John Boynton Priestley was born in Bradford in 1894.
His father was a well-known schoolmaster who had empathy for the less fortunate in society. Unfortunately, his mother died when he was young but his father remarried a woman called Amy.
Growing up, he enjoyed the cultural and social life of Bradford. It was a prosperous time and wasn’t particularly dominated by class divisions. He worked in a wool office but soon found his passion in writing.
During World War I, Priestley volunteered to support a West Yorkshire Regiment and was sent to the Front in 1915.
Although he was seriously injured in 1916, he returned to the Front again in 1917.
He personally experienced the horror of war and lost many friends too. These experiences haunted him and had an impact on his writing.
From 1918 onwards, Priestley moved to London to pursue his writing. He studied Literature at Cambridge University.
Then, wrote for the London Mercury as well as other papers. He produced essays, book reviews and some short novels.
During the 1930’s, he became a renowned dramatist and playwright, he often used pre-war settings in his work; exploring a time when there were different social issues that weren’t yet tainted by war.
As a result of his upbringing and his war experiences, he had an interest in highlighting the social divides that were growing between people to awaken social consciences.
He protested for change so that the atrocities of World War I would not be repeated again.
_‘An Inspector Calls’_was written in one week and was first performed to a Russian audience in 1945.
He knew that his work would be appreciated there, as they were already living under a communist regime.
Priestley eventually performed the play in England in 1946 which was a risk, because he was highlighting the hypocrisy of the upper-class Capitalist Brits.
The play, especially the character of Inspector Goole, has been regarded as a socialist manifesto.
He openly criticises the exploitation and social exclusion of lower class people. Priestley centres the whole play around a young, poor working class female, because she would have been at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
Priestley uses her as a vehicle to reiterate the moral that there are_‘millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left_’ and their lives are intertwined with lives of all, regardless of social standing. Priestley wanted the audience to see the harsh reality of the lack of social responsibility and respect in society.
Working-class people were abused by the bourgeoisie and aristocrats for social and financial gain. He believed that Socialist ideals were the only way that reformation would be long lasting and beneficial for all.
The play has been adapted for various audiences; theatre, television, radio and audio. In 1993 and 1994 the play received acclaim for being the ‘Best Revival play’.
- How long did it take Priestley to write the play?
- Your answer should include: One Week / 1 Week
- Which audience first watched the play and in which year?
- Your answer should include: Russia / 1945
- What is Priestley’s intention in writing this play?
- Your answer should include: Reformation / Equality / Justice / Responsibility / Care / Concern
In 1942, he co-founded the Socialist Common Wealth party, because he wanted England to reform.
Priestley was a strong advocate for the National Health Service, he wanted a Welfare State that would provide for all, regardless of their social standing.
Also, he wanted females to have a voice and rights within society. In 1957, he argued for moral superiority by disarmament.
‘I could not be entirely serious about anything, except the well being of our society itself’ - 1962