full title An Inspector Calls
author J. B. Priestley
type of work Play
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)
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.