J .B Priestley’s
An Inspector Calls
Unit Aims In this unit, you will read the play ‘An Inspector Calls’ by J.B Priestley and do the following : Revisit the definition of and aspects of a play Learn about the playwright and play’s background Study:
Characterisation Plot as well as Plot Structure Theme Setting
Success Criteria: To successfully study this unit you will complete: -A series of group discussion tasks. - A Watching and Listening assessment - An Analysis and Evaluation Reading assessment - A research project on a topic which stems from the play - An assessed group presentation and a Critical Essay centred on the play’s main theme.
Pre-Reading Before reading the play we must : Refamiliarise ourselves with the conventions of the genre which make a play different from other texts. Learn important facts about the play and playwright and recognise their importance in enhancing our overall understanding of the play. Be able to recognise clues given by the front cover of the play which help us to gain an early insight into the play’s genre/theme /plot and characters etc.
Task 1: Defining a play Working in your groups, use the show me board to write a definition for the following: What is a ‘play’?
You have 2 minutes to complete this exercise. Everyone must be prepared to feed back to the rest of the class if required to.
What is a play? A play is a form of literature written by a playwright. It consists of scripted dialogue and is arranged into ’Acts‘. Rather than be read like a novel or a poem, a play is intended to be read aloud or ‘performed’ on a stage in front of an audience. Apart from Acts, what other aspects is a play comprised of?
Task 2: The distinguishing features of a play As a group, using your show-me-board, write down as many features of a play you can think of (for example, ‘Acts’ would be one). You have 2 minutes to complete this exercise. Everyone must be prepared to feed back to the rest of the class if required to.
The main distinguishing features of a play: Acts & scenes Props Stage directions SFX (sound effects) and music. Lighting Dialogue Costume Set
Priestley facts: • Born: 13th September 1894; Died: 14th August 1984 Mother died in the year he was born. Left school at 16 ‘to write’ and began work in 1910 as a junior clerk at a wool firm.
Influences in Priestley’s life and work Priestley said that it was the years 1911 - 1914 that ‘set their stamp’ upon him. - What do you think this means? - Which significant event did these years lead up to? - How might this have influenced Priestley’s work ?
He often engaged in political discussions with his father’s socialist friends. - How might these discussions have influenced Priestley and his work?
For your information: With the outbreak of WW2 in 1939, Priestley continued writing and worked for BBC radio. However, his programmes were cancelled by the British Government for being ‘too critical’ of their actions in the war. An Inspector Calls was written in 1945 and was set in 1912 (before WW1) and was first performed in London in 1946. Using the information you have been given so far, why might Priestley have chosen to set the play in 1912?
Task 3: By examining some of the various cover illustrations for the play along with the title it may help you to gain some insight into the genre, theme, plot line and the characters in ‘An Inspector Calls’.
Copy the following headings into your jotter. Make sure that you leave a space underneath each one ( a few lines) so that you can make notes based on the title of the play, Example 1 and/or 2 and/or 3 for each.
a) Clues which indicate the plot b) Clues which suggest the play’s genre
c) Clues which suggest the play’s theme(s) d) Clues which give you information on the characters who may feature The play covers needed for this task feature on the next slide.
Play Covers: Predictive task
Task 1: You are about to receive a copy of the blurb which features on the back of the play. A) Read it then decide whether any of your observations from the previous task were accurate.
B) Glue the blurb into your jotter then annotate the extract by highlighting and making notes on the words and phrases which give you more information on PLOT, GENRE, THEME & CHARACTER. Be ready to feed back to the class.
Blurb Arthur Birling, a prosperous manufacturer, is holding a family dinner party to celebrate his daughter’s engagement. Into this cosy scene intrudes the harsh figure of a police inspector investigating the suicide of a young workingclass woman. Under interrogation, every member of the family turns out to have a shameful secret which links them with her death.
