Reviewing The Play An Inspector Calls English Literature Essay

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An Inspector Calls is a play written by J.B Priestley. The play was first performed in 1945 however it is set in 1912. An Inspector calls is a murder mystery set in the Edwardian times of England, just before the First World War. The story tells of a wealthy, aristocratic who is among the top of the society in which they live; which is in an atmosphere filled with business but on top of that lies, greed and prejudice.

Firstly he uses the lighting as a dramatic device and depending on the situation the lighting would adjust to the appropriate brightness. When the family are at the table in the dining room the lighting is slightly pink which gives it a warm and comfortable atmosphere in which seems very peaceful and shows the closeness of the characters however when the inspector enters the stage the light clearly changes becoming more intense and focuses on him not only lighting the surroundings but keeping the mysteriousness of the inspector. It also illustrates that he is an important character and this would attract the audience's attention from all the muttering that was going on in the dining-room. Not only that but the use of side lighting light the characters up while at the same time keeping the interrogation and foreboding atmosphere the same.

Not only that but he also uses the doorbell ring which then changes the lighting from pink to the spotlight on the door once the inspector is there. This not only immediately changes the atmosphere but also initiates the impression on the audience that they will show the inspector. Priestley then uses Edna to create excess drama through the lighting as when she says 'an inspector has called', the lighting illuminates and exposes the whole family not only on stage but directly towards the inspector's questions.

The doorbell also shows the fact that the inspector is superior to Mr.Birling which he doesn't like as not only is Mr.Birling the head of the household but he says that he is superior to everyone; the doorbell ring interrupts the speech he was giving to Gerald about the fact that a man needs to make money his own way, look after his family and mind his own business. This already shows the audience that there's going to be tension between Mr.Birling and the inspector.

Priestley also makes use of irony through act one as when Mr.Birling was giving his longest speech throughout the whole of the play, he again shows the audience that he is higher superiority of anyone else and that money is really his main concern. Mr.Birling also speaks of how the 'titanic is unsinkable' and that 'there isn't a chance of war' which the audience already knows had been proven wrong, this contradicts Mr. Birling's beliefs and knowledge towards himself. This also emphasizes the fact on Priestley's opinion of social superiority as he's not respecting anyone else socially just because they may be in the middle or poor classes when he is in the wealthier class.

Priestley also uses a range of stage directions and props to set the scene, as Priestley almost wants his characters to slip up when they're talking to each other not only creating tension but also to generate an un-certain feeling upon characters, examples of this are when:

Mr.Birling is speaking to the gentlemen about women's clothing, Eric answers eagerly but he checks himself hesitating almost on what he's going to say, making the audience ask what Eris has been up to and why he's quiet.

He also uses stage directions to show irony as when Gerald and Mr.Birling are speaking with each other they both 'laugh' at the exact same time making the conversation seem high-spirited which makes it more ironic. Not only that but by doing this Priestly also ensures the fact that the whole family are living in their own bubble as it seems as if there are no worries, the future is bright and they are all going to live wonderful happy lives. However social status also needs to be acquired into this as while the Birling family our happy there are people who aren't happy who may not have a nice clothes as them, not enough money to feed the family, on top of that the first world war is soon to start and while people are worried the Birling family aren't.

Another example of this is Sheila Birling, her personality is happy as she is soon to be married but she is an unworried girl and that she loves her life right up until the inspector shows up. Sheila is the first out of everyone to break out of their picturesque bubble as due to her finding out that she and Gerald played a part in Eva Smith's suicide, she breaks off the engagement with Gerald and by doing this he emphasizes that he has taken off all comfort and coziness from the Birling's house. Sheila realizes that there are some horrid things in the world which people like her may avoid but other people are affected by this. It seems that she also realizes social status doesn't really matter much unlike Mr.Birling who still thought about his knighthood and how this would affect his career not taking into consideration that he should have some sympathy for a girl who he played a part in killing.

Furthermore at the start of the play when the two children are trying to get under the curtain, Priestly has straight away conveyed his concern about social status as the children were trying to get into the Birling's wealthy and luxurious household with nice clothes and lots of money while the children were wearing ugly dull and tattered clothes.

Another tool Priestley uses is through the inspector himself. Priestley uses the inspector to convey his socialistic ideas and that people like the inspector have the upper hand on aristocrats like Mr.Birling. An example of this is when the inspector says to Mr.Birling, 'I think you remember Eva Smith now, don't you, Mr Birling?', this shows that the Inspector governs Mr.Birling in the correct way making him feel like the bad person.

Another important device Priestley develops drama is from Eva Smith. The whole concept of her death is mysterious but Priestley uses her (a poor innocent girl) to bring out what the Birling's would never have brought out. She represents the lower class and she forms a bond with the audience as despite thinking about sociality she brings the whole play together revealing things that the Birling's would have never thought of revealing. Not only that but she also changed her name to Daisy Renton, this represents the fact that she wanted to start a new life and no one would judge her from her social class but her knowledge and understanding of what she wanted to do. Eva Smith and the Birling's are two completely opposite people who come from two completely different social backgrounds and this is how Priestly emphasizes his social concerns. Additionally the fact that she changed her name to Daisy Renton; it sounds like a nice first name but her surname is unusual, and by doing this Priestley wanted her to seem like more than just an everyday low-class girl. Also you never actually see her in the play; the inspector just shows each of the Birling family one by one from a photograph to clarify if they know her. Priestley does this so we engage with what's going on and this make us wonder what does Eva Smith look like as all you can really judge her by both her names and what background she comes from.

Priestley also integrates more dramatic tension as the fact that after she was fired at Mr.Birling's company she ended up receiving a job at Milwards, a fashionable clothes store but was then sacked from that job as Sheila didn't like that fact that a low-social class girl can look good in an expensive dress. Priestly has highlighted more social concerns but this time incorporates it with jealousy and sympathy towards Eva Smith.

The final dramatic devices Priestley uses at the end of act one is the 'cliff-hanger' as if you're a member of the audience watching the play it would keep you eager to witness what comes next. As the last word in act one was 'well?' from the inspector mainly as a question but also to show that he is still superior to them. This adds to the drama and tension among the audience as Gerald is about to tell everyone how he contributed to Eva Smith's death.

Lastly the old radio which Priestly uses at the start of the play which one of the children kick it, the sends out a message to the audience that when the music come on the play starts.

In conclusion Priestley uses dramatic devices and irony throughout the play, repeatedly and his socialistic ideas of that people should be treated by how they respect and treat themselves goes unnoticed with the Birling's until the end of the play when their house explodes. Overall this is a great play in which Priestley's ideas are incorporated into through the characters, dramatic devices and irony, props and the setting.