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Language and Style inAn Inspector Calls
For IGCSE English Literature
Mr Elkin-Jones, Late November 2011
This PowerPoint will notâ¦
Tell you the plotDescribe charactersLet you sit there and say nothing â engage!Go over what you should ready knowReplace the re-reading and general revision you need to doSlide3
Style: articulate critical concepts
The struggle between the embattled patriarch Arthur Birling and Inspector Goole has been interpreted by many critics as a symbolic confrontation between capitalism and socialism, and arguably demonstrates Priestley's Socialist political critique of the selfishness and moral hypocrisy of middle-class capitalist society. While no single member of the Birling family is solely responsible for Eva's death, together they function as a hermetic class system who exploit neglected vulnerable women, with each example of exploitation leading collectively to Eva's social exclusion, despair and suicide.
The play also arguably acts as a critique of Victorian-era notions of middle-class philanthropy towards the poor, which is based on presumptions of the charity-givers' social superiority and severe moral judgement towards the "deserving poor". The romantic idea of gentlemanly chivalry towards "fallen women" is also debunked as being based on male lust and sexual exploitation of the weak by the powerful. In Gooleâs final speech, Eva Smith is referred to as a representative for millions of other vulnerable working class people, and can be read as a call to action for English society to take more responsibility for working class people, pre-figuring the development of the post World War II
Style through Themes
Priestleyâs social conscience was awakened by growing social inequalities in the 1930sOutlined in âEnglish Journeyâ (1934), where he raged at the treatment of veterans and the desolation of places like Rusty Lane.His plays were impeccably crafted, sometimes experimental and are characterised by pre-War settings and tricks with time. They include:âDangerous Cornerâ (1932)Comedy âWhen we are Marriedâ (1938)âI Have Been Here Beforeâ (1937)âAn Inspector Callsâ (1945). The latter combined his fascination with the nature of time with his ideas about society. Sourcehttp://www.jbpriestleysociety.com/biography.htmlSlide5
Themes into language
Priestley had a clear aim when writing the play.
Firstly he wished to entertain the audience; secondly he wished to get across the central theme of responsibility.
The message is clear and simple: if individuals behave more responsibly towards each other then the world can be a better place for all.
Each of the Birling family is responsible in pushing Eva Smith towards suicide. He advocates clearly that responsibility begins at home with individuals.Â If individuals take responsibility for their actions then this will fan out into Society and collective action can make the lives of people better and war can be prevented. Â
Themes into language
There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. â¨Margaret ThatcherConservative Prime Minister
I could not be entirely serious about anything, except the well being of our society itself. â¨J.B. PriestleyAuthor, Broadcaster, Social CommentatorSource:http://www.jbpriestley-society.com/education.html
We now live in a very individualistic consumer-driven Society.
It is worth thinking about the two quotations below.
They show a clear difference in thinking between what the world was like in 1944/5, what it has grown into today and what it was like in Edwardian times.Slide7
The action of the play is set in 1912 before the outbreak of the First World War. Because it was written at the end of the Second World War in 1944 it offers a clear comparison of the world at these two crucial moments in history. In 1944 people were questioning whether they wished to return to a world of Edwardian style values or break out and create a new world. Priestley was one of the foremost advocates of political and social change from the 1930s right up to the end of the Second World War.Â
By what are style and theme shaped?Slide8
By what are language and style shaped? 2
The Inspector is the central figure in the play. Ask yourself who he is and where he comes from. Has he come back in time from 1944 to try and give the Birlings the opportunity to share their guilt; accept responsibility; and change and improve the spiral of their lives? Is this the authorâs voice?Slide9
Priestleyâs experience, visionâ¦and thus style
Born in Bradford in 1894 Priestley was a reforming patriot who had an instinctive understanding of the less fortunate and believed passionately in social justice.He was never a member of a political party, but described himself as more or less a left-wing intellectual and a socialist of the old style.Living in Bradford he saw at first hand the consequence of a class of people working long underpaid hours, living in squalid, crowded housing along dirty streets. Of Bradford he once wrote:âI watched the smoke thicken and the millionaires who made it ride away. I saw broken old women creep back to the mills, and young men wither because there was no work for them to do and nobody wanted them. I saw the saddest waste of all, the waste of human lifeâ.Source: http://www.jbpriestley-society.com/education.htmlSlide10
The language of Priestley, also of the Inspector?
