In the play ‘An inspector calls’ by JB priestly, there are a range of dramatic devices used, you can see foreshadowing; where the characters hint at things that you see or learn later. There are the entrances and exit; the dramatic ways that these are used. Also the climatic curtain is used, leaving the readers on a cliff hanger. And finally dramatic irony and denouement are used.
All these dramatic devices add up to a brilliant play, about a family who are having a quite night in, when they are disturbed at the dinner table, by a police inspector directing an inquiry on a girl’s suicide, and as the story unravels we learn about each characters part to play. This play contains some early foreshadowing from the three characters, Eric, Gerald and Sheila. This is where there are little things that hint at important information to come later in the play. We do not however see any foreshadowing from Mr or Mrs Birling.
Near the beginning of the play we learn that Eric has a drinking problem when it says, “ERIC suddenly guffaws” then Sheila says, “Now – what’s the joke” and Eric replies, “I don’t know – really. Suddenly I felt I just had to laugh. ” (page3) This shows that Eric was drunk at the time, and hinted at him having a drinking problem, which later led to him having a relationship with Eva Smith, which was mostly drink related. We also see that Gerald may have been sneaking around with someone else when Sheila says, “Yes – except for all last summer, when you never came near me, and I wondered what had happened to you.
To which Gerald replied, “As I’ve told you – I was awfully busy at the works all that time. ” (Page3) We later learn that he was having a relationship with Daisy Renton, who is the same person as Eva Smith. Finally we learn that Sheila has a bad temper when Eric says, “She’s got a nasty temper sometimes… ” (Page5) This is a crucial point, as her temper plays an important part later in the play. Throughout the play the author, JB Priestly uses entrances and exits to dramatically make characters enter or leave scenes. The first entrance (page10) is the inspectors.
My first impression of the inspector when he first arrives in the book, is that of a very serious and clever man, a man that takes his work very seriously, we see an example of this when Mr. Birling says, “Have a glass of port – or a little whiskey? ” and the Inspector replies, “No, thank you, Mr. Birling. I’m on duty. ” This shows that he abides by the rules or his work. I think that the other characters where a little bit surprised at the news of an inspector arriving, as one would be if an unexpected inspector arrived.
This is shown when Mr. Birling says, “An inspector? What kind of inspector? ” Sheila makes the next dramatic move (page21), this time an exit, when she runs out of the room after seeing a picture of Eva Smith. The inspector shows her the photo and she runs away as we can see here, “He produces the photograph. She looks at it closely, recognises it with a little cry, gives a half-stifled sob and then runs out. ” This tells the audience that Sheila has seen this girl before and obviously had some part to play in her death.
The other characters also now know that Sheila recognised this girl and knows that she had a part to play in this girl’s death. The next entrance is made by the inspector again; this entrance marks the end of act1. The inspector had gone looking for Mr. Birling leaving Sheila and Gerald alone. They talked about how Gerald knew Eva and he confessed that he had had a relationship with her to Sheila; this is the first time that the audience learns of Gerald and Eva’s relationship.
Just as they finish talking the inspector enters and says, “Well? The audience and characters are now suspicious that the inspector knows more than he is letting on. The third entrance is made by Eric, and marks the end of act2. The other characters had just learnt that Eric was the person who had caused Eva Smith to commit suicide, Mr. and Mrs. Birling are both in shock after hearing this news, when Eric enters the room, then the curtain falls. This leaves the audience on a cliff hanger, they want to know what is going to happen to Eric, and what he has to say. The final dramatic exit is the inspectors (Page56).
He gives them a speech about what they had done, and about how easy it is to do a very small thing to someone that can affect their whole life, then he leaves, letting them think about what he said, and what they had done. For an audience of 1945 (when the play was written) up to present day, this play would have seemed a bit ironic in places, this is called dramatic irony.
Early on in the play (Pages 6, 7) when the characters are sat at the dinner table eating, Mr. Birling gives a little speech identifying himself as a ‘Hard-headed practical man of business. and gives some quite ironic statements in his speech. Here is what Mr. Birling says about the likelihood of war, “And I say there isn’t a chance of war. The world’s developing so fast that it’ll make war impossible. ” Of course in the audiences of 1945 to present day we know that there have been two world wars so this statement was quite ironic. Another example is of Mr. Birling’s comments about the ‘Titanic’, “… the Titanic – she sails next week…… unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.
This is quite funny because when this play had written the Titanic had sunk. The audience would now think that Mr. Birling wasn’t as smart as he claimed to be, not a hard-headed, practical man of business at all. JB Priestly uses a technique in this play called ‘Climatic curtain’ to leave the audience in suspense at a particular moment. The first instance of the climatic curtain used is at the end of act1, when the inspector comes back into the room after Gerald and Sheila have been discussing Gerald’s relationship with Eva Smith.
He enters the room and says, “Well? ” Then the curtain falls, leaving the audience waiting to see if they will reveal Gerald and Eva’s relationship to him, or if he already knows. The second climatic curtain is at the end of act2. This is where Mr and Mrs Birling learn that Eric is responsible for the death of Eva Smith, and just as they learn this, Eric walks in the door, then the curtain falls. This would leave the audience itching to see more, as they would want to know what Eric has to say for himself, and what the Birlings and the inspector have to say to him.
The last climatic curtain is at the end of the play when the inspector had left and the family had been talking about what the inspector said and what they had all done, when the phone rings, Mr. Birling answers it and finds that a girl has just died and the infirmary and an inspector is one his way to their house. The curtain then falls on this twist and the audience is left to take in what happened and decide for themselves who the other inspector was and how this all happened. The word ‘Denouement’ means a learning experience.
JB Priestly uses denouement with the characters as well as the audience throughout the play. Using this can really get the audience involved with the story, and go away having learned something. The two main characters that learn from this whole experience are Eric and Sheila. Sheila was regretting what she had done almost from late act1 when she saw the picture of Eva smith, but she showed it the most near the end of the play, like here on page 57 when Sheila said, “I behaved badly too. I know I did. I’m ashamed of it.
This shows that Sheila feels partially responsible for Eva’s death and has obviously learnt from this experience. Also Eric fells partially responsible for Eva’s death as well as shown here when Eric says, “… You lot may be letting yourselves out nicely, but I can’t. ” This shows that he felt responsible for Eva’s death and couldn’t let himself off the hook, he felt very bad, and had learnt not to mess around with women and hurt them, because it can really damage them emotionally. Finally the audience can learn from this experience.
We can learn about what can happen from a small thing that you may do to someone, we learn about the huge affect it can have on their lives. This will make the audience think about anytime that they might have made someone fell bad by doing something to them, and regretting it, and hopefully understanding what can happen. To conclude, this play is a very mysterious play. It is full of dramatic devices, of suspense and twists. The play would be bland and boring without these, and JB Priestly uses them in the perfect places, and in the perfect way to create a brilliant play from beginning to end.