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An Inspector Calls

A good introduction tells your reader exactly what your essay will discuss.
Use the following steps to write an amazing introduction.

(1) Topic Sentence: What is the essay about?

Restate the key words of the question.
Ex) An Inspector Calls is a dramatic and
entertaining play.

(2) Personal Opinion Using 2-3 examples, briefly state why

you thought it was successful
Ex) the twist, interesting characters,
Meaningful theme, etc.
Why did you like it?

(3) Background Info What is the story about? Discuss the

Plot/characters in a couple of short sen-

(4) Background Info Who wrote it? When? A couple of

sentences explaining who JB Priestly is.

(5) Why did he write it? Think about why it was set before WW1,
what messages does it contain? Class sys-
tem (rich vs poor), responsibility, etc. What
did he want to tell the world?

Useful resources: There are 3 pages about JB Priestly, 1 was handed out
when we began the play, 2 are inside your homework pack. These may
help you in section 4, 5. Remember, show how „who he is‟ (his opinions,
background etc) have influenced his writing. (ex, he is a socialist who be-
lieves people should all be treated equally)

Remember to keep it fairly short… 8-12 sentences should be plenty.

No need to quote in this paragraph, but you should mention specific exam-
ples from the play, especially in sections 2 and 3
An Inspector Calls

Themes are important because they are the underlying message that an
author is trying to tell the reader/audience. They often say something im-
portant about human nature / how the world works.

(1) Topic Sentence: What are the main themes in this play?
(Responsibility, Social Classes)

(2) Responsibility What does the author mean by

What do some of the main characters think
about responsibility? (Birling, Inspector,
Key word: Society
A group of people, a com- Sheila…..) Use quote or refer to example.
munity, can be divided into What does it say about them as people?
classes (rich, poor) See homework book for more info.

(3) Consequences Actions have consequences. What are

the consequences of the Birling‟s actions?
What does this show about the world?
Is everything connected? Are we individuals? Or are we a society?

(4) Social Classes What are social classes? Rich/Poor.

What do they have to do with the play? How do the rich treat
the poor? Why? Are they better people? More caring? More
refined? Use examples to discuss. Ex) Alderman Meggarty,
Eva Smith, etc.
Why was it set in 1912? Was the class system different
Why was a young, poor woman chosen? Why is her true
identity a mystery? Sympathy? For her? For a group that she
Gerald Croft comes from a high class family, does this impact
how he is treated? Eva Smith comes from a low class family;
does this affect how she is treated?
(5) Personal Response Briefly: What are your opinions about
these themes? Are they important? Why?

1-2 quotes should be used in this section to help illustrate your key
points. Be sure to explain why you are quoting them (how they relate to
themes). If possible, focus on key words in your quote and explain how
they create meaning.
Always refer to specific examples in your writing. Explain how you
know what you are discussing. Ex; if you think that the rich aren‟t any bet-
ter than poor people, perhaps use Alderman Meggerty as an example to
show that even rich people can do bad things.

Some examples of quotations you could use:

“A man has to mind his own business and look out for himself”
(Birling, p. 10) responsibility

“If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we‟d
had anything to do with, it would be very awkward, wouldn‟t it?”
(Birling, p.14) responsibility

“It would do us all a bit of good if sometimes we tried to put ourselves in

the place of these young women”
(Inspector Goole, p.19/20) class system

“You used the power you had, as the daughter of a good customer and
also of a man well known in the town, to punish the girl”
(Inspector Goole, p.24) class system

“You see, we have to share something. If there‟s nothing else, we‟ll have to
share our guilt”
(Inspector Goole, p.29) responsibility
In this section, you are asked to comment on
how the words and phrases JB Priestly use
help to create meaning and give additional
information to the reader.

A polite way of saying something offen- Saying things in an especially strong

sive. Used by those who wish to sound manner. Can be used to persuade others.
professional or dignified. May use some exaggeration.
Example) passed away = died

Language designed to create an Language of the time that is no longer

emotional reaction in the reader or used today. Can show something about
Audience. the characters or the time period.

