An introduction to the social and political influences behind J. B. Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls'. The distinction between when 'An Inspector Calls' is set (1912) and when it was written (1945) is fundamental when analysing the social and political background of the novel. The narrator highlights the relevance of the play being written during the last year of the Second World War, using cinematic footage from the time to illustrate what life was like during this period. Excerpts from J. B. Priestley's morale-boosting radio broadcast that followed the news every evening are also featured. An interview with Priestley's son provides further insight into his father's aspirations for his play to echo the feelings of ordinary people.
Can be used to gain greater understanding of the overarching use of dramatic irony in the play. The characters in the play and the situations often make reference to the future and what they think life will be like. But it is actually Priestley commenting on what will happen in the future, if these people carry on behaving as they are. Audiences watching the play when it was written (and since then) have the privileged position of seeing the characters, dialogue and events in light of what they know about life in Britain towards the end of World War Two. Students could use a grid with three columns. In the first column they can find statements made by different characters about society at the time the play is set (1912). In the middle column they can think how audiences at the time the play was written may have reacted (1945 in the Soviet Union and 1946 in the UK). The last column is how audiences watching the play today may react to these statements.