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An Inspector Calls was written in 1945 by J B Priestley, but is set in 1912, so the
setting and characters are separated from the audience by two world wars and
other historical events. This important fact gives Priestley opportunities to use
the key feature of dramatic irony.

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Key terms

Dramatic irony: when a character in the play speaks lines that are understood
differently by the audience to the characters on stage ­ for instance Mr Birling
brags about how the manufacturing world to which he belongs has produced the
`unsinkable' Titanic, whereas the audience knows the ship…

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Characters and annotations (annotations are shown in italics, next to page

Mr Birling
Mr Birling is rich, powerful, and extremely sure of himself. He is, however, a bit less
posh than the others. He makes various statements that produce dramatic irony, and
this signals to us that the world…

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Eric and Sheila Birling
Eric and Sheila represent the next generation: they are still young and can learn from
their experiences. Both have genuine emotional responses to what they hear, and see
that life cannot carry on as if nothing has happened. However, they are both spoiled,
and treated like…

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Page 72 (No, not yet ...): She needs to decide if she can trust him and if he can
Gerald Croft
Gerald Croft is from a slightly higher social background than the Birlings, and seems to
behave quite well to `Daisy Renton', as Eva calls herself. However, he deliberately…

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rather than her own actions. Her life ends in despair, abandoned by the people who had
a moral duty to help her. Priestley's message can be seen as both optimistic and
pessimistic: the world is getting better with new institutions to help people like her,
but some people will never…


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