What do we learn from the stage directions at the beginning of ‘An Inspector Calls’?
‘An Inspector Calls’ was written during the Second World War by playwright and dramatist John Boynton Priestley, and focuses on social injustice in the early 20th century. The play is set in 1912, Edwardian England, just before the war, which was a very difficult time for England. It was a period when there were many strikes, food shortages and great political tension. In contrast to that, the play was actually written and published in 1945, just after World War II, when the country was also in dismay. Priestly is very effective in using this time difference, as he shows the similarities in the way in ...view middle of the document...
‘Heavily comfortable’ could be classed as an oxymoron, as it is used to highlight the fact that the ‘good solid furniture’ is out of place and not at all ‘cosy and homelike’. The use of these contrasts show the Birling’s have made too much of an effort upon their home, creating a strained, almost unnatural feel to their home, additionally creating tension and making visitors and family members alike feel out of place and uncomfortable because of this arrangement.
An alternative interpretation to the ‘good solid furniture’ and its non-cosiness is that the furniture is newly acquired as it would take a period of time to achieve an effect of fitting in to the home. This may incline that their wealth was recently gained, so it is a new addition to existing furniture. It could perhaps show showing Arthur Birling's quality yet questionable taste in furniture, but also the fashion and styles that he is trying to instil upon his family to gain a higher status.
Priestley could also be trying to make the point through his socialism views that money cannot buy you happiness and although the Birling’s are rich enough to enough to afford comfortable furniture, there is a sense that they don’t belong to the family in a way that makes it homely, giving the sense that there are no feelings of community within the home.
The stage directions also specify that the Birling’s own a ‘telephone’ which during the period was both fashionable and expensive due to the object being relatively new. This may be a reason as to why the Birling’s have allowed it to be pride of place on a small table, to display the wealth they have and draw attention to it being set aside from the other furniture.
All members of the dinner party are ’in evening dress of the period’ and all men are described as wearing ‘tails and white ties’, which shows the lavish, extravagant lifestyles of the characters. A ‘decanter of port’, ‘port glasses’, ‘cigarettes’ and a ‘cigar box’ are brought into the room by the parlour maid Edna. This is another additional detail which Priestley has used, intended to show the wealth of the family. Only the middle to upper classes would be able to afford such fashionable and expensive items, and the display of wealth in the maid also suggests the amount of money that the family have, in the way that they can afford to be waited on hand and foot.
Generally, the use of this setting is to create an impression of power and high class, as it is the typical type of middle to upper class family that would live in such an extravagant Edwardian setting known of the time. The dining room has been described in such a way that it appears to be a warm, comfortable area enjoyed by all the family, but Priestley has subtly used language and stage positioning to reflect that the reality of the situation is the family feels uncomfortable and in places, there are relationships that may be in a state of instability. An example of such stage setting is the way in which...