Key words and Phrases: Arthur Birling, a prosperous manufacturer, is holding a family dinner party to celebrate his daughter’s engagement. Into this cosy scene intrudes the harsh figure of a police inspector investigating the suicide of a young workingclass woman. Under interrogation, every member of the family turns out to have a shameful secret which links them with her death.
Task 2: Assessment For this task you are going to use your watching and listening skills to answer a variety of questions based on a modern stage production of the play and learn more about it in the process.
Assessment: The clips you will watch are: - a trailer for Stephen Daldry’s 2009 version of the play - a clip of Daldry talking about the play.
These will help offer further insight into what the play is about and its main theme. You will get to see each clip twice before answering the accompanying questions. Links to the clips can be found on the next slide.
Links to clips Clip 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7jGR6 1PM6k
Clip 2: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/t heatre-reviews/6239688/An-Inspector-Callsat-the-Novello-Theatre-review.html
Process: 1. - Watch Clip 1 - 2 minutes for notes - Watch Clip 1 again - 2 minutes for notes
2. Repeat process for Clip 2 + 3. 40 minutes to answer assessment questions.
Dramatic and Stylistic Features An Inspector Calls is a well made play in that it has been carefully constructed to arouse suspense and tension using the following structure:
– Exposition (the opening) – Rising Action – Climax/Turning Point – Falling Action – Denoument Copy the above points & diagram into your jotter.
We are now ready to begin reading the play. Pay particular attention to the detail given in the Exposition of the play. The opening of a well made play serves as an introduction, providing more information on: – The main characters – The background and context – The themes and ideas of the play
Act 1: Post Reading task You have now completed your reading of Act 1. Using your knowledge of the play so far, you should be able to correctly answer the questions which will follow to convey your understanding of : -
Characterisation Plot as well as Plot Structure Theme Setting Dramatic features of a play (Stage directions etc)
To do this you will need to revisit Act 1 of the play.
Conditions: Answer each question individually and be prepared to feed back to the rest of the class.
Act 1: Key Questions (Setting/Character) 1. When was the play written? 2. When is the play set? 3. Where does the action of the play take place? 4. Which fictional, industrial city is the play set in ? 5. Where in this city is the Birlings’ house located? Explain what this suggests about the wealth and status of the Birlings. 6. Mr. Birling is described as being ‘a prosperous manufacturer’. What do you think this means?
Act 1: Staging and Atmosphere 7. What type of furniture adorns the room? 8. What kind of mood did Priestley want this furniture to create? 9 . Priestley specifies instructions with regard to lighting. How is it meant to be before the arrival of the Inspector? 10. How is the lighting meant to change after the arrival of the Inspector? What does this type of lighting remind you of? 11. Make a list of props that hint at the upper middle class status of the Birlings. 12. Which phrase in these opening stage directions creates a sense of foreboding?
Characters: First Impressions Task 1: Go through each of the characters in the play (including the Inspector) and write down at least 2 adjectives to describe each one. Remember: Adjectives are describing words i.e. ‘bossy’.
First Impressions Task 2: Next, justify your answer by providing evidence from the play. This may be taken from stage directions, the character’s words or even be something that is said about one character by another. Remember if you are taking something directly from the text you must use quotation marks (“ ”).
Theme In this lesson you are going to explore the play’s key theme (responsibility) by looking at it in the context of your own life. Working individually and as part of a group you are then going to complete a range of activities which allow you to examine your own attitude to responsibility. Everyone must participate at all times in group discussion and show that they can contribute in a meaningful way.
Task A: Individual Task
On your own rank the following statements in order with those you feel you have most responsibility over at the top and the least, at the bottom. You have 5 minutes to work individually to complete this task.
Think about it: Are there any statements from the list that you think apply not only to the individual, but the ‘collective’ i.e. you along with the rest of society ?
Task B: Discussion Now, working with others in your group decide on the three statements you, as a collective, feel you attribute the greatest amount of responsibility to and the three you feel you attribute the least amount of responsibility to. You should have 6 altogether and each person must be ready to justify the group’s reasoning behind each of their chosen statements.
You have 10 minutes to complete this task.
