Analyse the dramatic qualities of Mr. Birling’s speech on pages 9/10 of Act1 of ‘An Inspector Calls’ and the Inspector Goole’s speech on page 56 of Act 3. Your analysis must me related to the dramatic methods Priestly uses and their impact on the audience then and now. You must also show an understanding of the historical and social context of the play and demonstrate how this might help shape the audience responses to the key scenes and to the play as a whole.
‘An Inspector Calls’ is a heart-rending, tragic play written by the author JB Priestly in 1944 but set in 1912. Priestly deliberately set this play in 1912, because in this period, society was very different from the society he was writing about. Priestly was a socialist himself, he wanted to make a change between the divided classes. The play covers a variety of themes, including socialism, capitalism and responsibility.
The two main characters in this play who show the idea of socialism and capitalism are Mr. Birling and the Inspector. The speech on page 9-10 of the play which is said by Mr. Birling shows the capitalist attitude. In this scene the Birling family are celebrating the engagement of Sheila Birling to a well- educated Gerald Croft and this wedding will result in two very successful businesses coming together. Mr. Birling’s character is depicted as an obnoxious, stubborn and self obsessed man. Mr Birling comes across as a show-off in the first act where the engagement scene is commencing.
Firstly he gets rid of the women in the room and before he gives his famous lecture on how he feels about the community and socialists including HG Wells and George Bernard Shaw, Mr Birling sits and talks in a formal manner with his back straight and a class of wine in his hand. Priestly in this scene shows how serious Mr. Birling is and how powerful he feels. Priestly shows this seriousness through the way Mr. Birling speaks; there are a lot of dashes in his speech, allowing Mr. Birling to stop and pause to think. Every now and again Mr.
Birling looks at his son and son in law to see if they are paying attention. Mr. Birling puts forward his views on how he believes a man should look after himself. Arthur Birling is portrayed as a “Heavy looking man, rather portentous in his middle fifties but rather provincial in his speech. ” He believes “When things are so much easier a man has to make his own way; has to look after himself and his family too of course. ” Mr. Birling is very patronizing when talking to “you youngsters. ” He intimidates Gerald and Eric Mr. Birling is one of those people who like to talk a lot.
His conversation starts to tell us that he’s rather proud of his achievements, and success, this is portrayed throughout the whole of the play. He boasts about having been the mayor and that he might be on his way to having a knighthood. “I might find my way into the next Honours list’. Furthermore, Mr Birling is also very proud of his country, he is optimistic about the future. “I’m talking as a hard-headed, practical man of business…. I say there isn’t a chance of war… Look at the progress were making… we’ll have aeroplanes that will be able to take us anywhere…
The Titanic she sails next week… absolutely unsinkable. ” Here the Audience would begin to doubt his judgement, because the audience watching would already know that the Titanic was a tragedy and that two world wars occurred. Priestly uses dramatic irony to show Mr Birling as an unwise man and this shows how very narrow minded Mr. Birling is. Gerald Croft and Eric Birling his son are listening to this lecture. Mr Birling shows that he has no consideration for the poor; he thinks everybody should just look after themselves.
He ridicules those who disagree with him and those who act “As if we were all mixed up like bees in a hive- community and all that nonsense”. Mr. Birling seems a cold hearted businessman who only cares about money and as long as he and his family are okay there is nothing to worry about. Mr Birling also clearly states that he doesn’t like the socialists who are around. He refers to them as ‘cranks’, people who do all the talking. The audience will probably be thinking if they agree with Mr. Birling at this moment or not.
I personally think that if a younger audience was to watch this play they would agree with Mr. Birling because today society is more or less as Mr. Birling describes. However if we look at an audience who are older and grew up at that time, they will more or less disagree with what Mr. Birling says, as society in those times were hard and people cared about each other and left more of a community spirit. Violence was much less prolific and therefore people enjoyed other people’s company. Young children were allowed out without their parents worrying about them being kidnapped or raped or even murdered.
As soon as Mr Birling has said “a man has to look after himself and his own family” there is a knock at the door, the timing is crucial. The Inspector is shown as a very mysterious and odd like figure throughout the whole play. The Inspector has many messages to share throughout his last speech. He gives the message that ‘one Eva smith has gone- but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths. ‘ Here the Inspector is telling the Birling family that although one Eva Smith has died, there are plenty more Eva Smiths and John Smiths in the world.
In this speech Priestly is referring to “John” as Adam. The children of Adam and Eve are everybody on Earth, and in the play one of the children of Adam and Eve has committed suicide due to others being self centred. The Inspector starts off his speech with ‘but remember this. ‘ He has a calmer way of delivering out his speech than Mr. Birling did; also earlier Inspector Goole is described on his entrance as having “an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness. He is a man in his fifties, dressed in a plain darkish suit. He speaks carefully and weightily.
” The audience would know straight away that he will have different views to those of Arthur Birling. The Inspector and Mr. Birling are contrasting characters. “We don’t live alone. We are members of one body” says the Inspector. Here Priestly is saying the exact opposite to what Mr. Birling considered as ‘LIFE’, demonstrating Priestley’s own views of socialism. I think that the Inspector is more of a God like figure as he has Christian views ‘and I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish’.
This quote is warning that if we do not learn charity in this life now, we will pay for in our afterlife. The inspector could be Priestly who was a socialist and was a strong Christian, or the inspector could be speakers for God or the voice of God or maybe a ghost. We are not told but personally I think that it’s Priestly because he had very strong views on socialism. I think that the audience must have been affected by this speech, as in the year 1944 when this play was written the audience would usually be made up of upper class or middle class people, as poor people would not be able to afford to watch the play.
I think that people would be more like Mr. Birling and at this point they would have mixed emotions as the play sets out to teach them much. The fact that if we don’t care about each other or have any responsibility for each other, then life is going to be hard and many more people will die due to the selfishness of some people who have more money but who are not prepared to share. Also that if you are greedy in your life you will be punished by God in your after life than enough and this is another message which is given in the play.
Furthermore, I think that the theme of responsibility is clearly shown, as every character is made to feel the death of Eva Smith in some way. I think that it affects Sheila and Eric more who feel quite responsible. ‘Just remember- it was you who killed Eva Smith. ‘ The inspector points his finger at everybody and wants them all to feel responsible for the death of Eva Smith. Responsibility is one of the main themes. I personally think this is emphasised thorough the Inspector’s last speech. ‘..
With their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives … We are members of one body. We are responsible for EACH OTHER’ in this quote taken from the Inspector’s speech on page 56 it shows that responsibility is the only way to make the world a happier place. I think that Priestly has chosen to set his play in the year 1912 before the Titanic had sunk to show how VERY foolish Mr. Birling is. When Priestly wrote this play it was after the end of the Second World War.
55 million people died and still the world carried on the way it had been before the wars. This is why I think Priestly has set the play in an earlier time to show the audience that even after the deaths of many innocent people; we still refuse to change or to take responsibility for each other. This play was first performed in a theatre in Moscow, as it couldn’t be performed in London at that time because of the effects of the Blitz. I think that Priestly did this on purpose as then the audience could see in to the future and see a more positive society.
In my opinion I think that the play has a message for everybody. That being responsible will not only make you a better person as a whole and give you a peaceful afterlife but will also help all the Eva and John Smiths in the world, because “there are many millions and millions and millions of people like John and Eva” as the Inspector stated on page 56/57 of the play “An Inspector Calls”. An Inspector calls is about community and responsibility, with many themes such as morality, capitalism, responsibility and socialism.