I think that this play is very good at getting Priestley points across. After I had read the play it immediately made me think about the way I treat people. This is because in my view the way the message is delivered through the use of the character Inspector Goole, also the harsh reality of the story about the young girl, Eva Smith, and about her committing suicide. This is quite a selfish way to interpret the play and changing your ways, also the play is about not being selfish, looking after each other and working as one body, this is quite ironic.
The way the inspector challenges Mr Birling, although Mr Birling is a powerful man. The inspector isn’t afraid of who the inspector knows “how do you get on with the chief constable? … Perhaps I ought to warn you… he’s an old friend of mine”. This doesn’t scare the inspector which appeals to the reader. Also as soon as the inspector walks in the lighting changes from “cosy” to a “harder” light.
This shows the presence of the inspector it shows that as soon as he walks in the atmosphere changes. Priestley wrote this play in 1947 but set it in the year 1912 just before the First World War and in the year of the titanic sinking.
This technique called distancing. It enables the audience to think about times by reflecting on the past. He uses to help get his point across and also it helps give the impression of Mr Birling being pompous and stupid.
This is as he refers to the titanic and calls it “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable” he also comments on the thought of war, “you’ll hear some people saying war is inevitable. And to that I say fiddlesticks”. This makes Mr Birling look stupid as the audience of the time know that there has been a war, two wars.
They are also aware that the titanic did sink. This helps to get Priestley’s point across as; if Mr Birling looks stupid then it shows capitalism is stupid. The way in which it is set back in time adds to the importance of changing ways, as the end the inspector talks about if men don’t learn there lesson soon then they will be taught it in “blood and fire and anguish”. This refers to the war and it gets the audience to think have they learned there lesson, as they will have probably lived through two wars and wont want to see anymore.
The play was written just after the second war, in 1947, but everyone would still be feeling the effects of it. This helps Priestley to get the audience to reflect on their lives and to see what mistakes they have made and make them want to change as they won’t want to go through anymore big ordeals like a war. Priestley had many time theories and influences while writing this play which helped him set it in a good way to get his message across with effectiveness. He was fascinated by the theories of time and he got his influences off P. D Ouspensky and J. W Donne. P. D Ousepensky believed that after death we entered the same life and are trapped in that cycle until we can learn from our past mistakes and break out of it.
J. W Donne believed some people have the ability to see into the future and see the consequences of their actions. This second theory is visible in the play as after the Birlings are visited by an inspector, Inspector Goole, and questioned by him. After they have found he was fake, the police station ring up and say that an inspector will be on his way round to question them about a girl who has recently committed suicide.
This gives them a chance to do the right thing and tell the inspector everything. Even though they have the chance to tell the inspector everything and do the right thing, the audience get the impression that only Sheila and maybe Eric will actually go through and admit what they have done. Even though none of the things happened are crimes against the law but just moral crimes, the Birlings are too ashamed to admit what they have done. Priestley has used Sheila as the character to help reinforce his point and she is what Priestley wants the audience to do.
This is as she changes her views because of the events that happen in the play. This is what Priestley wants the audience to do think about what they’ve done and change their views because of the play as they wouldn’t want to think that they have made someone feel that bad. This play is still relevant to audiences in modern times as not everyone now treats people fairly. The difference is that in the modern era employees have unions, to protect them against unfair decisions from employers and give them more rights for all aspects of working, and national insurance cards and numbers.
In 1912 when this play was set these things were just starting to begin. Before the inspector arrives to the Birlings house the mood is very natural and it’s very realistic. This is as the play is set in real time which means whatever happens on the stage would have took the same amount of time in real life, so it isn’t set over weeks or months. As the play is set in real time it makes it seem much more realistic to the audience which would therefore shock them more. This is what Priestley wanted as it would make the audience go away from the play and think about how they treat people.
That was also what Priestley wanted the audience to do. In the stage directions it comments that the Birling family and Gerald “have had a good dinner, are celebrating a special occasion, and are pleased with themselves”. It also comments that “the lighting should be pink and intimate until the inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder”. This shows that the atmosphere is going to change when the inspector arrives, from the nice relaxed one to a very uneasy tense atmosphere. The opening stage direction also gives a lot of information about the characters and household.