Task C: Discussion If every person were to put the interest of themselves and their family above all others, how would it affect the larger community?
You have 5 minutes to complete this task and every member of the group should be prepared to feedback to the rest of the class.
Task D: The Case of the Crisps... (discussion)
Task Scenario: If a stranger were to pass you by and think nothing of dropping a crisp packet on the ground, what would be your reaction? Would you shout at them to pick it up? Would you ignore it? Would you stop and pick it up? Discuss.
Lessons 6 - 8
Task 1: Now that you have read and completed the necessary questions on Act 1 of the play, you are going to begin Act 2. To properly consolidate your knowledge of Act 2, it will be split into sections and you will be given a series of questions to answer on your understanding of each section.
Pages 27-32 1) What is the mood in the dining room at the start of Act II? 2) Why do Gerald and Sheila react ‘bitterly’ to each other? 3) The Inspector is described as taking charge ‘massively’ – what impression of the Inspector do you think the writer wants to create by using this word? 4) How has the Inspector affected Sheila – think actions and dialogue. 5) Why does Sheila stare at the Inspector ‘wonderingly and dubiously’? 6) What truth does Sheila reveal about Eric? 7) Sheila tries several times to warn her mother about what she is saying (page 30; page 32). a) Write down 2 things Sheila says. b) What point is she trying to make?
Pages 33-40 1) 2)
What is Mrs Birling’s attitude to Eva Smith? Write some stage directions to show how each of the characters: a) Mr. Birling b) Mrs Birling c) Sheila d) The Inspector... reacts to Gerald’s story. 3) Explain what Sheila means when she says: “No, he’s giving us the rope – so that we’ll hang ourselves”. 4) Write a short summary of Gerald’s involvement with Daisy Renton. 5) Write a short paragraph or bullet-point list which sums up what we know about Eva/Daisy so far.
Pages 41-49 1) On page 41 Sheila sums up the involvement of each member so far – make a note of what she says. 2) Write down three words to describe Mrs Birling’s manner when she is telling her story. 3) How is the Inspector's attitude to Mrs. Birling, and his manner of questioning her, different to how he questioned Sheila? 4) What clue gives away Eric’s involvement with Eva to Sheila? 5) Why is Mrs. Birling’s final reaction in the act ‘frightened’? 6) What is the mood in the dining room as Eric re-enters? 7) Now quickly reread Act 2 and make sure that you have added ALL the entrances and exits to the table at the back of your jotter.
Homework task: From the play, find at least 2 quotations for each of the characters which reveals their attitude towards: Eva Smith and/or Responsibility and/or Eachother For each quotation (which should be consist of speech/stage directions) you must provide an explanation of what this shows about the character’s attitude towards the appropriate aspects listed above.
Task 2: Eva’s Timeline You are going to work in groups to chart the changes in Eva’s life, in chronological order, as a result of her dealing with the Birling family and Gerald Croft. For this you will need to create a graph to illustrate this and also, will have to revisit the play in order to find out the information necessary.
Remember... To think about the way Eva is treated by each of the characters and how this affects her status and her ability to control her own life. You should make notes on this at each point on the graph. To consider the fact that although Eva/Daisy’s life is on a downwards trend, she does have some points during which things improve – temporarily – for her.
Task 3 In groups, create a table with two columns with the following headings: Eva Smith (1910)
Eva Smith (2013)
Now, make a list under each heading detailing the main differences between a woman like Eva Smith in 1910 and now. For this, think about employment, welfare, class etc. Each group member should be prepared to feedback to the rest of the class.
Exemplar: 1910 (Employment): Eva would have been working long hours for very little pay. As a result, Eva – along with the other female workers went on strike for higher wages. However, there were no unions looking out for the wages and wellbeing of the workers and so, the ‘punishment’ for Eva was dismissal.
2013 (Employment): Minimum wage now exists; women have better employment rights and have more of a choice over what they want to do and where they want to work; Eva, in 1910, on the other hand would not. Workers are also able to join working unions which look out for their welfare and wellbeing in the work place. Going on strike, noweadays, doesn’t result in being dismissed.
