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Copy of An Inspector Calls Act One
Transcript of Copy of An Inspector Calls Act One
by J. B. Priestley Act One The play is set in 1912.
What do you know about that year? Do Now The Social Context of the Play To achieve high marks at GCSE, you must be able to talk intelligently about the social context that a piece of literature sits within. Read the following information.
As you read it, summarise what you think is important into bullet points. John Boynton Priestley was born in Yorkshire in 1894. He knew early on that he wanted to become a writer, but decided against going to university as he thought he would get a better feel for the world around him away from academia. Instead, he became a junior clerk with a local wool firm at the age of 16. When the First World War broke out, Priestley joined the infantry and only just escaped death on a number of occasions. After the war, he gained a degree from Cambridge University, then moved to London to work as a freelance writer. He wrote successful articles and essays, then published the first of many novels, The Good Companions in 1929. He wrote his first play in 1932 and went on to write 50 more. Much of his writing was ground-breaking and controversial. He included new ideas about possible parallel universes and strong political messages. During World War 2 he broadcast a massively popular weekly radio programme which was attacked by the Conservatives as being too left-wing - and eventually cancelled by the BBC for being too critical of the Government.
He continued to write into the 1970s, and died in 1984. Left Wing Right Wing Political Views Supports the working-class
Seeks social justice
Supports freedom of speech and religious choice
Accuses the Right Wing of supporting the interests of the Upper Class Supports individualism (Every man for himself)
Believes in private property
Committed to Christian values
Believes in traditional family values
Accuses the Left Wing of supporting Socialism (Everyone working for the benefit of everyone) The play was written in 1946.
What do you know about that year? Read through the stage directions at the start of the play and then complete this table with the information you have been told about each character. Character Appearance Personality Mr Arthur Birling Mrs Sybil Birling Sheila Birling Eric Birling Gerald Croft What social class do the Birlings belong to? Do you think their political views will be Left Wing or Right Wing? At the beginning of the play the Birling family is celebrating the engagement of their daughter Sheila to Gerald Croft.
Gerald’s parents are not there.
Is there any significance to this? Dramatic Irony What is dramatic irony? Dramatic irony is the technique where a writer allows the audience to know more than a character in the novel or play.
There is then a contrast between the character's limited understanding of his or her situation and what the audience knows.
Priestley uses dramatic irony throughout the play. Can you find any examples of dramatic irony in the first act of An Inspector Calls? In Act One of An Inspector Calls Mr Birling says several things which we know him to be wrong about.
Complete the table below. Topic What Mr Birling says will happen What actually happened Labour relations War The Titanic G B Shaw & H G Wells In Act One of An Inspector Calls Mr Birling says several things which we know him to be wrong about.
Complete the table below. Topic What Mr Birling says will happen What actually happened Labour relations War The Titanic G B Shaw & H G Wells All sorted out. No problem with workers. General Strike in 1926 There will be no war. World War I 1914-1918 Absolutely unsinkable. Sank 14 April 1912 on its first voyage No one should listen to them – they are idealists They were influential in improving Britain’s treatment of the poor Do you think the name Priestley gives his inspector is significant?
Some commentators have suggested that Priestley chose to call his inspector ‘Goole’ as a pun. "Two hours ago a young woman died in the Infirmary. She’d been taken there this afternoon because she’d swallowed a lot of strong disinfectant. Burnt her inside out, of course." "Like a lot of these young women who get into various kinds of trouble, she’d used more than one name. But her original name – her real name – was Eva Smith." The first we hear of Eva Smith is the Inspector's description of her death. What do you think the Inspector means by ‘a lot of these young women who get into various kinds of trouble’? Mr Birling refuses to accept any responsibility for Eva’s death. "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?" Do you agree with Mr Birling? Was Mr Birling justified in firing Eva Smith? Write your ideas in the table below. Arguments for firing Eva Smith Arguments against firing Eva Smith Look at Sheila’s entrance.
How does the mood of the scene change?
Brainstorm what you know about Sheila at this stage of the play. Gerald gives away his acquaintance with Eva Smith when he utters a startled ‘What?’ in response to the news that ‘she changed her name to Daisy Renton’. What do we learn about Gerald’s involvement with Daisy Renton? Find a quote from each of these characters in Act One which you think could be useful when writing about the play. Inspector Goole Mr Birling Sheila Gerald How has the mood changed during Act One? Can you predict what will happen next? How do you think the play will end?