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'An Inspector Calls,' Foreshadowing and Dramatic Irony

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Ashley Mercer

on 1 December 2014

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Transcript of 'An Inspector Calls,' Foreshadowing and Dramatic Irony

'An Inspector Calls,' Linking Foreshadowing and Dramatic Irony to Tone
encompasses the attitude towards a subject and towards the audience implied in a literary work.

Tone may be formal, informal, intimate, solemn, somber, playful, serious, ironic, condescending, or many other possible attitudes.

Each piece of literature has at least one theme, or central question about a topic, and how the theme is approached within the work is known as the tone.


a warning or indication of future events
Focus on Arthur Birling, Agent of Dramatic Irony
J. B. Priestley makes use of dramatic irony in the play, particularly through Birling’s first major speeches. Remember, the play is set in the spring of 1912 – before the First World War. Its first UK audiences would have viewed it in 1946 – after the Second World War.
An Inspector Calls: Act 1, Dramatic Irony
L.o. to define and apply to characterisation

All (D): define key term and use to analyse character in some detail
Most (C): apply key term and context to character
Some (B): link key term, context and political ideology to character
'An Inspector Calls', Act 1: Tone/Foreshadowing
L.0. To define and analyse tone and foreshadowing.

Success Criteria:
All (D): link stagecraft/language to tone and foreshadowing using some detail
Most (C): link stagecraft/language to tone and foreshadowing with range of detail, with some mention of context
Some (B): link stagecraft/language to tone and foreshadowing with discriminating examples, utilising context

Tone, Act 1
How is the tone set before the play begins?

Answer question in your notes.
Tone, Act 1
The stage directions set the tone for Act 1 before the actors even come onstage.

Priestley says that the lighting should be "pink and intimate" before the Inspector arrives - a rose-tinted glow.

What does it mean to 'look at the world through rose tinted glasses'?

When the Inspector arrives the lighting becomes 'brighter and harder.'

How would this affect the tone of the play?
Dramatic Irony
All is not as it seems...
There are subtle hints given that the happy atmosphere is being forced at the beginning of the play.

If an engagement dinner is being held for Gerald Croft and Sheila Birling, where are Gerald's parents Lord and Lady Croft?

What else may indicate that the tone of the play will become less lighthearted?
Quotation Retrieval
3 different instances
in the play where a character mentions something that contradicts the supposed lightheartedness of the tone in Act 1 - before the arrival of the Inspector.

In your exercise books write down the corresponding quotation and explain how the comment adds to the growing uneasiness in the scene.

Ensure you make reference to:
Arthur Birling, Agent of Dramatic Irony
‘ – I say you can ignore all this silly pessimistic talk.’ (p.6)
‘Last month, just because the miners came out on strike … there’s a lot of wild talk about possible labour trouble in the near future.’ (p.6)
‘We employers are at last coming together to see that our interests – and the interests of Capital – are properly protected.’ (p.6)
‘ … we’re in for a time of steadily increasing prosperity.’ (p.6)‘
… you’ll hear some people say that war’s inevitable. And to that I say – fiddlesticks!’ (p.6)
‘ - the Titanic - … and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.’
‘ … you’ll be living in a world that’ll have forgotten all these Capital versus Labour agitations and all these silly little war scares.’
‘There’ll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere – except of course in Russia, which will always be behindhand naturally.’

‘ … I speak as a hard-headed business man.’
In his early speeches, Birling makes many predictions about the future. All of them are wrong. In this way, Priestley deliberately makes Birling appear foolish about matters of fact. This becomes important when, a little later in the play, Birling gives us his opinions.

How would an audience watching the play in the 1940s have felt about the character of Birling?

You might want to imagine that your audience has people from the: working class, middle class, and upper class.

 Would their reactions and responses to Birling have been the same? Explain your reasons.

‘ … you’d think everybody has to look after everybody else, …

Birling was ‘speaking’ in 1912 and, although his views and opinions might seem outdated to us, some people, even in today’s society, still share his ideas.

Can you think of one reason or example to defend Birling’s ideas and one reason or example to prove Birling wrong?
Character Analysis
1. Does Priestley share Birling’s views, opinions and ideas? (Consider Priestley’s political views.)

 2. Are we (the audience) meant to share Birling’s views, opinions and ideas? Explain your answer.

 3. What dramatic device does Priestley use to discredit Birling’s views, opinions and ideas, and how does he do this? (Think about the order of Birling’s speeches.)

 4. The ‘sharp ring’ of the doorbell curtails Birling’s speech about community and responsibility. Why do you think this may be significant?
irony that occurs when the meaning of the situation is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play.
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