“An inspector calls” was written by J.B Priestly in 1945, it is set in the year 1912 but was first performed a year after it was written in 1946. Priestly cleverly devised his characters and has thought a lot about their reactions. The inspector serves many purposes and has a variety of roles in the play. Again, the play is set in 1912 so the characters are form the year 1912, there is a big difference between the way the characters act and think and the way the audience do. This adds to the dramatic irony because the people in the audience know a lot more about the characters futures than the characters themselves. This adds comedy and humour to the play.
“An inspector calls” is written on two levels; firstly the play was written to entertain. This is the more basic level. The play is of the mystery genre. A major role of the inspector is to add intrigue and suspense to the play. The inspector is a tall eerie character; this makes the audience think that he is powerful and mysterious. Priestly says the inspector’s character gives: “An impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness” His name “Inspector GOOLE” makes the audience think of ghoul- an eerie creature, which is related to the mystery genre. The use of lightening helps to add more mystery to the inspector’s character. The light before the inspector arrives is pink and intimate but when the inspector enters the lights change to brighter and harder colours. The changes of light represent the changes of mood. The inspector’s character is in his fifties and speaks in a careful, considered way. He dresses in plain dark clothes. All of these create the impression of strength and determination.
The second level that “An inspector calls” is written on is the underlying level. This is the harder level. Priestly has socialist views; he uses this underlying level to portray them. In a way the play is a political battle between capitalist and socialist views. I believe that in act one of the play Priestly makes the inspector act, as he would have himself. Birling has capitalist views. I believe that Priestly tries to make Birling out to be the enemy- in order to build on his socialist views. The evidence for this is when Birling talks of his employees as just cheap labour and also when he dismisses Eva for no apparent reason.
The inspector questions the conscience of all of the characters. All of the characters react different ways. Sheila and Eric both react emotionally to the news about Eva. Sheila’s manner changes during the play; at first she defends her family; “What do you mean by saying that? You talk as if we were responsible…” A few lines on she is apologising for the hardships Eva had experienced. Sheila is open and honest about her involvement with Eva. She accepts responsibility for her actions and expresses her sincere regret. The audience feel that Sheila’s regrets are genuine when she says; “It’s the only time I’ve ever done anything like that, and I’ll never, never do it again to anybody”.
Gerald is upset and regrets his involvement with Eva. But I believe this is only because he wishes to get back with Sheila after. Sybil and Birling refuse to accept responsibility for the death of the girl. In general, the younger members of the family throughout the play show more sympathy and concern for others than the older generation do. Priestly is trying to say that if we are going to change society it will have to be with the efforts of the younger generation. In the play the older generation seem to be unwilling and don’t seem to care about people less fortunate.
Birling is questioned first by the inspector. The inspector asks questions like; ” I think you remember Eva Smith now, don’t you Mr Birling?” These question Birling’s conscience. After the inspector finishes questioning Birling he questions Sheila, Gerald, Eric and finally Sybil. By the end of the questioning most of the characters are moved in some way- apart from Birling who in particular does not change his stance. All of the characters have unanswered questions that they wish to ask the inspector. This adds more mystery to the play and emphasises the build up of tension. When the questioning has ended, the inspector has changed the way that Eric and Sheila think and see life. They are both upset and about what has happened and regret their part in the suicide very much.
The inspector talks to the family very formally. He fixes them with his eye in a very disarming way before he speaks. This sparks suspicion in the family- mainly from Eric and Birling. Birling questions the inspector- this shows that he does not trust him. At this point the family are not sure if the inspector is a real inspector or not. Throughout the play the characters create dramatic irony without knowing they have. Priestly uses dramatic irony effectively. Birling says that; “There isn’t a chance of war. The world is developing so fast that it’ll make war impossible”- this statement makes Birling look an idiot because two years later the Great War had begun.
Also Birling quotes; “That in a year or two we’ll have aeroplanes that will be able to go anywhere”Birling tals of “the titanic” and says that it is; “Unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”- the titanic set sail later that year and sank on her debut voyage to America. Birling talks to the “three young people”- referring to Eric, Sheila and Gerald and suggests to them that in; “In 1940 you may be having a party and you’ll be living in a world that’ll have forgotten all these Capital versus labour agitations and all these silly little war scares”- in 1940 world war two had begun. This is more dramatic irony.