Differences in the way a character speaks can show changes in mood, or over longer pe-
riods of time, changes in the characters' ideas or personality

Erics first words is a “guffaw” (laugh) when Gerald A posh snob, she is bothered by what people around her
assures Sheila, “I will, I will” [be careful not to let say “(reproachfully) Arthur, you're not supposed to say
her find out about his affairs with women]. This sug- such things -” (p.2) and she is shocked at Sheila's lan-
gests that he knows about Gerald's affair, but be- guage “Really the things you girls pick up these days”(p3)
cause of his own, and he will not tell Sheila even
though she is his own sister. She calls Goole “a trifle impertinent”(p.30), and Eva's
calling herself `Mrs Birling' “gross impertinence”(p.43).
Eric's mood in the opening minutes is cheerful, but She speaks of “The rude way he [Goole] spoke to Mr
he becomes uneasy when he thinks Birling and Birling and me - it was extraordinary! “(p.61). To her,
Gerald know something about him, responding to any speech which is less than humble and respectful is
Gerald's assurance that they were having “a joke” „impertinent‟ because as a lady of the upper class with an
with, ”Well, I don't think it's very funny.”(p.10). This important husband, she `deserves' special treatment
suggests he has a guilty conscience, and is afraid
of his secrets being exposed. “You know of course that my husband was Lord Mayor
only two years ago and that he's still a magis-
Soon afterwards he `bursts out' “Well I think it's a
trate”(p.31). Mrs Birling is so used to dominating people
dam' shame”(p.16), and shows understanding for
by such threats that when she encounters someone who
Eva's wish for higher wages, and respect for her hav-
resists her bullying she reacts angrily.
ing “a bit more spirit than the others.”
His language blunt, emotive and harsh: “Two hours He tries to intimidate Goole by telling that the Chief
ago a young woman died in the Infirmary. She'd been Constable is “an old friend of mine”, and then actually
taken there this afternoon because she'd swallowed a threatening “I've half a mind to report you”(p.17). He is
lot of disinfectant. Burnt her inside out, of willing to use his power and influence to bully people.
course.”(p.11) As Birling points out later, “Just re-
He is boastful, making boring speeches - he thinks he
peating it shakes you a bit. And that's what he had to
has earned the right to do this: “We can't let these Ber-
do. Shake us at once - and then start questioning us
nard Shaws and H G Wellses do all the talking. We hard-
until we didn't know where we were.”(p.69).
headed practical businessmen must say something

He is extremely commanding and authoritative, sometime. And we don't guess - we've had experience -

in his speech and in his personal presence: “he cre- and we know”(p.7)

ates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity

His arrogant belief that he „knows‟ is seems foolish to
and purposefulness.” The stage directions repeat-
the audience by his confidence in the “unsinkable, abso-
edly show him “cutting through massively”(p.12),
lutely unsinkable”(p.7) Titanic and by the fact that he
”cutting in massively”(p.22), “massively taking
dismisses the threat of war ‑ “I say there isn't a chance
charge”(p.28), “With authority”(p.34), “taking
of war”(p.6). The implication is that it is tragic that
charge, masterfully”(p.55).
someone as stupid as this should be in a position
of power.
He is disgusted and enraged by what has been
done to Eva, saying “She died in misery and agony
He has no conscience, and dismisses any suggestion
hating life”(p.28). He warns, “Public men, Mr Birling,
that he should show responsibility towards his employ-
have responsibilities as well as privileges”(p.41).
ees: “If you don't come down sharply on these people

Priestley uases Goole to voice views which he himself they'll soon be asking for the earth”(p.15). Goole's re-

held. Mr Birling says the Inspector was “Probably a sponse, “it's better to ask for the earth than to take it”,

Socialist or some sort of crank - he talked like shows that he thinks Birling has done this — taken

one”(p.60). power he doesn't deserve.

Goole remains calm and unruffled, though speaking
Sheila feels remorse , and passionately believes that
“coolly”(p.30) and “impeturbably”(p.31).
they should learn from the Inspector's visit. “And don't
The inspector‟s final speech (pg 56) has a strange,
let's start dodging and pretending now. Between us we
powerful and prophetic quality. This is not the lan-
guage of a policeman. His images are almost biblical. drove that girl to commit suicide.”(p.66).
He has taken on the role of the prophet of doom.
Sheila is honest and realistic. She says “We really

Gerald flatters Mr Birling, agreeing with his opinions must drop these silly pretences”(p32) and comments

(p.6) and doesn‟t argue with him. When Birling is that Eric has been “drinking too much for the past two

explaining why he sacked Eva, Gerald approves of his years.” She says, “we've no excuse now for putting on

action “I know we'd have done the same thing. airs”(p.41) i.e. behaving as if they are „better‟ than

