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An Inspector Calls

Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title · An Inspector Calls

author ·  J. B. Priestley

type ·  of work Play

genre  · Realism

language ·  Written in English; first performed in Russian translation

time and place written ·  England, 1945-6

date of first publication ·  1946

publisher ·  N/A (first performed in USSR)

tone  · Social critique; solemn; fatalist; anti-hypocritical (critical of middle-class hypocrisies)

tense ·  Present

setting (time) ·  1912

setting (place) ·  Burmley, Northern England

protagonist  · There is no single protagonist, although Sheila is the play’s emotional center

major conflict ·  Eva Smith/Daisy Renton’s death implicates the entire Birling family, who sort out their culpability in her downfall.

rising action ·  The Inspector arrives, asking questions about a girl’s suicide.

climax ·  Eric is revealed to be the father of Eva’s unborn child.

falling action ·  Gerald tells the family that, perhaps, the Inspector has “hoaxed” them to prove a point about social systems.

themes  ·  Guilt, suicide, learning/forgetting, and “inspection”

motifs ·  Calls, drunkenness, rudeness/impertinence

symbols ·  The engagement ring, disinfectant, the bar

foreshadowing ·  Sheila wonders why Gerald was so busy the previous spring and summer, and it is because he was having an affair. Eric’s drinking increases over the course of the play and is brought up early on. The Inspector hints at global catastrophe, or world war, that might follow whole countries’ selfish behaviors.