, it seems as if everything Mr. Birling says and does is to impress other people and to increase his popularity which he hopes will get him a better status and more respected, which in turn would result in him gaining more money and socially well-off. This means that Mr. Birling is a capitalist. He also seems very optimistic about what the future holds and rejects the idea of war as an “impossibility”, which we now know that war did happen. And this makes us wander if his judgment is wrong about war then what else could he be wrong about?
When the Inspector arrives, Mr. Birling tries to intimidate him when he says, “I was… Lord Mayor two years ago… so I know the Brumley police officers pretty well- and I thought I’d never seen you before.” After the Inspector starts asking questions to Mr. Birling, he gets quite defensive and although he may realize that he had some impact on Eva’s suicide, he tries to justify his decision to sack Eva, and almost talks himself into believing he is innocent. Mr. Birling is guilty of pride which is one of the seven deadly sins- he is always striving to be better and more important than other people. At the beginning, he is telling Gerald that he could be in line for a knighthood, as long as nothing goes wrong, and this, ironically, is when the Inspector enters. Mr. Birling also takes pride in his previous titles, such as ‘Lord Mayor’ and he don’t hesitate in telling the inspector that he is currently on the bench.
Throughout the play, there are quite a lot of dramatic devices and irony used. Near the beginning of the play, Mr. Birling is talking about war, and as I mentioned, thinks it’s an impossibility as there is “everything to lose and nothing to gain”. Whilst he is still talking about war, he says, “in a year or two we’ll have aeroplanes that will be able to go anywhere”, and as we know now, that statement is true. Mr. Birling then talks about the Titanic and how he stresses his opinion that it is unsinkable when he says, “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”.
J.B Priestley uses the character of Mr. Birling to get across the idea of dramatic Irony. This could be to show that Mr. Birling comes across as an educated man, but he is quite narrow minded and he has his own picture in his head of a perfect world and how he believes the world will turn out. He also sounds quite confident in the way he thinks the future is set in concrete, which might give a false impression of himself to the other characters, of an intelligent man who knows everything. And what J.B Priestley tries to tell us is that just because someone is rich and of high class, it doesn’t mean they know everything, no one does. Characters such as Sheila and Eric could be easily lead into having the same views of the world as Mr. Birling, because they are young and easily influenced.
The dramatic Irony used in this play shows us that it is set in a time where they weren’t very educated in technology, and it seems like the media had a large part to play in influencing the public to believe everything they heard, as television and radio broadcasts. At the start of the play Mrs. Birling is described as “about fifty, a rather cold woman and her husband’s social superior.” She has quite a dominant role and corrects Mr. Birling when she says, “Arthur, you’re not suppose to say such things.”
This shows that she gets embarrassed when Mr. Birling makes the social joke of praising the cook, in front of Gerald. She talks to Sheila and Eric in a patronising way and talks to them as if they are still children. She shows quite a lot of snobbery and pride in herself (which is also a deadly sin) when she says, “you know of course that my husband was Lord Mayor only 2 years ago and that he’s still a magistrate…”. She knows that she is socially better than other people therefore exploits it.
When Mrs. Birling first meets the Inspector, she seems to be quite calm and doesn’t show a lot of respect towards him by trying to intimidate him and then lies to him by saying she doesn’t recognize to person in the photograph. She lets him know that she doesn’t have anything to hide and she feels innocent. She says, “We’ll be glad to tell you everything you want to know, I don’t think we can help you much.” Mrs. Birling also seems quite curious about the Inspector when she tells him that she thinks he has made a big impression on Sheila.