“(p.17), and refers contemptuously to the striking everyone else.

women, saying “They'd all be broke - if I know

She is Sheila is a perceptive - the first to realise that
them.”(p.15). Gerald challenges Goole, saying “we're
the Inspector is no ordinary policeman, “Why - you fool -
respectable citizens and not criminals. “(p.22).
he knows. Of course he knows. And I hate to think how

Gerald's manner in the opening scene, before Goole's much he knows that we don't know yet.” Similarly, she

appearance, reflects his confident, relaxed approach to is the first to realise that the father of Eva's baby is none
life. Birling tells him, “you're just the kind of son-in-law other than Eric, and tries to get her mother to stop in-
I always wanted.”(p.4). Gerald proves to be similar to sisting that he should be held responsible: “(With sudden
Mr Birling in his views of business and of women. alarm) Mother - stop - stop! “(p.48).
As you read the play, it is important to imagine yourself watching and listening
to the action. It is a drama not a novel! The stage directions are important in
helping us to imagine exactly what is going on: they can help us picture each
character's actions and reactions.

The Setting and Lighting are very important. Priestley describes

the scene in detail at the opening of Act 1, so that the audience has
the immediate impression of a "heavily comfortable house." The
setting is constant (all action happens in the same place). Priestley
says that the lighting should be "pink and intimate" before the In-
spector arrives - a rose-tinted glow - when it becomes "brighter and
harder." The lighting reflects the mood of the play

The mystery genre is interesting. The Inspector controls the pace

and tension by dealing with one line of enquiry at a time. The story
is revealed gradually, piece by piece, like in a 'whodunit' or a puzzle.

Entrances and exits are crucial. For example, the Inspector arrives
immediately after Birling has told Gerald about his impending knight-
hood and explained his views on responsibility. Eric leaves and ar-
rives at key moments. Think about the Inspector‟s exit and Gerald‟s
return with “proof”.

The timing of the play is 'real time' - in other words, the story lasts
exactly as long as the play. The Birling family and Gerald change
from self-satisfied to extreme self-doubt in this time. What hap-
pens to create such a dramatic contrast? How is the drama main-
tained and the audience involved?

Cliffhangers keep the audience on „the edge of their seats‟ and

wanting more. Act 1 ends in the middle of the Inspector‟s question-
ing of Gerald — “Inspector: Well?”. Act 2 ends similarly, the audi-
ence and Sheila have figured it out, suddlenly “Eric enters, looking
extremely pale and distressed… Curtain falls quickly” In Act 3
the Birling‟s believed themselves to be off the hook . This releases
some of the tension - but the final call, announcing a real inspector,
suddenly restores the tension very dramatically. It is an unexpected
final twist.
There are subtle hints that not is all as it seems. For example, early
on we wonder whether the happy atmosphere is slightly forced.
Sheila wonders where Gerald was last summer, Eric is nervous
about something, Lord and Lady Croft did not attend the engage-
ment dinner. This arouses interest in the audience - we want to find
out what is going on!

There is dramatic irony . For instance, the audience knows how

wrong Mr Birling is when he makes confident predictions about
there not being a war and is excited about the sailing of The Titanic:
famously, the ship sank on her maiden voyage. This puts the audi-
ence at an advantage over the characters and makes us more in-

Sound effects can add a lot to a play. The doorbell is a sound that
first disturbs the Birling‟s relaxed evening — the Inspector shatters
any hope for a peaceful evening. The sound of the door also alerts
the audience to off-stage character‟s actions (Eric). The phone call
serves a similar purpose. The audience would want to know what is

Irony is different than dramatic irony. It is when what is being said /

done has the opposite meaning, or the opposite happens — can be
similar to sarcasm) Think about the ideas in Act 1. For example,
Birling saying “there’s a very good chance of a knighthood—so
long as we behave ourselves, don’t get into a police court or
start a scandal” Soon after, the Birlings and the police are involved
in a large scandal

The stage directions give insight into how Priestly wanted the
drama to unfold. Pay attention to them to see extra clues that
Priestly wanted to give the audience. Do they add to our understand-
ing of the characters? Themes? Do they add tension or drama?
For good examples see: Eric p.10, 55; Sheila p.23, 71; Birling p.6, 8;
Inspector p.28, 55; Sybil p.46, 48; Gerald p.36, 39