Reading: In this lesson you are going to begin reading the final act, Act 3. Once finished, answer the questions on the following slides in your jotters.
The Dénouement The dénouement (or ending) of a well-made play is meant to be both logical and plausible. Q1. Is this true of ‘An Inspector Calls’? The dénouement should also provide a learning experience for both characters and audience. At the end of this play, not all the characters have learned their lesson. Q2.Who has? Who has not?
In order to counteract this, Priestley introduces a ‘second’ dénouement. Q.3 What is it? Is it really an ending?
HINT: • What does Priestley want us to think about? • Do we want some of the characters to go through the experience again? • Have we, the audience, learned anything?
Lesson 10 & 11
Inspector Goole Undoubtedly, Inspector Goole plays a very significant role in the play. With his arrival, tension mounts. We must look at the characterisation of the Inspector in order to understand the importance of role he plays in the play.
Task A: Individually, think about then answer the following questions:
1. What aspects of the Inspector are unusual? 2. What do you think is the main purpose of his being at the house?
3. At which point in the play does he make his entrance. Is there anything odd about this?
Task B: Benign or Vengeful? In your jotter note down examples of things the Inspector says and does, which fit these different roles. Makes sure you provide supporting evidence from the text. A benign presence ?
An avenging Angel ?
Inspector Goole & Responsibility By now you will be well aware that the play’s theme is Responsibility. It is time to decide Inspector Goole’s role in conveying this theme throughout the play.
Copy the following into your jotter: ‘You’ll be able to divide the responsibility between you when I’ve gone.’ (Inspector Goole)
Now, copy each question below and answer it using the quotation from the Inspector. 1. What does the Inspector hope to teach the family by saying this to them? 1. To what extent do the characters take the Inspector’s words on board? Justify.
Task C: Copy the following quotation on ‘Responsibility’ your jotter. Then answer the following: a) what do you think this quote means? b) Does it relate to the ending of the play in any way?
So, who is responsible for Eva's death? Most Responsible? WHY?
Least Responsible? WHY?
Task Time Part A: Consider how each of the Birlings and Gerald Croft influences what happens to Eva Smith.
To do this, briefly describe how each character is involved in the chain of events leading up to Eva’s death. For this it is best to begin with Arthur Birling as he is the first to be interrogated and the first character to have had associations with Eva.
Part B Next, consider the part each character plays in Eva’s demise. Find quotes to justify your answers (for each character find more quotations to add to the ones you have already have and look particularly at Act 3. You should have at least 4-5 quotes in total for each). Points to consider: - How does the character feel about what has happened to Eva? - How prepared are they to admit responsibility for the part that they play in her death? - Do they learn anything? Do they seem genuinely sorry? - Is there any connection between the age of the character and their readiness to accept blame ?
Part C Now using your notes/evidence, number each one (1-5) according to how responsible you feel they are for Eva’s death (1 = the most responsible/to blame; 5 = the least responsible/to blame). Briefly, write a few sentences stating how far each is at fault, in your opinion, for what he or she has done to Eva.
In the previous lesson... You were asked to rank each character in order of the least – most responsible and provide evidence to back up your opinions. Now imagine the case has been taken to court. You will now be split into groups and given one character to “defend”. This may be tricky considering the character you end up with may be the one you think is most responsible! However, you have to forget this for the sake of the task...
Contd: The teacher will organise the order of presentations. Each group will have a chance to present their case to the “court” and will be assessed on this. Remember: You are trying to state why your allocated character is the least responsible for Eva’s suicide.
Process: Working as a group, select as many pieces of evidence as you can from the play which may get your character ‘off the hook’ with regards to any responsibility they may have in Eva’s suicide. You must use evidence from the text and elaborate as much as you can on each point when you come to present it. Remember: You must sound convincing so don’t say something that you can’t back up sufficiently. Always remember you are trying to present your group’s character as innocent - so don’t finish on a negative note! Deadline: You must be ready to present your findings to the rest of the class in the following lesson.
