In Act One of ‘An Inspector Calls’ how does J. B. Priestley convey his concerns and ideas to the audience, as well as involve and interest them in the play? In ‘An Inspector Calls’ Priestley presents ideas about responsibility and community. Being a socialist, Priestley believed that everyone is responsible for each other, and everyone’s misfortune is an effect of other people’s actions. He conveys his concerns of this strongly in the play. He wrote in the popular style of ‘the well made play’ which is ideal for his storylines and purposes.
In this essay I will show how Priestley conveys his concerns and ideas about society to the audience in Act One. Priestley made a deliberate decision to set this play in 1912, around three decades prior to the time he actually wrote it. Priestley chose to set the play in 1912 because so much happened after; he could easily convey his socialist views to an audience using dramatic irony. “… a few German officers have too much to drink and begin talking nonsense, you’ll hear some people say war’s inevitable… the Germans don’t want war. Nobody wants war, except some half-civilized folks in the Balkans.
” Of course when Mr Birling says this, the audience will know that he couldn’t be more wrong. In the play, Mr Birling and the rest of the cast members mention a lot of events that happened after the play was set, some that were said to be inevitable, and some that most people like The Birlings just believed would never happen, such as the titanic sinking and the war. Some events that weren’t mentioned, but were conveyed in the moral values, would have changed The Birlings’ life dramatically. The Birlings were typical examples of higher class citizens and they had typical views towards lower class citizens.
They believed that lower class citizens did not have the right to ask for more pay, or live as higher class did. They believed that women should not have the vote, which is typical of the gender roles of the time. They did not believe in socialism and responsibility for each other, as Mr Birling said-“it’s every man for himself… if we were all responsible for each other… it would be very awkward. ” In 1912 women being inferior meant that Mr Birling rarely listened to the females of the household, which made the inspector less compassionate with him as the inspector seemed to be more of a socialist.
The play would have been relevant to a 1940’s audience as it involves a lot of the values that the audience would have lived by before any of the significant event between 1912 and the 1940s. The audience may also start to understand what was going wrong back then that caused all the events up to the 1940s. The play also has relevance to today’s audience as it indicates values that should still be a strong influence on our lives today. Priestley uses dramatic devices to convey some of his concerns and ideas. The use of setting is a constant reminder of the class system, as in a theatre production the play stays in one room.
In the stage directions Priestley makes sure that the room looks stately but not comfortable or cosy. In a theatre production the setting doesn’t change as it is written in ‘real time’, which is much easier for a theatre performance. In the black and white film version, most of the film is still in the one room, but there are flashbacks for how each character came into contact with Eva Smith. One of the main problems with this is that in each flashback, you see Eva Smith, but you see the same girl each time, which makes the ending idea that it isn’t the same girl impossible.
Most of the characters are The Birlings family and people connected with them, which means the characters are mainly upper class. The only lower class characters are Eva Smith and Edna the maid. Mr Birling tries to stay in charge as he is the oldest, and is male, but he loses his authority over Sheila and Eric as they could see what was going to happen and Mr and Mrs Birling couldn’t. Mr Birling tries to keep his authority by siding with Gerald as he would be the second most powerful in the household and shares Mr Birling’s views. Unfortunately for him that was not enough for him to keep his authority.