J.B. Priestly wrote an Inspector calls in 1945; it is, in my opinion a very impressive and influential piece of writing. In my essay I aim to explain how J.B. Priestly conveys his message in this play and I hope to back my statements up with evidence from the text. I feel, though, that to fully understand the text then first you need to know about the author so I will start with a short summarisation about J.B. Priestly.
J.B. Priestly was born in 1894. From a very young age Priestly knew he wanted to be a writer but chose to take a different path rather than going to university as he believed he would learn more about the world away from study halls and lectures. Due to this choice it is safe to assume that J.B. Priestlys work is filled with real world experience and the views he portrays throughout the text of An Inspector Calls have been learned through personal experience rather than being told by others, as such his work is valuable and still relevant as it provides an insight into the minds of not only J.B. Priestly but of people of the time. After the 1st World War began Priestly joined the infantry.
After the First World War had started Preistly joined the infantry and was almost killed on many occasions. His wartime experiences affected him greatly; his writing was greatly influenced by it. Throughout the play J.B. Priestly portrays a strong anti-war message and tried to change society’s attitudes towards it, this is most likely due to his own experiences. Once the war was finished he got a degree from Cambridge University, he then moved to London to work as a freelance writer. He wrote over 50 plays and a lot of his work was groundbreaking and controversial, they included new ideas about parallel universes and strong political views. J.B. Priestly died in 1984.
He was a socialist. An interesting fact about J.B. Priestly was that he actually turned down a knighthood, in the play the character of Mr. Birling is desperate to gain a knighthood, that particular character is a representation of capitalism and Britain. The fact that Priestly turned down a knight hood shows his politics and lack of enthusiasm and patriotism for the British government. As the play was strongly political this is important, Priestly used the play to help change Britain into a place more of his own politics and ideas by using it as propaganda.
The play itself is centred on a family off well off people enjoying a cosy dinner to celebrate one of them becoming engaged. A police Inspector named Inspector Goole promptly arrives and shatters this cosy scene as his interrogation soon shows that each of these well of people have a secret which played a part in the suicide of this young working class girl. This plot obviously leaves plenty of room for interpretation and the characters and settings of the play give it an even deeper meaning that leaves much room for interpretation by learned students of the English language such as me.
The language used in the play by the Birling’s is pompous and makes them seem as thought they think they are better than everyone else. This would not endear them to the audience, as the play is socialist and aimed towards working class people. Mrs Birling constantly uses the I form to make herself seem more important even when the Inspector is revealing her involvement in the case, this makes her seem stupid and stubborn and does not endear her to the audience.
There is a strong political message throughout the play. J.B. Priestly was a socialist and so believed that it was the job of the upper classes to look after and look out for the lower classes. He seems to have used many devices in the play to show his political views. One way is through his characters. He seems to have used Mr Birling to represent capitalism and he shows how he supports socialism by making Mr. Birling seem stupid and causing the audience to disagree with him, for example in his speech where he says: “the titanic- she sails next week- forty-six thousand eight hundred tons- New York in five days- and every luxury- and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable” the audience know the Titanic will sink and as Mr Birling says this it makes him a disagreeable character and makes him seem stupid. If it were said that he represents capitalism then it would make sense to say that it makes capitalism seem stupid.
The theme of politics stretches right throughout the play. The Inspectors battle with Mr Birling is symbolic of a battle between capitalism and socialism/communism. Even though the Inspector manages to show them that they all played a part in the death of Eva Smith most of them still refuse to accept any responsibility and don’t change they’re ways. I feel that the final phone call is a final reminder that capitalism is wrong and supporting it is wrong.