An Inspector Calls – Summary
This particular play was set in 1912, on the week of the maiden voyage and sinking of the Titanic. Many techniques were used to make the play dramatic, engrossing and meaningful to the audience both back when it was fist released and also to this date. Stage directions play a huge part of any play. The stage direction provides the director with details such as position of actors, lighting, facial expressions and many more physical actions. Positions of actors, ‘the four Birlings and Gerald are seated at the table’, can set a mood.
If the characters are sat or standing together as a group, in this case sat as a family at a table, it shows a sense friendliness and co-operation. But if the characters are spread out on the scene, it gives the audience an impression of hatred within the group. Lighting is very important as it makes the audience feel the characters feelings. ‘The lighting should be pink and intimate until the inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder’ is a good example of how the directors set the feelings. When the inspector arrives, it makes the characters feel uneasy and curious.
Increasing and making the lighting harder builds up suspense for the audience. Facial expressions show how the characters are feeling and what they are thinking. Smiling immediately gives the impression of a happy person, and crying gives the impression of sadness and upset. Direction of vision tells us who is talking to whom. With out this, the play would not be as effective in making it meaningful to the audience. A play would not work if it were not structured. This also applies to An Inspector Calls. Linked with the stage directions, there are entrances and exits.
The stage directions tell us when the characters leave and enter at the appropriate times. ‘The INSPECTOR enters, and EDNA goes, closing the door after her’ is one of the most important directions in the whole play. Cliffhanger endings make the play dramatic and engrossing for the audience because they want to find out what happens next. Techniques such as the telephone and doorbell ringing make the play engrossing for both the characters and audience. ‘The telephone rings sharply. There is a moment’s complete silence.
Birling goes to answer it. Is an example of how it makes the audience want to carry on with the story and find out what happens. The historical and social background to this play makes the play ironic and dramatic. J. B Priestley uses irony a lot in an inspector calls. An example of this is ‘Why a friend of mine went over on this new liner last week – the Titanic – she sails next week – forty six thousand tons – New York in five days – and every luxury – and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable. ‘ Said by Mr Birling. This ironic sentence lets the audience know when the play was set, back in the year 1912, when the Titanic sank on her maiden voyage. Read when is the only time to not use complete sentences in an essay
It’s ironic because the audience knows that the titanic sank on her maiden voyage but the characters don’t know. Also Mr Birling talks bout war. He says ‘The German’s don’t want war. Nobody wants war, except some half-civilized folks in the Balkans. ‘ but he does not know what the audience does in that in 1914, there is an out break of war with Germany. These kinds of devices make the play meaningful to the audience by realising how you take things for granted. All the characters use irony. Mrs Birling, ‘He should be made an example of. If the girls death is due to anybody, then it’s due to him.
She blames the death of Eva Smith on the man who made her pregnant, as Eva came to Mrs Birlings when she sent the mother of her grandchild away, but she didn’t know it was Eric’s child. This part of An Inspector Calls is especially engrossing for the audience as the audience wants to see if Eric does get in any more trouble for being the father of the unborn child. Surprise is the most common device in ‘An Inspector Calls’. Act 3 in particular. In this act, there are many of the biggest surprises in the play the characters find out. First they find out the Inspector was not a real policeman.
This causes confusion for both the audience and characters, making Act 3 dramatic and engrossing, as they want to find out who was the inspector. This discovery that the inspector wasn’t a real policeman makes a huge difference to Mr and Mrs Birling. They were worried about their position in society for the case that the inspector has told the public about this suicide and the results of his investigation ‘they just won’t try to Understand our position or to see the difference between a lot of stuff coming out in private and a downright public scandal’.
But at the end they ave found out that the inspector isn’t a policeman, they feel they do not need to worry bout their positions and what they did as no one is going to find out. Mr. and Mrs. Birling change the least thought out the whole play. This affects the audience because they are the main characters and have an influence on the audience. They don’t think about their behaviour after finding out the inspector was not real. They don’t think about this because they know they can’t be legally accused. This discovery makes no difference at all to how Sheila, Eric and Gerald feel guilty.
They have both found out that they cannot trust each other any longer after Gerald confessed to having had an affair with Eva Smith. They also feel that the inspector visited for a reason and there they were a moral in this visit. They feel guilty for the selfish events they did not thinking about the affects it could have on Eva Smith, leading to her death. This makes the audience realise that the past can lead to present events. Then there is the discussion if the so-called Eva Smith had even been admitted to the infirmary. It comes as a shock and surprise that there has not been a suicide in months ‘No girl has died in there today.
Nobody’s been brought in after drinking disinfectant. They haven’t had a suicide in months. ‘ This surprise turns the whole play around. The characters, especially Mr and Mrs Birling, feel as the whole evening should be forgotten, ‘Well, here’s to us. Come on, Sheila, don’t look like that. All over now. ‘ Yet Sheila still feels guilty for her actions ‘everything we said had happened really did happened. If it didn’t end tragically, then lucky for us. But it might have done. ‘ This is dramatic for the audience because through out the whole play, no one has thought of this as a hoax.
