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An Inspector Calls Act One

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D Prince

on 15 November 2013

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Transcript of An Inspector Calls Act One

An Inspector Calls
by J. B. Priestley

Act One
What did you learn about J.B. Priestley?
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
Favours equality
Supports multi-culturalism
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)
Read through the stage directions at the start of the play.
What is your first impression of the characters and how do you think they will behave in the play?
Now copy and complete this table with the information you have been told about each character. Use quotations from the play to support your points.
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.
As we read identify 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.
Copy and complete the table below.
What Mr Birling says will happen
What actually happened
Labour relations
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.
Finish filling in the table.
What Mr Birling says will happen
What actually happened
Labour relations
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
How has the mood changed during Act One?
Can you predict what will happen next? How do you think the play will end?
Learning objective:
To explore the opening stage directions in Act 1 and to consider the social class of the characters.
Stage directions:
Why are they important?
As we read the stage directions for Act 1, think about how the set reflects the social class of the characters.
Sketch the set in the box provided and label it
Are the Birlings left wing or right wing?
Introducing the characters
Do you think the Birlings are left or right wing? Why?
An Inspector Calls- Act 1
Learning objective:
To understand how dramatic irony is used at the start of Act 1
Complete sheet on stage directions
Full transcript