The Great War 1914-1918 was transforming event of Priestleyâs life. Saw at first-hand what the Inspector meant by men being taught a lesson in âfire and blood and anguishâ.He lost virtually all of his friends in the war and emerged from it with a deep-rooted class consciousness. He blamed the officer class and believed till the day he died that the lies told to make young men enlist and the war strategies of the generals were responsible for the deaths of so many. Source: http://www.jbpriestley-society.com/education.html
In 1962 he wrote:
I still feel today and must go on feeling until I die, the open wound, never to be healed, of my generationâs fate, the best sorted out and slaughtered... The tradition of an officer class, defying both imagination and common sense, killed most of my friends as surely as if those cavalry generals had come out of the chateau with polo mallets and beaten their brains out. Call this class prejudice if you like, so long as you remember that I went into that war without any such prejudice, free of any class feeling. No doubt I came out of it with a chip on my shoulder; a big heavy chip, probably some friendâs thigh-bone.âSlide11
Styles of Speech: which character uses which and when do they change?
: utterances that provide information.
utterances that express the speakerâs feelings.
utterances where the main purpose is to get something done or acquire something.
utterances where the main emphasis is on the social relationship between the participants.
utterances devoid of
any serious content âsmall talkâ, usually conducted with strangers or people only slightly known.Slide12
The language of Inspector: 1
INSPECTORâS FINAL SPEECH, Act 3, pg 56But just remember this. Once Eva Smith has gone â but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives and what we think and say and do. We donât live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for one another. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.
Feels like a speech
Does not feel spontaneous but deliberate
It is both
(utterances that provide information) and
utterances that express the speakerâs feelings).
Compare with Romans 1, v about 13 style in KJV
Compare with style of Christ in Gospel According to St Luke or St Mark (âI tell you the truthâ¦I tell you nowâ)
Simple use of conjunctions: âandâ
Multi-layered extended metaphor: John Smiths like the John Bull of C18th satire
Simple sentence â complex sentence â x3 simple sentences â final complex sentence â final salutationâ¦which feels like it should be the end of the play, and
, in the literal mode
Then the metaphysical coda truly beings: they slips back in attitude (and time?)
Then the real inspector of the inevitable present comes to call â play ends on cliffhanger.Slide13
The Language of Sheila
âBut these girls arenât cheap labour â theyâre people.â (p19)âI couldnât be sorry for her.â Account of Sheilaâs treatment of Eva Smith.âI behaved badly too. I know I did. Iâm ashamed of it.âSlide14
ââ¦a man has to make his own way â has to look after himself.â (p9)âShe has a lot to say â far too much â so she had to go.ââStill, I canât accept any responsibility.âSlide15
âI must say, we are learning something tonightâ (p35) âGo and look for the father of the child. Itâs his responsibility.ââI did nothing Iâm ashamed of or wonât bear investigation.âSlide16
âSuddenly, I felt I just had to laugh.â (p3)âOh my God â how stupid it all is!ââItâs what happened to the girl and what we all did to hear that matters.âSlide17
Style: philosophical interest in time
Priestley was influenced by the Russian mystic philosopher Peter Ouspensky( (1878-1947). Ouspensky believed in the theory of eternal recurrence.This is a theory that holds to the concept that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur in a self-similar form an infinite number of times (everything happens again and again and again).Ouspensky believed that our time on the planet was spent travelling along an ever-recurring spiral and that the aim of all individuals should be to change and improve this spiral and stop making the same old mistakes.Â In all our lives we are presented with opportunities to learn and change and therefore swing out in a new direction.Â The Inspector comes back from the future or from some place outside time to offer the Birlings an opportunity to change â an opportunity they appear not to take. In the end they have learned nothing and so will have to go through it all over again.For more information about Peter Ouspensky click here: www.ouspensky.infoSlide18
Style, genre and critical evaluation
After the new wave of social realist theatre in the 1950s and 1960s, the play fell out of fashion, and was dismissed as an example of outdated bourgeois "drawing room" dramas, and became a staple of regional repertory theatre.
Following several successful revivals (including
's 1992 production for the
), the play was ârediscoveredâ and hailed as a damning social critique of capitalism and middle-class hypocrisy in the manner of the social realist dramas of Shaw and Ibsen.
It has been read as a parable about the destruction of Victorian social values and the disintegration of pre-World War I English society, and Gooleâs final speech has been interpreted variously as a quasi-Christian vision of hell and judgement, and as a Socialist party manifesto.â
What are they marking for?
Assessment Objectives and WeightingsAssessment Objectives Percentage within the IGCSEAO1 33â %A close knowledge of texts and the contexts in whichthey were writtenAO2 33â %Understanding and appreciationof authorsâ uses of the followingas appropriate: characterisation,narrative, plot, setting and languageAO3 33â %A focused, sensitive, lively andinformed personal response to textsSlide20
So do you need to do to get an A*?
A* is a grade above A, and is reserved for only the most outstanding students.
