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Friday, July 13, 2012

English Coursework- How J. B Priestley uses Time in ‘Time and the Conways’ and ‘An Inspector Calls’

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J. B Priestley was an author, novelist, playwright, essayist, broadcaster, scriptwriter, social commentator and man of letters whose career straddles the 0th century. He lived from 1th August 184 -14th August 184. He wrote many famous books and plays. The two plays I am comparing and contrasting are, ‘Time and the Conways’ first produced at the Duchess Theatre, London on 6th August 17. ‘An Inspector Calls’ first produced in London on 1st October 146 at the new Theatre. I am looking at how J.B Priestley uses time so cleverly and in a unique style.


‘An Inspector Calls’ is on a three-act play. All three acts, which are continuous, take place in the dining room of the Birlings’ house in Brumley, an industrial city in the North Midlands. It is about a mysterious inspector visiting a family before the Second World War. The style of the play seems at first straightforward and understandable, a detective thriller. The Inspector arrives with some news of the death by suicide of Eva Smith. The Inspector tries to accuse and make each individual family member confess that they ‘drove’ Eva to kill herself. Until in the rd Act Mr. Birling (father, husband and owner of the house) answers the telephone and everyone crowds around him. The police officer on the other end of the line tells the family that Eva Smith has just died from swallowing some disinfectant and that an inspector is coming to the house to ask some questions. Which is the end of the play. This tells us, Priestley liked to leave his story endings a mystery, for the audience to work out a logical explanation or question whether time was repeating itself. The only explanations I can think of is that there were two Eva Smiths, time travels, it was a set up trying to make the characters feel guilty, or a hoax call, but I will never know. Maybe Priestley didn’t know. Priestley tries to trick us, (we believe that Eva’s death is part of the past, when in fact it was yet to happen).


‘Time and the Conways’ is also a three-act play. The scene throughout is set in the sitting room in Mrs. Conway’s house (as her husband is dead). Act 1 and Act take place on an autumn night in 11. Act on an autumn night at the present time. Act 1 and are in the past. This tells us J. B Priestley liked to sometimes use different structures of his plays. Many plays go through time chronologically. They dont show the past or the future, either in dreams or talking about it. This is why Priestley became known as a very successful play writer, as well as having interesting plays. He had a distinctive way by giving audiences a good drama, but always making them want to come and see one of his next plays. From the unusual performances given and plays read, people would talk about his plays and why they were interesting.


When you read or watch act 1(past) in ‘Time and the Conways’ you see how the characters have changed in act (present). Alan, however, doesn’t change as he has a very dreary personality and we get the impression that he is a drowsy type of character. Priestley gives the audience hindsight Alan’s theories of time, e.g. ‘I’m going to live.’ Alan believes in eternal life and never having to experience bereavement as he thinks this will never happen to him, he believes that life lives on, and that if he does die something is present afterwards.


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As act in ‘Time and the Conways’ reverts to 11, the audience have the power to view the characters in a ‘time capsule’ with knowledge of the past, present and future; as if we have stepped outside the barriers of time.


At the end of this journey with the Conways- so theatrically alive and full of humour- we too may be wondering what life’s journey is all about. The answer is best expressed by Alan in the end of act ; ‘What we really are is the whole stretch of ourselves, all our time, and when we come to the end of this life, all those selves, all our time will be us- the real you, the real me.’


Priestley was always fascinated by Time and its consequences. In ‘Time and the Conways’ he makes some use of Dunne’s theory, using a ‘Time Twist’ that sheds an ironical light on those aspirations of the characters, particularly those of Kay Conway.


‘Time and the Conways’ is a very different type of play from ‘An Inspector Calls’ although they are written by the same man, both having a theme of time included, each a act play that takes place in one room of a house throughout either play and using similar character roles in two wealthy families.


Priestley uses the play’s to bring across his views on society, he thought that his experiences throughout his life, the way the world works all by itself and the fact that time goes through a period chronologically all made sense. So if Priestley put these ideas in mind but to change one of them, his plays would seem very appealing to all audiences. He chose to mess around with time.


I enjoyed reading both plays, and watching a video of ‘An Inspector Calls’, I preferred ‘An Inspector Calls’ because I thought the story included a more mysterious side with time as well as it being easier to understand. ‘Time and the Conways’ is about a typical family in the 1th century, talking about politics and every day occurrences, friends and family visiting. The structure of the play is different as time travels, returns and stays, Reading or watching the play it suddenly dawns on you that time is being tampered with. However, ‘An Inspector Calls’ you only begin to realise at the end of act that there is something peculiar about time.





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