Entrances In The Play An Inspector Calls English Literature Essay
J.B Priestly was born on 13th September 1894 in Bradford, West riding of Yorkshire and he passed away on the 14th August 1984 in Warwickshire. He was a dramatist English writer and was well known for his work. The play “An Inspector Calls” was originally written in 1945; it was written just after world war two however was actually set in 1912. The play ‘An Inspector calls’ is set in just one room, using one room meant there was focal point throughout the play and access points could be used to evoke various emotions such as tension and curiosity with in the audience. Exits and entrances are a fundamental aspect of the play, as they continue to uncover a new facet of the plot throughout. Priestly uses entrances and exits at significant and dramatic moments within the play, he uses these to create an array of different emotions as well demanding that the audience think about the plays message. The play being set in an ordinary household, makes the audience feel like they can relate to what they can see. This element of normality within in the play leaves the mind wondering to possibilities and therefore keeps the audience guessing throughout. The initial mood and lighting within the play begins quite joyful and pleasant to the eye but as the story begins to unfold, this considerably changes and so the mood and lighting reflect naturally reflect this.
Priestly demonstrates straight away to the audience the class and prestige of the family, this is demonstrated through the characters clothing, speech and mannerisms. The stage directions indicate to the audience as to how the Birlings are proud and content about themselves as a family. The opening of the play begins with the Birling family dining together to celebrate the engagement of their daughter. The scene gives a sense of harmony and gives the impression to the audience that the family are in high spirits but this will dramatically change as the play progresses. I believe the Inspector not being present at the beginning of the play is important. The Inspectors arrival later on creates more of a shock for the audience as it is unexpected. The play is turned on its head, as they are interrogated by the inspector on his arrival for the suicide of a girl named Daisy Renton.
The astonishing and unexpected arrival of the Inspector drastically changes the mood of the play especially because the change of mood was so sudden and this is just after Mr Birling celebrating and bragging to the other members of his family about his possible honour and knighthood, as he says:
“I might find my way into the next honours list, just a knighthood of course”
He expresses and brags about himself as a flourishing and superb member of society. While Mr Birling is speaking, the build up towards the shrilling noise of the door bell demonstrates how Mr Birling is a very selfish person, as he states:
“A man has to make his own way, only look after himself and his family too”
Priestly manipulates the use of time as he makes Mr Birling look obnoxious and egotistical. As Mr Birling continues to talk for a while about how world war two would not happen and how the titanic was unsinkable, this becomes a distraction and therefore the inspector’s arrival is completely unexpected. Priestly shows how elements of society took things for granted and had a very narrow minded way of looking at the world. The Inspectors arrival at this moment is very significant as the introduction of the inspector creates a disturbance to the normality of the Birling family and the bubble they live in, just as they thought things could not get any better, things are about to change for the worse. The Birlings emotions change considerably from being joyful to state of confusion. The entrance of the Inspector has completely changed dynamics of the whole plot.
The Inspector is used as their conscience to make them realise the consequences of their actions and for them to repent for their mistakes. The Inspector is called Inspector Goole which sounds very ghostly and something of the supernatural. Mr Birling’s individualistic nature makes him believe the Inspector is here to talk to him, about him recently becoming a Magistrate. The thought of the Inspector being present for an investigation, is not even a possibility and is another example of effects of classism and individualism within society at that time. The Inspector explains how he is here, concerning the death of a woman at the infirmary earlier that day. The Inspector illustrates how she had left a diary stating names of individuals from the Birlings family and therefore it was his duty to question them as part of the investigation. The entrance of the Inspector completely changed the mood and feeling.
As the Inspector begins to question the Birlings, he names a girl named Daisy Renton to Gerald who reacts very shocked and becomes nervous. Gerald’s relationship with Daisy in the past makes him very edgy and bewildered and we see this change within in his body language. The Inspector noticing that he knew something about her decides to leave the room at this precise moment, leaving Gerald with Sheila. Sheila being very perceptive notices how Gerald’s mood has suddenly changed. A theme is introduced as each member of the Birlings respond differently to their guilt. Gerald’s response to the name Daisy Renton leaves the audience in suspense and makes him a suspect to the investigation already. Priestly uses the Inspector to create a change and then straight away takes that affect away, in order for the plot to now start unfolding amongst the family. It is important to note that naturally the family would only say certain things in front of the Inspector therefore it is imperative that Inspector Goole exits and enters the stage at right times in order for the story to progress. As a result we see Priestly creates a real sense of urgency and change in mood, as Gerald and Sheila begin to talk; Gerald seems very worried as Sheila Shouts:
“Oh don’t be stupid! We haven’t much time”
Sheila begins to panic knowing a confession may come from Gerald. The Inspector leaving at this moment, give him a sense of authority over the situation because Sheila is now under the impression that the Inspector knows everything and is waiting for the guilty party to come forward. She wants Gerald to make a revelation so that she can prepare herself before the Inspectors return. Gerald says quietly:
“We can keep it from him!”
This creates more suspense for the audience as they realise Gerald is hiding something from Inspector and Sheila or Sheila actually knows as to what happened to the girl. Furthermore Sheila’s tone and body language towards Gerald becomes more aggressive as the tension becomes too much for her, Sheila says:
“Why-you fool he knows, of course he knows”
Sheila thinks the Inspector knows everything about the girl; however is here to make those guilty individuals confess or is there more to the story. At this moment we have indications towards where the story might go but things are still up in the air. Inspector Goole did say there was more then one name mentioned in the girls diary. So how the others are then involved? Is the question that comes to mind for the audience and thus furthering their curiosity at this stage within the story.