Students who gain an A* show a highly detailed knowledge of the
text; use only relevant material in the answer; make highly skilled
use of close reference and quotation; demonstrate clearly informed
insight into the social, historical and cultural context of the text, where appropriate.Slide21
Students who gain an A* show a sensitive, mature and critical understanding and appreciation of themes, events, techniques, structure, characterisation and language in the text where appropriate; show evidence of sophistication in appreciation of writerâs craft; show confidence in using technical vocabulary in analysis of text and demonstrate analytical interpretative skills.Slide22
Is there moreâ¦?!
Write with a clear focus on the terms of the question; write clearly identifiable points which show insight and originality; convey ideas
confidently and with conviction and demonstrate an informed and well argued personal response.Slide23
Show me a typical exam question
An Inspector Calls
, so work out what it wants from students:
A View from the Bridge:
How successful does Miller present
or more male characters in
In what ways does Miller present the difficulties experienced by
illegal immigrants in the play?
Why do questions like these invite
judgement and a personal response?Slide24
Can you show me an A* AIC answer?
Well, a bit later I willâ¦..but for nowâ¦.Slide25
Hereâs an A* for Of Mice and Men
Paper 1 â Section B - Prose
Of Mice and Men:
In what ways is the friendship between George and Lennie presented in this novel?
With a partner, examine extract C to this question.
List the top three strengths in this response.
How are students taught the skills needed to respond in such a way?Slide26
Answer: part 1
Steinbeck presents George and Lennieâs significant friendship in the first section of the novel, one that is incomparable with any other. This central theme is explored through George and Lennieâs relationship, introduced to the reader as one that is beyond compare, âwe got a futureâ, although, they are very different companions. They look, converse and behave very differently, âbehind him walked his oppositeâ; despite this, they continue to travel around together and look after one another, âbecause I got you to look after me and you got me to look after youâ. Steinbeck presents a poignant portrayal of two men that strangely, complement one another. The reader quickly becomes conscious, that George is Lennieâs minder, Lennie tags along behind Georgeââ¦and even in the open one stayed behind the otherâ; like a guardian George is thoughtful and watches out for him and both praises and encourages Lennie to make him feel content and at ease, âGood boy. Thatâs swellâ. George knows him well; he knows when Lennie is up to no good. Lennie is meant to be collecting firewood before they eat; George instinctively knows he has returned to the river to look for his dead mouse, âGeorge stopped whistling and listenedâ¦George held out his hand
Answer: part 2
Lennie complies with most of Georgeâs commands, âGeorge snapped his fingers sharply, and at the sound Lennie laid the mouse in his handâ. When Lennie snorts the dirty water from the pool, George steps ânervously beside himâ and addresses him âsharplyâ. George is concerned he might become unwell, âyou never oughta drink water when it ainât running, Lennieâ, Lennie is like a child who acts first without considering the repercussions of his actions. George often feels frustrated; travelling with Lennie means that he has responsibilities. George has to keep repeating information as Lennie often forgets what he has been told, âMight jusâ as well spenâ all my time tellinâ you things and then you forget âem, and I tell you again.â When Lennie asks for ketchup the reader witnesses a pantomime of emotions as Lennie threatens, half-heartedly, to go and live in a cave. Georgeâs temperament subsides; he recognises his verbal attack was cruel and unfair. Like most close companions, they have fun together, âYou can jusâ as well go to hellâ; it is clear that Lennie looks up to George, often mimicking his actions like a son replicating his father, âLennieâ¦imitated George exactlyâ¦looked over to George to see whether he had done it just rightâ. When George relents and narrates their dream, it is obvious this is not the first time it has been told; Lennie has memorised many elements of the dream âYou got it by heart. You can do it yourselfââ. George shows to be compassionate as he comforts Lennie with this story before they sleep.Slide28
Questions on An Inspector Calls
These questions should give you further ideas about preparing and revising for the examination. You may wish to practise answering to time (50 minutes), or producing a plan and short quotations for an examination answer. Remember the following points about your answer:
Focus on the wording and requirements of the question.
Plan the structure of your answer, with opening and closing paragraphs and perhaps four or five other paragraphs.
Link your sections together in a logical way, using clear âsignpostâ words like âthereforeâ and âhoweverâ.
Introduce short, embedded quotations.
