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An Inspector Calls

Main Ideas

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.