As the Inspectors interrogation continues he begins questioning Mrs Birling. As she reveals how unsympathetic she was to Daisy Renton when she came to her for help and being in a very vulnerable situation. Mrs Birling rejected her instead of helping the girl, this situation drastically changes how the audience feel about Mrs Birling as it is not, how a prominent member of society should behave but seeing Mr Birling’s narrow minded and individualistic mentality, this is not necessarily a surprise to the audience. On the other hand its does show that everyone may now have something to hide and therefore increases the suspense of the story. The Inspector carries on questioning Mrs Birling encouraging her to confess about what she did to Daisy Renton, She refuses stating:
“In the circumstances I was quite justified”
Mrs Birling is caught up in her own sense of importance as she fails to realise how her actions concluded in a series of events which led to Daisy Renton committing suicide.
“I blame the man who was the father of the child she was going to have”
Mrs Birling does not believe there was any wrong doing in what she did and instead, she believes it was the father of Daisy Renton’s child at fault. This effects the audience in a big way, as Mrs Birling begins to show her true colours. The audience see her as an unsympathetic and cold hearted personality. The audience being to realise and discover who might be the father of Daisy Renton’s child as Mrs Birling says:
“She said that the father was only a youngster – silly and wild and drinking too much”
The audience acknowledging Eric’s drinking problem and that he was pushed out by his family due to their self esteem. Sheila shouts “Stop-Stop” to Mrs Birling as Sheila realises it maybe Eric who was the father and doesn’t want Mrs Birling making it more visible and obvious to the Inspector. Eric not being present in the room is important because it is left to the imagination of the audience as to how Eric will react to the situation. This creates much more tension and drama for the audience. Priestly includes a sudden slam of the front door as this creates even more anxiety for the audience, as they now expect a new revelation to be revealed. This leaves the Birlings in particular and the audience on the edge of their seats waiting for what is to happen next in the story.
The Inspector ‘holding his hand up’ indicates to the audience, how he has obtained all the evidence he had come to acquire. This makes the Birling’s apprehensive as to what the Inspector next move is. Eric’s ironic entrance shocks and devastates the family as he enters befuddled and nervous. Priestly then reveals Eric’s feelings, as he realises his secret is exposing itself to the rest of the family. He is described to being pale and distressed, the curtains fall rapidly and so giving the audience an opportunity to process all the events so far. Naturally the audience are now making links within their own mind but Priestly has still left things in a complete hysteria.
Priestly uses the Inspector as a central device to get his points and views across on how he feels about the disgusting treatment of the lower classes by so called prominent members of society. In the Inspectors final speech, he vents his feelings about how lower classes should be treated. As the Inspector says:
“One Eva Smith has gone – but there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us”
Here he shows how poor and helpless people should be cared and helped for but also shows that this problem occurs on a bigger scale and is happening everyday. It is something that can not be chosen to be ignored.
“If men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught in blood, fire and anguish”
Priestly illustrates to the audience how we should take on responsibilities and look out for others. To create more equality within society or people will reach their tolerance point and react in a highly negative manner. The words blood, fire and anguish have a very strong and intense meaning therefore Priestly clearly stating the seriousness of the problem and the seriousness of his views on the matter.
Priestly uses the Inspector during the play to put his beliefs and points across to the Birlings and therefore to the audience. Priestly achieves this by using metaphors within the play to represent aspects of society. The Inspectors arrival is very important as it affects the whole mood and atmosphere. The Inspector arriving splits the house in to two as he does this later in the play and creates a moral divide between the older and younger members of the Birlings family. Eva smith has been to represent the poor and helpless people of that time and how they were treated in society.
The Inspector leaves hoping they will repent for their actions however this only seems to affect Sheila and Eric, the younger members of the family as Mr and Mrs Birling are only worried about the possibility of a public scandal. After the Inspectors exit, the family are left arguing amongst themselves. Priestly used the Inspector to bring certain information and knowledge to everyone within the play and allowed the Inspector to exit so that, individuals involved could now contemplate on the revelations made. As they all exploited in the part they played in the girl’s suicide, which they should take responsibility for. Mr Birling believes that every man should look after himself; the Inspector was there to challenge these beliefs. The Birlings show their true colours as only Eric and Sheila decide to change their ways and repent. However Mr and Mrs Birling feel no sympathy towards this tragic incident and decide to take no responsibility. Mr Birling shouts:
“You’re the one I blame for this”
Mr Birling is too caught up with himself as he still fails to take responsibility for his actions. Taking in to account this was written after World War two and the sinking of the titanic only reiterates Priestley’s point about people need to realise that there actions have consequences that could be detrimental to individuals in society and the world.
Priestley’s use of exiting and entering the characters at significant moments within the play creates more tension and suspense for the audience. A new theme is introduced at the entrance of a character but it is only effective if its timing is relevant to the scenario. As the audience see that the younger characters in the play, feel very dismayed and regretful for their actions. However Mr and Mrs Birling are only worried about their reputation and position with in society. I believe the structure used by Priestly would have not been as successful without the use of exits and entrances at appropriate times. As the characters exit and enter it keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
The moral of the play is that everyone should take responsibility for their actions because they affect other people’s lives. Priestly wants to demonstrate how we are all a community and if we like it or not we should help and care for others. To think about what we are doing instead of just being individualistic and narrow minded, otherwise there will enormous consequences and naturally regrets as well.
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