This gives us some clues about what the family are like and it would have given the audience some visual clues, which would have given them a little impression of the characters. From the first act we learn a lot more about the characters and the pleasant relaxed mood is continued through. In the first act Birling gives lots of advice to Eric, Sheila and Gerald. He thinks he knows more than he actually does like calling the titanic “unsinkable” and commenting that war is never going to happen. Also he gives his advice as the capitalist and industrialist representative.
He tells his children that they should look after there selves and family “none of that community and nonsense” this shows he is a strong believer of the capitalist views. When the inspector arrives it is just after Mr Birling has made a big speech on looking “after himself- and his family too, of course” and also on “capitalist vs. labour”, which it is like when the inspector comes as Mr Birling shows the view of a capitalist and industrialist, whereas the inspector shows the view of a socialist. Birling’s speech before the inspector arrives shows that the two are going to have completely different views.
As the inspector is a socialist and believes in collective responsibility and looking after everyone, whereas Mr Birling believes that we should just look after ourselves and family. The inspector is shown in the play to be the antithesis of Mr Birling and this causes Mr Birling to not like the inspector. The inspector believes Mr Birling is wrong for discharging Eva Smith and comments about her asking for higher wages saying “they might but after all it’s better to ask for the earth then take it”. This shows that there wasn’t anything wrong in just asking for higher wages.
Although Mr Birling is a strong believer of the capitalist views when the Eric brings up the speech Birling has just gave on looking after yourself and family, Birling is keen to dismiss it and not talk in front of the inspector about it. This shows that although he has strong beliefs he knows the inspector has the opposite views and it shows that Birling is afraid to confront him about it. At the start of this play we are led to believe that it is going to be a murder mystery play but instead we find out it is a morality play.
The reader wouldn’t find out it is just going to be a morality play until it as finished. This would have made the ending a bit of anticlimax for the audience as they would have been expecting a big mystery to unravel whereas it ends more abruptly but it does have the added mystery of what is going to happen when the real inspector visits them. The inspector is at The Birling’s household to investigate the suicide of a girl called Eva Smith. He goes into depth about the incidents running up to the death of this girl.
This seems odd to the audience as they would have wondered why the inspector is asking questions about her being discharged from work as it bears no reference to her death and its not illegal so the inspector didn’t need to investigate that. Also the other events running up to her death like her getting fired from her department store job, in “Milwards”, her relationship with Gerald and also her conversation with the group that helps women headed by Mrs Birling weren’t necessary in investigations.
The only person out f the Birling family that the inspector needed to talk to was Eric, this is as his involvement with this girl, Eva Smith, was the only one out of the family’s involvements with her that was illegal. But the way Priestley does these investigations into the other events such as Sheila getting her fired makes it seem like the events were illegal. Also the way Sheila feels extremely bad for what she has done helps add to Priestley getting the point across that all of these events were wrong.
This helps him in his dramatic purpose as it helps make the audience feel that these events were bad. The audience would have been of similar class to Mr Birling so if Priestley could make them see that these events were wrong them it would change society dramatically. When the inspector is questioning his manner is very direct and forthright. He isn’t scared of Mr Birling and still uses this style when questioning Mr Birling. Mr Birling tries to intimidate the inspector but the inspector isn’t fazed by it and he carries on his style of questioning.
This would have seemed very strange to the audience as the manner of the inspector is very rude and not like the manner of normal inspectors. Even when Mr Birling comments that he is very good friends with “the chief constable” and that he plays golf with him regularly the inspector isn’t intimidated by this and answers dryly to him and very sarcastically as if he is mocking Mr Birling. The inspector contradicts, undermines and over-rules Mr Birling. He is always in control of the situation and it never seems that Mr Birling is in charge of the two.
When Mr Birling is trying to ask “why … should you come here inspector-” the inspector cuts right in which shows that he is in charge and it shows that he is the superior of Mr Birling so Mr Birling should speak when the inspector tells him too. The inspector is like this all the way though the play with Mr Birling and although Mr Birling tries many times to tell him that he doesn’t like his manner and he should show respect, Birling “I don’t like that tone”, the inspector pays no attention and carries on with his ways.
