Priestly uses the characters to express his views on the issue of social responsibility, morality and about class divisions with many themes including greed, regret, guilt and blame. In the opening of ‘An Inspector Calls’ the audience learns of the Birling family who are wealthy. They are celebrating their daughter’s engagement with her fiancï¿½, Gerald. The Inspector arrives and breaks up the party, questioning the family on the death of a young Eva Smith, who had killed herself by drinking disinfectant.
Upon questioning each member of the family seems to be involved in her death and is slowly forced to confess. When the Inspector finally leaves they find out that he is a fake. However at the very end they get a phone call telling them that a young woman has just killed herself and that there is an Inspector on his way to speak to them about it. An Inspector Calls is what is known as a well made play. Its progression is that from ignorance to knowledge for both the audience and the characters.
J.B Priestly uses dramatic irony to portray Mr. Birling as an optimistic person as he predicts the future when we all no it does not come true. As in the text he talks of the Titanic being ‘unsinkable’. As the play was written in 1947 and set in 1912, this is an example as the audience would know that Mr. Birling was wrong in his opinion as we know the Titanic sank two years later. Mr. Birling also says that there are no more wars to come when the audience knows that there is a further two after.
This makes him seem irrational and diminishes his state of a wise ‘self made man’. Mr. Birling represents Priestley’s hatred for businessmen who are only interested in making money. He will never alter his ways and it is left to the younger generation to learn from their mistakes. During the course of the play the action is mostly focused on Eva Smith/ Daisy Renton. At the beginning of the play, Sheila is described as a ‘pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited’. The reader gets the impression that she is a very relaxed, spoilt, and innocent girl who is very naï¿½ve.
At the start of the play Sheila has a very good, happy relationship with her family and fiancï¿½. Moreover she is respectful with no worries at hand. In the introduction, the play is said to be set in a large suburban house which has good solid furniture. It is comfortable but not cosy or homelike. It is an evening and they are seated in the dining room round a table near a fire. This setting creates a very eerie mood as they are in a large empty house. The fact that it is an evening produces a stronger impact on the mystery, suspense as the events unfold.
There is a change in Sheila’s behavior just after the inspector arrives. For example, when Sheila enters the room overhearing bits of conversation between the Inspector and Mr Birling, she is told to ‘run along’. However is very anxious to know what’s happening and to be involved. She is not so carefree once told of Eva’s suicide as she exclaims in shock ‘oh – how horrible’. Sheila is quite distressed as she later says ‘… I can’t help thinking about this girl-destroying herself so horribly…I wish you hadn’t told me’. This shows that Sheila was so carefree and naï¿½ve, that this revelation of a suicide has affected her at such an early stage.
At this stage the main tensions of the play are finding out what exactly happened and who was involved. Sheila then finds out that her father sacked Eva Smith for leading a strike in favor of a pay rise. She reacts in an unsure manner asking ‘Did you, Dad?’ This shows that Sheila thought her father’s actions were not at all justified. Priestly creates tension and suspense towards the end of Act One and the beginning of Act Two. This is caused when the reader learns of Gerald’s involvement with the girl. We find out that Gerald had an affair with the girl after she changed her name to Daisy Renton. Another reason for tension and suspense is that the reader does not know whether Gerald will be able to hide his affair from the Inspector.