Remember ‘The Rules’: 1. All group members must contribute and each member should be introduced by the previous speaker. 2. There must be an introduction introducing the character detailing the part they play in Eva’s death and a conclusion summing up your group’s overall thoughts on the part this character plays. The intro, main body and conclusion need to be shared equally amongst yourselves so that one person is not doing all the talking. You should all speak for approximately the same amount of time as one another. 3. You should aim to present your case within a 6-8 minute time frame. Should you exceed this, or speak for less time than the minimum stated, you will jeopardise your overall mark. Each group will be given a timer to ensure that the chances of this are minimised.
Peer Assessment: Each of the other groups should be actively listening and taking notes on both the content – and delivery – of each of the cases presented. These notes will be especially valuable at the end of the presentations in helping to clarify and raise particular points which may have come about as a result of the presentations delivered.
Assessment Task – Close Reading Read each of the articles on the director, Stephen Daldry’s production of ‘An Inspector Calls’. Answer the questions which follow.
Lesson 14 -16
Critical Essay: Task In J.B. Priestley’s play An Inspector Calls, the theme of responsibility is explored through the actions and dialogue of the characters. At the end, however, Priestley leaves it up to the audience to decide who is most to blame for Eva Smith’s death. Discuss how Priestley explores this central theme and explain your own conclusions about the characters’ respective roles in Eva’s death and in helping us (the audience) reach a decision as to who is to blame.
Important Techniques to remember: -
Characterisation Setting Set The use of Dramatic Irony* Stage directions The timings of entrances/exits of the actors. Dialogue – what the characters say that reveals aspects of their character - Acting - The way the characters say their lines, their facial expressions and body language and its effect. - Staging - The positions of characters ’on stage‘/ the position of cameras and the possible reasons behind this- i.e. how the audience would see the play unfold.
• Introduce each character (provide relevant detail on background, personality, political views etc). • Explain the part each plays in Eva’s death. • Analyse: • How each thinks/feels about his/her level of responsibility. • How do we (the audience) think/feel about a) their role in Eva’s death b) their attitude to his own part in Eva’s death. Lastly, pick the character who you think is the most responsible for the death of Eva Smith and justify why. • Remember to include relevant quotations and to lay them out correctly. You have a lot of the information you will need for this in your jotter.
A good introduction • Includes… Title Playwright/dramatist Reference to the task Context ( a sentence or two setting the scene) • It avoids: Phrases such as: ’In my essay…’; ‘For my critical evaluation I will…’ etc. Giving away too much detail too soon Retelling the story Including quotations
Exemplar Introduction: The novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee is one in which the main theme is racism. In the novel, Scout, the narrator, recalls her childhood growing up in the Southern States of America - pre Civil Rights - in a society where black people were treated as second class citizens. Tension mounts when Scout’s father, the town’s most respected lawyer, is asked to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. Through the use of characterisation, theme, key incidents and setting the writer manages to convey the theme of racism successfully and illustrate to the reader the injustices which take place in a society intolerant of difference.
An Inspector Calls: Research project
Task: Now that you have read the play, you are going to choose one area which Priestley explores in the play which you would like to research. You have a week to produce a detailed plan as well as list of resources you are going to consult in order to help you do this. Once your teacher has checked this over and is happy with it you will be given a deadline date for submission of the piece.
Choosing a topic… You will be shown a list of suggested topics shortly. If you would like to choose your own topic clear this with the teacher first. First, you are going to be shown various images relating to the potential topics you could choose. Try and work out what each one might be.
Suggested topics: • • • • •
Industrial Britain The Welfare System (Then and Now) Class (Then and Now) Women in society (Then and Now) The Birth of Socialism in Britain (Then and now) • Priestley and his work (Recurrent themes etc)
Last but not least... You are now going to use your prior knowledge and understanding of conducting research to create your report on your chosen topic.
You are responsible for making sure that you reference your sources and that the sources you consult are reliable.