One of the most important devices is the Inspector himself, for he is the
pathway to truth. He is like a priest in the way that he gives people a
chance to change, but it is up to them to accept and make the neces-
sary changes. The Inspector is also like the wars because the first one
came, when they did not respond, another was sent to make them pay
"in fire, blood and anguish." People should have seen the error of
their ways and changed while it was possible. Without the inspector,
there is no play. He is certainly “no ordinary inspector”
J B Priestley was a socialist, but had trouble settling down to the policies
of any one political party. His socialism can was based on compassion
and caring for others. He came from a working class background and felt
empathy with the factory workers who were exploited by the industrialists
such as Arthur Birling.

Although King Edward VII died in 1910, the term „Edwardian Era‟ is usually
used for up to 1914. Many people saw the end of the Edwardian Era and
the onset of war as the end to a time of peace and stability. BUT, it was a
period of false security and Priestley uses this to emphasise the dramatic
force of his play.

These were more important in 1912 than today. Many Industrialists (factory
owners) got rich in the 1800s. Men like Arthur Birling may have come from
humble backgrounds but this new wealth allowed them to climb up the social
ladder, gaining power and respect. Marriages between factory owners and
aristocratic land-owning families helped to secure new social positions.

The Labour Party was only just beginning to make an impact on political life in
the country and the rights of workers, such as Eva Smith, were still not taken
seriously by many employers in 1912.

The fictional industrial city of Brumley would have been typical of many towns
where factory owners, who provided much needed jobs, were able to run their
businesses any way they wanted to.

The periods from 1900 to 1950 represent great leaps towards equality between men
and women. Before WW1 (1914) women were expected to be homemakers, raising
and caring for families. Women were expected to behave in a certain way. Mrs Birling
desperately tries to maintain this illusion during the play. Eva Smith certainly goes
against the norm — most women did not work and would be shocked at a
single, unmarried pregnant women. Shelia‟s emotional empowerment — her
coming of age — is similar to the progress in the Women‟s rights movement.
An Inspector Calls – Historical and Social context
The play was written and first performed in 1945. However, it was set in 1912. This is what creates the dramatic
irony; the fact that the audience in 1945 (and beyond) is aware of all the events that have occurred since 1912 and
of which the characters on stage are unaware.

Historical Context

“Just because the Kaiser makes a speech or two.” (pg 6)

German Empire became established after the downfall of Napoleon III. This led to fears of German domination.
France forged an alliance with Russia. Germany linked with the Austrian Empire and partly Italy. Great Britain was
gradually forced into close association with the Franco-Russian Group when the German navy became more devel-
It was Kaiser Wilhelm who made enemies of Great Britain, Japan and the US for Germany and all countries armed
themselves. Germany and Austria struck at France, Russia and Serbia.

“Nobody wants war, except some half-civilised folks in the Balkans” (pg 6)

From 1908 the Balkan states were in a bit of turmoil. Austria decided to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Turks
and Serbia objected to this and mobilized their troops. Russia backed Serbia. Britain backed Russia. October 1912 –
First Balkan War

An audience in 1945 would, of course, have just experienced the horror of the Second World War.

Social Context

J B Priestley was a socialist (left wing), but had trouble settling down to the policies of any one particular political
party. His socialism can be said to be based on compassion and caring for others.
He came from a working class background and felt compassion and empathy with the factory workers who were
exploited by the industrialist such as Arthur Birling.

Although King Edward VII died in 1910, the term ‘Edwardian Era’ is usually used for up to 1914.
Many people saw the end of the Edwardian Era and the onset of war as the end to a time of peace and stability.
Harking back to this time nostalgically was an escape from an uncertain and unpleasant future.
BUT, it was a period of false security and Priestley uses this to emphasise the dramatic force of his play.

Social Class

Social position was far more important in 1912 than it is today. Industrial production expanded massively in the
nineteenth century and many industrialists made huge fortunes. Men such as Arthur Birling may have come from
humble backgrounds but this new wealth allowed them to climb up the social ladder.

Marriages between these nouveaux riches families and aristocratic (but often impoverished) land-owning families
helped to secure new social positions.

The Labour Party, which was founded by James Kier Hardie in 1893, was only just beginning to make an impact on
the political life in the country and the rights of workers, such as Eva Smith, were still not taken seriously by many
employers in 1912.