After characters have found out that there has been no suicide and the inspector was not a real policeman, Mr Birling gets a phone call. When the phone rings it makes the play engrossing because the audience wants to find out whom it is and why they have phoned so late in the night. It’s the police reporting that there has been a suicide by a young girl and a Inspector is one his way over to ask some questions. J. B Priestley has used the telephone so the audience can only hear one end of the conversation, and see the facial expression on Mr Birlings face when told.
The telephone call is engrossing for the audience and the other characters. ‘Yes?… Mr Birling specking… What? – here -‘ is a quote of how it is engrossing for the audience. I think that Shelia best represents J. B Priestley’s point of views. She accepts her responsibility and does not try to make her self innocent after the inspector has left, when found out that it been a set up and the inspector was not official. Sheila tries to make the rest of the family see they were still responsible. That is the author’s intention and he uses Sheila to make the audience see his point of views in a situation like this.
But don’t you see, if all that’s come out tonight is true, then it doesn’t much matter who it was who made us confess. And it was true, wasn’t it? You turned the girl out of one job, and I had her turned out of another. Gerald kept her – at a time when he was supposed to be too busy to see me. Eric – well, we know what Eric did. And mother hardened her heart and gave her the final push that finished her. That’s what’s important – and not whether a man is a police inspector or not. ‘ Conflict is a part of An Inspector Calls that all the characters are involved in. This affects the audience because it is dramatic and tense.
Mr and Mrs Birling are in conflict with their children about issues such as what the inspector already knows and their responsibility after it is found out it he wasn’t a real police inspector. Conflict between Shelia and Gerald about personal issues to do with their relationships is a result as the inspectors visit. At the end of act 2, when discussing the issue of who as the father of Eva’s baby, the conflict Priestly sets up between the Mrs Birling and the inspector makes this play very dramatic and engrossing for the audience. We want to find who is the father.
Mrs Birling ‘Then he’d be entirely responsible – because the girl wouldn’t have come to us, and have been refused assistance, if it hadn’t been for him’, and blames the death of Eva on the man who made her pregnant, with out knowing that it was her own son. But when the inspector refuses to leave and insists on talking to Eric, Mrs Birling gets the idea that Eric is the father. This part makes it engrossing, as we want to find out whether it is true. Conflict adds to the dramatic and engrossing effect because it brings excitement to the audience. As a result of this visit, Shelia and Eric appear to have changed their attitude.
They have regrets and are disappointed in what they did in Eva’s life to make her feel depressed and un-happy. At the beginning nearly all the characters are arrogant towards the inspector, but as the play goes on, some of the characters notice that the inspector already knows all the details the characters are giving him. Mr and Mrs Birling are very alike. They both try to make them selves out as a higher position than the inspector, ‘ I was an alderman for years – and lord Mayor two years ago – and I’m still on the Bench – so I know the Brumley police officers pretty well – and I thought I’d never seen you before’.
They try to do this because they know that the police inspector is of a higher status. This causes conflict in which makes the play dramatic to the audience. The inspector was just the author’s tool to make the both of the Birling’s behaviour a bit logical. The Inspector is the most important character of the play. The first impression we get of Inspector Goole is ‘an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness. ‘ This name Goole is related to things such as ghosts, which links with the ending. His looks make him seem powerful and important, he has authority and is in control and a very solid appearance.
He is careful not to give clues away to the other characters. The timing in which he enters ‘The INSPECTORenters, and EDNA goes, closing the door after her’ is in the middle of a gathering to celebrate an engagement, which is a happy event. The inspector challenges the audience’s attitude. He is a mouthpiece for J. B Preistley and has a strong moral voice, which stands out. He constantly rises above the Birlings. The inspector is so dramatic because of his method of investigation. He talks to each character about the death in tern.
He does this because he knows what happened to Eva Smith and what part the characters had to do with the suicide. Shelia is the first person to notice this ‘You knew it was me all the time, didn’t you? ‘ The ending is a mystery and leaves the audience thinking. This ending takes the audience back to the beginning when the inspector arrives. It leaves us thinking whether the Inspector was some kind of sprit warning the Birlings. The supernatural quality – the idea of time- is involved in the characters and audience’s thoughts. This adds to the dramatic tension of the play.
I think the play was a success in making it dramatic, engrossing and meaning to the audience with all the use of these devices. I think that issues such as homelessness and refugees have changed since the play was written and set in 1914, but it still has the same affect on the audience. I think the moral in this play has some thing to do with how events can take effect on some ones life over a period of time. Think about the least fortunate then yourself and how your actions could take a massive impact on others who live and work around you. This play would challenge the audience with their moral beliefs of right and wrong.
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