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An Inspector Calls - is it a detective story or a social critique?

Uploaded by flowergirl on Mar 09, 2004

Is an Inspector Calls a detective story or a social critique and
How will the audience’s views have changed on this from the time the play was written to today?

Many people believe that ‘An Inspector Calls’ by JB Priestley is a detective story because it is centred around an investigation of the Birling family and it is also indicated by the title. However, when you study the play in detail it becomes apparent that the play is not simply a detective story but it is also a social critique. However, the audience’s views in the time the play was written will have changed from today’s society as in my opinion, the social content was more relevant in 1945 and today’s audiences may now view it simply as a light and comical mystery.

It is clear from the outset that JB Priestley intended this to be a detective story. The title ‘An Inspector Calls’ is very suggestive as to the topic of the play. It would appear from this that it is probable for the play to be based around the investigations of a clever and cunning detective inspector who calls upon a household to investigate a crime, and sure enough, this impression continues into the beginning of the play when the Birling family are informed that a detective has arrived at the house to get “some information” about the suicide of a young girl.

However, right from the beginning there are great hints about the social issues that the play will cover. Mr Birling’s off beam speech at the beginning clearly indicates that this play is not your ordinary Agatha Christie style mystery. The deliberate way that JB Priestley makes Mr Birling reel out mistake after mistake is building an idea of an arrogant, middle class man who could easily represent a lot of the society that Priestley was living in at the time. A normal detective story can often build up a character showing him/her to be arrogant and pompous like Mr Birling, but it is the specific incidents that he mentions that is the first indicator that this play is more than a petty mystery. Birling proudly boasts that his friend will travel on the “absolutely unsinkable” Titanic, that he knows for a fact that “there isn’t a chance of war” and that in the near future there will be “peace and prosperity … everywhere.” Of course Mr Birling...

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Uploaded by:   flowergirl

Date:   03/09/2004

Category:   Literature

Length:   13 pages (2,827 words)

Views:   3071

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