Andy Kershaw introduces to the social and political influences behind JB Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls'. The distinction between when 'An Inspector Calls' is set (1912) and when it was written (1945) is fundamental in analysing the social and political background of the novel. Andy highlights why it is significant that the play was written during the last year of the Second World War. Extracts from JB 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.
This clip can be used to gain greater understanding of the over-arching 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 2. 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.
Students firstly need to try and summarise what they think are the major themes in the play, or in a section of the play they have been studying eg people being selfish and not caring about the less fortunate, people from different social classes being divided, people of different age groups mistrusting each other. Then students can make notes on the political and economic information given in the clip, about Britain in 1945. Can students begin to match some of the themes from the play to the background information? Can students choose one quote from the play and a statement from the clip, to develop into a more detailed paragraph?