Show how you yourself have responded to and engaged with the play.Slide29
âAâ grade answer: An Inspector Calls
As a character, Sheila certainly changes and develops greatly during the course of the play and this makes her particularly interesting for the audience. At first, she seems frivolous and flippant when faced by the Inspector, and comes across as very immature in her approach. When he mentions Milwards, she begins commenting âarchlyâ to Gerald about her wedding again. Although she does seem concerned about the girl, the audience is shown that she has a temperamental attitude by her having Smith fired in the first place. After she sees the picture, however, her attitude changes. She âlets out a half-stifled sobâ and admits herself to have behaved wrongly almost immediately. This shows that she has a compassionate side to her character and a sense of conscience. She says to Eric âIâll never do it again to anybodyâ, showing that she has been affected and accepts a degree of responsibility. She is also very receptive to the Inspectorâs influence. She exclaims to Gerald: âWhy he knows, of course he knows!â, perhaps indicating that she is more susceptible to being changed than the other characters.Slide30
âAâ grade answer An Inspector Calls 2
By the end of the play, Sheila could be said to be a reformed character. She is keenly aware of what she has done and has learned from her actions. When she discovers the Inspectorâs deception, she says âI suppose weâre all nice people nowâ, ironically, which shows that she understands that the moral consequences of her actions reach beyond the consequences that apply directly and only to her and her family, such as the arrest of Eric. In this way she proves that she has developed over the course of the play. This change stands as a striking contrast to the other characters, most of whom have clearly learned nothing. When Sybil is asked why they shouldnât behave just as they did before, she replies âWell, why not?â This strikes the audience as a particularly unfeeling remark, as though she is still denying that her actions have been at all wrong. Gerald even offers Sheila her ring back, as if he had not had an affair. In this way the older characters show that they have not developed or changed, while Sheila clearly has.
A grade answer An Inspector Calls 3
However, there is another character who learns and changes during the course of the play â Eric. From having quite an unformed personality he also shows that he is penitent by the end of the play. While the others are talking about whether their reputation is in danger, Eric cuts in with âThe girlâs still dead, isnât she?â As he says, âIâll never forgetâ, he shows that the whole affair has changed him. He therefore rivals Sheila in complexity of character.Slide32
âAâ grade answer An Inspector Calls 4
By the end of the play, Sheila could be said to be a reformed character. She is keenly aware of what she has done and has learned from her actions. When she discovers the Inspectorâs deception, she says âI suppose weâre all nice people nowâ, ironically, which shows that she understands that the moral consequences of her actions reach beyond the consequences that apply directly and only to her and her family, such as the arrest of Eric. In this way she proves that she has developed over the course of the play. This change stands as a striking contrast to the other characters, most of whom have clearly learned nothing. When Sybil is asked why they shouldnât behave just as they did before, she replies âWell, why not?â This strikes the audience as a particularly unfeeling remark, as though she is still denying that her actions have been at all wrong. Gerald even offers Sheila her ring back, as if he had not had an affair. In this way the older characters show that they have not developed or changed, while Sheila clearly has.Slide33
âAâ grade answer An Inspector Calls 5
However, there is another character who learns and changes during the course of the play â Eric. From having quite an unformed personality he also shows that he is penitent by the end of the play. While the others are talking about whether their reputation is in danger, Eric cuts in with âThe girlâs still dead, isnât she?â As he says, âIâll never forgetâ, he shows that the whole affair has changed him. He therefore rivals Sheila in complexity of character.
Questions on An Inspector Calls
These questions should give you further ideas about preparing and revising for the examination. You may wish to practise answering to time (50 minutes), or producing a plan and short quotations for an examination answer. Remember the following points about your answer:Focus on the wording and requirements of the question.Plan the structure of your answer, with opening and closing paragraphs and perhaps four or five other paragraphs.Link your sections together in a logical way, using clear âsignpostâ words like âthereforeâ and âhoweverâ.Introduce short, embedded quotations.Show how you yourself have responded to and engaged with the play.
Source: IGCSE Literature student book, Cd-RomSlide35
4 typical IGCSE questions on An Inspector Calls
How far does your view of Eric Birling change during the play?
What methods does J B Priestley use to create tension and drama in the play?
âThe setting of the engagement party is important to the plot and structure of the play.â How far do you agree with this statement?
Do you think that Inspector Goole persuades the other characters about their responsibility for others?
Source: IGCSE Literature student book, Cd-RomSlide36
Links you ought to look at
What do the postures of the actors in these production images tell you?
Abbreviated review of this production: so, do the âEdwardian toffs get their comeuppance?â
Mini- TV documentary about a different play by J.B. Priestley: are there related themes?
For the intellectually lazyâ¦
Links you ought to look at: 2
The obligatory BBC Bitesize website
it has all the answers, so do yourself a favour...
Learn some contextual information about the author at:
Why is it that this play is so well regarded, if he wrote so many other things?
So you need a decent interactive website: video, music, decent photos and a
Get some freebies to gave your exam grade!
Remember, that some of these issues battle have still to be wonâ¦Slide39
Thank you; that concludes:
Language and Style in
An Inspector Calls