John Boynton Priestley was born on the 13th September 1894 and was brought up in Bradford, by a middleclass family. His father was a schoolmaster and both his grandparents were mill workers; he often made visits to the mills of which his family worked and these visits gave him an insight into the exploitation that was taking place in the mills. From this came the inspiration for the famous play ‘An Inspector Calls’ where it is made openly known about the hardship and poverty of working class families in the early 1900’s.
I believe that Playwrights main intention when writing the play ‘An Inspector calls’ was to show and teach us how society in Edwardian times was so cruel, he tells us about the horrible suicide of a young working class girl ‘Eva Smith’ and how an upper class family came to play such major parts in the events leading up to her death. The play opens on the Birling family all happily gathered around their dining table celebrating the recent engagement of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft.
There was a carefree atmosphere and all was well. The Birlings appeared to be an upper class family as it was stated that they were all wearing the finest garments of the period (Act 1 page 1). Priestley was setting the scene for the play, trying to set the emphasis on the family being warm and welcoming. The characters Mr Birling and the Inspector are considerably different from one another I think that playwright’s intention for this was to show a better contrast.
Mr Birling is perceived to be a very pompous and greedy man whereas the inspector is open, honest and somewhat more considerate than that of the Birling’s. Mr Birling’s interest in his family and business are very clear he doesn’t even give off an indication that he ever considers anyone else we can see this in (Act 1 Pages 9 and 10). “A man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own. ”
This is a point where priestly is trying to show the audience how awfully selfish Mr Birling actually is, as a result of what playwright is saying the audience will now be gradually going against him for such a manner as his, he showed very little interest as to what the inspector had to say and was so convinced that he had no part to play in Eva’s death that he tried to justify himself by blaming the poor girl herself. A quote of this can be found in (Act 1 Page 13).
“I dismissed her nearly two years ago, it obviously has nothing to do with this wretched girl’s suicide! ” Throughout the majority of this play a lot of Dramatic Irony is used. Mr Birling’s illusions are prime examples. When he mentions the war and the Titanic, we can get these examples in (Act one Pages 7and 9). “Germans don’t want to fight. Nobody wants war apart from some half civilised folks in the Balkans. And why? There’s too much at stake these days. Everything to loose and nothing to gain by war” He also goes on to say,
“The Titanic she sails next week-forty six thousand tonnes-New York in 5 days and every luxury-and unsinkable” Even though the play was set before the war it was not actually published until just before the 2nd world war, therefore the audience will notice that what Mr Birling is saying is completely wrong about both the war and the titanic, as on April 1st 1912 the Titanic was struck by an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic ocean on her maiden voyage, then in 1914 Germany declared world war on England and America with a war lasting 4 years!
I feel this would show great amusement with the audience and Mr Birling would be made out to be a fool, which is what I believe that Playwright had intended. The Inspectors role is very important in the play. There are several reasons for this The inspector is proven to be very good at opening up characters personalities by his questioning. His speech is very powerful and dramatic it may be said that it rather similar to political speaking, it has such power due to the fact that the inspector uses very memorable phrases “In Fire, Blood and Anguish”.
We can read this at the end of the play (Act 3 Page 56) “We don’t live alone, we are members of one body, we are responsible for each other. ” “If men will not learn this lesson then they shall be taught in fire, blood and anguish. ” The message that Priestley is trying to get across is that we need to be responsible for all the actions that we each take in order to keep the world in peace. If we don’t then it will all result in war, as a result of the Birlings selfishness one girl has lost her life.
In order to make Priestley’s point be reached by the audience his speech will have been given in a slow yet dominating tone so that the audience really feel the full effect of what the inspector was saying, it may also give them an idea as to whether they do agree in what he is saying or whether they feel that he is out of order as Mr Birling did. After the inspector finishes his speech and leaves the scene, then and only then do we begin to see the true personalities of each character.
They all then try to put the night’s events behind them and try to think of a way that they can cover up the mess that they are in, in order to keep themselves from any unwanted bad press. The only person that I feel was truly affected in anyway by what the inspector had to say was Sheila. I feel this way as at the beginning of the play she acts somewhat immature as if she was a child, however after the nights events unfold she seems to considerably mature and is the only one willing to face up to the fact that she is actually partially to blame for the death of Eva Smith/Daisy Renton.
I think that Priestley wrote the play this way as he intended for us to see that we should all try to be mature and act responsibly as Sheila did and not to be like that of the Birling Family and if we are we may need to be more considerate and caring towards others A quotation taken from the inspector’s last speech sums up priestley’s intentions perfectly I think.