‘An Inspector Calls’: Questions

Revision and essay questions

  1. Mrs Birling and Sheila are said to be like each other in some ways, and yet very different.  Explore the ways that Priestley makes dramatic use of these likenesses and differences in ‘An Inspector Calls’.

  2. What roles does Sheila play in ‘An Inspector Calls’?

  3. In what ways does Priestley present conflict between the generations in ‘An Inspector Calls’?

  1. In ‘An Inspector Calls’, what do you think Priestley intended to convey about family relationships and how does he do it?
  1. The action of ‘An Inspector Calls’ takes place on just one evening, and in just one room of the Birling’s house.  What do you think the play gains or loses as a result?

  1. In what ways does Priestley manage to make Mrs Birling such a dislikeable character, in ‘An Inspector Calls’?

  1. To what extent is it possible to feel sympathy for Eric, in ‘An Inspector Calls’?

  1. What is the importance of Gerald in ‘An Inspector Calls’?

  1. Looking at different parts and aspects of the play, what do you think Priestley wished to achieve through his character, Inspector Goole, in ‘An Inspector Calls’?

  2. In ‘An Inspector Calls’, do you think Inspector Goole is really a police inspectore?  What is the dramatic value of raising this as a doubt?

  3. Some say that the inspector in ‘An Inspector Calls’ is not what he seems: he is not looking for evidence because he already knows the facts.  Find examples.

  4. What is the dramatic importance of the inspector in ‘An Inspector Calls’?

  5. What do you think Priestley wished to achieve in his play?

  6. Explore the different ways that, in ‘An Inspector Calls’, Priestley conveys the message that ‘we are members of one body.  We are responsible for each other.’  Remember to contrast the beginning of the play with the end.

  7. Eva Smith does not appear on stage.  What are the dramatic benefits of this and how does it help Priestley Develop his themes, in ‘An Inspector Calls’ ?

  8. Reread from page 69 ‘Anyway we’ll see’ to the end of the play.  Consider how Priestley develops the drama in these last moments of ‘An Inspector Calls’.

  9. Consider how Priestley uses his characters in the extract starting ‘I see…’ on page 37 and finishing ‘…. I’d feel better about it’ on page 39, in ‘An Inspector Calls’.

  10. Reread ‘An Inspector Calls’ from near bottom of page 24: ‘Inspector: (harshly) Yes but you can’t.  It’s too late.’ to the end of the Act.  What does this section reveal about the characters and what is dramatically effective?

  11. How does Priestley show the differences between ‘The Haves’ and ‘The Have-nots’ in ‘An Inspector Calls’?  You should consider the dramatic techniques, the characters and the setting.

  12. ‘The less fortunate are crushed by the middle class.’  How does Priestley convey this message, in  ‘An Inspector Calls’?

  13. Do you think Priestley is optimistic about the future?  Base you views on ‘An Inspector Calls’ and its dramatic presentation.

  14. What evidence can you find for saying that Priestley constructed ‘An Inspector Calls’ primarily as a plea for change?

  15. Why does Priestley repeatedly refer to the months and years in ‘An Inspector Calls’?

  16. What are the different tricks of time in ‘An Inspector Calls’?  In each case, what are their purpose and dramatic effects?  Include reference to the play’s events occurring behore the suicide.

  17. ‘An Inspector Calls’ is said to be a play of mystery and suspense.  Explain how Priestley achieves this, referring to the structure of the play, characterisation and dramatic impact.

  18. What type of play is in ‘An Inspector Calls’?  Social comedy, detective story, realistic presentation of life in 1912, supernatural fantasy?  Consider each and give text-based reasons for your views.

  19. Draw a tension graph for ‘An Inspector Calls’, paying attention to such areas as, entrances and exits, confrontations, the end of the Acts etc.

  20. In  ‘An Inspector Calls’, how does Priestley present the theme of ‘responsibiity?

  21. Find examples of dramatic irony in ‘An Inspector Calls’ and consider the purpose of each.

  22. Find examples of the interactions between the characters of ‘An Inspector Calls’ including: interjections, interruptions, justifications, pleas, resignation, lively conversation, long monologues, pompous speeches, narrative accounts, biblical solemnity.

  23. Look at the setting of ‘An Inspector Calls’.  Identify consider: the attitude of the middle classes to their place in society and their relationships with higher and lower classes.  Find specific examples.

  24. The plot of ‘An Inspector Calls’ is the inspector’s reconstruction of the last two years of Eva’s life, with each character admitting his/her part in her death.  Consider the importance and the effect on the audience of:

    • The photograph being shown to one person at a time
    • Telephone calls
    • Never leaving the dining room

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