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Time in an Inspector Calls

In: English and Literature

Submitted By jacko061286
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How does Priestley use time as a dramatic device in ‘An Inspector Calls?

An Inspector calls can be seen as one of Priestley’s ‘time’ plays because it explores the relationship between the past, present and future; some schools of thought have even suggested that the Inspector is some form of ‘cosmic time-lord’ or have compared him to ‘The ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’ from Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.

At the beginning of the play, time is used to undermine Arthur Birling, as he makes a series of misplaced predictions about the future. This dramatic irony serves not only to belittle Birling, but to criticise the idea of capitalism, which he represents. The first audience to watch the play in 1946 would be well aware of his miscalculation when he states that the Titanic, a ship that sank in its maiden voyage in 1912, the same year that the play was set, was “absolutely unsinkable”.

Time is also used to highlight the theme of contrast or opposition in the play. The Inspector enters the play just after Birling claims “that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own”. Placing the Inspector's arrival here is a dramatic device, which challenges Mr Birling's capitalist views on society. In the exposition, we only really get a sense of the capitalist viewpoint, as Arthur Birling, due to the fact that he is head of the house, is allowed to spew his message unchallenged. The “sharp ring” on the door bell interrupts Birling’s speech on social responsibility and provides an indicator to the audience that something is about to change; the audience is forced to make a connection between the Inspector’s arrival and Birling’s Capitalist ideology that promotes self-interest and believes that community is ‘nonsense’.

As the play proceeds, the audience appreciate the important timing of the inspector's arrival. This is due to the...

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