How to analyse language in An Inspector Calls

To analyse language you should:

  • choose a section from the text to analyse and then select the quotation from the text that is relevant to the question and relevant to your point
  • consider how the quotation reflects character/theme/context
  • explore in detail the impact specific words or phrases have upon the audience
  • evaluate how effective the author’s choice of language is

Below is an extract from the play. This conversation between Gerald and Sheila takes place after Sheila has admitted she got Eva Smith sacked from Milwards.

Gerald (bitterly)
I see.
What do you see?
You've been through it - and now you want to see somebody else put through it.
Sheila (bitterly)
So that's what you think I'm like. I'm glad I realized it in time, Gerald.
No, no, I didn't mean -
Sheila (cutting in)
Yes, you did. And if you'd really loved me, you couldn't have said that. You listened to that nice story about me. I got that girl sacked from Milwards. And now you've made up your mind I must obviously be a selfish, vindictive creature.
Act Two

Analyse the language used in this extract. How does Priestley use language to create drama?

  • Stage directions - Gerald says his first line '(bitterly)' and this makes it clear to the actor playing him how he should deliver the line. This adds to the dramatic tension between Gerald and Sheila.
  • Dramatic pauses - Gerald pauses halfway through his line, signalled by a dash 'You've been through it - and now'. This adds emphasis to the second half of the line, adding to the venom with which it should be delivered.
  • Repetition - Gerald repeats 'No, no, I didn't mean-'. This adds to the realism of the dialogue but also adds drama - Gerald is quickly trying to get himself out of trouble.
  • Gasps and interruptions - Sheila would impress the audience by interrupting Gerald and dramatically standing up for herself '(cutting in) Yes, you did'. The language used in the stage direction suggests an assertive action, showing that she has grown as a character.
  • Fluency and length - Sheila's final line in the extract is lengthy and fluent, 'I got that girl sacked from Milwards. And now you've made up your mind I must obviously be a selfish, vindictive creature.' This would reflect the certainty with which Sheila says this line. It shows that she is aware of how badly she has behaved and also shows that she is mature enough to see what Gerald was thinking too.
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