John Boynton Priestley, a famous writer, was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, on the 13th of September 1894. When he was 16, Priestley decided to leave school altogether, believing that ‘the World outside classrooms and labs’ would improve his ability to write, and help him to ‘become a writer’. J. B Priestley’s beliefs were that people should be treated similarly, and not different for any reason. He believed in ‘social responsibility’ and cooperation between people of different classes. ‘An Inspector Calls’ was written in 1945, the year that saw the end of the Second World War.
Priestley thought that this was the perfect time to introduce this novel, since society was in need of reorganizing and recovering from the recent war. Everything needed to be worked into a fresh start. The reason Priestley uses dramatic devices so early in the play is to keep the audience hooked and interested. If the audience is bored at the start of a play, they will begin to lose interest. Dramatic devices work the same way that water does with plants; it absorbs the audience and makes them eager for more. The play begins with numerous specific stage directions.Order now
This is so that all directors’ interpretations of the initial scene will be similar and almost precise to how Priestley believes it should be. It is also important that he is very specific, so that directors can also understand how the character commits their actions, exactly how each character should look, and how each character generally behaves. Priestley is also very detailed because he wishes to create a particular tone. The setting of the opening of the play is ‘the dining room’ of a ‘fairly large suburban house’, and that it belongs to a ‘prosperous manufacturer’.
We can already guess from this sentence that the owner of this house is definitely rich and owns this house is some good suburbs. This opening sentence already draws the reader in, as they want to know more about the owner of this house. The reason Priestley uses such a familiar setting is so that directors will have a visualisation of what the house looks like. Anything fancy or hard to imagine would be difficult for a play to create, so keeping the setting familiar makes things easier and simpler.
In the first Act, the atmosphere is very joyous and full of cheer, and the reason for this is because the family is enjoying a ‘good dinner’, and are ‘celebrating a special occasion’. This is highly ironic when we consider the rest of the play as their good moods are suddenly drowned out by guilt. The Inspector arrives and informs them of a girl Eva Smith, who has just perished due to a ‘large dose of disinfectant’. From hearing the news, the family becomes shocked. Priestley wrote this play to explore socialism and cooperating to make the poor richer.
He looks at the issues of social class and responsibility through his characters by giving them all distinctive personalities; Mr. Birling is a ‘rather portentous’ man, who is described to be ‘in his fifties’. This tells us that Arthur Birling has a pompous nature which supports the ideas that he is rich. Mr. Birling is a good example of wealth, or perhaps greed, which are two aspects we can deduce from him. He believes in Capitalism, and leaving the people who can’t look after themselves in the dirt. J. B.
Priestley has used this character to amplify fortune and wealth, but when the Inspector appears suddenly at his front door and reveals Eva’s horrible death, the whole family begins to feel an unmistakable feeling of guilt, and the inspector says all of them ‘helped to kill her’. Mr. Birling is described as a ‘heavy looking’ man, equipped with ‘fairly easy manners’, but is quite ‘provincial in his speech’. Mrs. Birling is a ‘rather cold woman’ and is said to be her ‘husband’s social superior’. This means she is quite an apathetic and reserved woman, which is a similar personality to her husband’s.
From this description we can tell that it’s likely she won’t care that much for Eva’s death. Both the Birling adults have a selfish belief in society, and don’t care as long as they’re happy. They both have capitalist views upon life, and prefer to look after themselves rather than help the general community. Priestley cleverly uses dramatic irony in this play to make Birling look stupid, as he mentions that he disagrees with ‘some people’ who say ‘War is inevitable’, saying it’s all ‘fiddlesticks’.