The way he criticises the lack of care from Mr Birling and his manner is not what you would expect from a normal inspector. When the inspector is questioning Sheila he uses grisly details of Eva Smith’s death which works as a shock tactic, not only to Sheila but to the audience as well. He uses some very emotive language which helps the audience and Sheila feel extremely sorry for Eva Smith. Throughout questioning Sheila he uses phrases and words like “burnt her insides out” and “died, after several hours of agony” this is the type of emotive and grisly language he uses too shock Sheila.
She is different to her dad, Mr Birling, as she is very willing to accept responsibility for Eva Smith’s death. This is how the inspector introduces collective responsibility to the family, through Sheila as she is willing to accept responsibility. As soon as she realises her connection with Eva Smith she feels extremely guilty and is willing to talk about why she got her sacked, but she doesn’t try and justify it. When the inspector has finished investigating Sheila and moves on too investigating others then she acts as an assistant to the inspector.
She tells her family that there isn’t any point trying to pretend you didn’t know her as the inspector will just cut you too pieces and prove you did. She asks questions of her own which helps the inspector in questioning, although she doesn’t realise it does. “Go on mother you might as well admit it… Yes she is why? “. She does this to help make her family see the same pint of view as her. Sheila is the first to realise that the inspector is not normal and is probably a fake.
She says that “its queer very queer” when talking about the inspector to the family after he has gone. Although after they find out the inspector isn’t real and all the family are happy, she still feels extremely bad and tells her family that we should change our ways although the inspector wasn’t real he still spoke some truth and we should realise that we are treating people wrong. She isn’t afraid of admit she is wrong and this is who Priestley uses to get his point across and help audiences to think about their personal experiences and change.
The inspector isn’t just bothered about facts that prove legal guilt but more of moral responsibility. This fits in with Priestley’s underlying message as he wants people to change their views and think more about if they are being morally correct. The inspector, in his final speech, talks about “there may be only one Eva Smith but there are millions more like her” he is talking about social classes there and telling the Birlings and the audience that we need to help them.
He doesn’t just question the family but he also questions the class system and the attitudes they represent. He uses the family to show what is going wrong and right with the country. He uses Sheila to show that the young are changing there views which is good as they will pass it down so will mean that the problem might have disappeared in future years. But he also talks about poverty and that rich business men, like Mr Birling, aren’t doing anything to help the poor.
In the inspector’s final speech he predicts the first and second world wars which acts like a symbolism. He comments that if men don’t learn there lesson soon they will learn it in “blood and fire and anguish”. This shows he predicts there will be a war if men carry on their ways. When the inspector leaves we still don’t find out who he is. This leaves it as a bit of a mystery but he still makes a dramatic impact on the characters and audience. The way he isn’t a real inspector adds to the dramatic impact.
From the stage directions after the inspector leaves it shows how much of an impact he has had on the family and on the audience. Immediately after he leaves the family are stood there in thought. This is shown in the stage directions as it comments on all characters such as Sheila were it says “Sheila is still quietly crying”. This time were all the characters are in thought acts like a time for the audience to reflect on pass experiences and think about how they are going to treat people in future.
The younger generation react to the inspector better then the older generation as they are much more willing to change their views and accept that the inspector is right, whereas the older generation feel that they don’t have to change their ways as the inspector wasn’t real so none of it counts. There is a final twist at the end of the play when they find out that a real inspector is coming around to ask them a few questions concerning the suicide of a girl. This would appeal to the audience as they would have wanted to see some justice.
This is the effect of the inspector as even though the crimes weren’t legal crimes and just moral crimes the audience see them as crimes that should be punished. At the end of the play I immediately thought about how I treat people. It showed that Priestley’s achieved his dramatic purpose. Although the inspector is not a realistic person it doesn’t take anything away from the point of the play. After the play I didn’t feel that because the inspector wasn’t realistic that there wasn’t anything to think about I still considered it very real and that it is important to think about personal past experiences and think about your views.
I think the way the underlying message is put across is very clear and I think it would have challenged people’s thoughts. Priestley’s techniques of getting his message a very successful and which makes the message clear and precise. I think this play is very good at getting its message across. Although it isn’t as action packed as a modern audience would expect I still think it would be a good play to see and it would definitely help you to change your views.