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Character Vs. Theme
J.B Priestley's drama 'An Inspector Calls' focuses on the theme of social responsibility. It reflects the concerns of the post-World War II generation and presents the universal theme of the individual and his relationship to society. The play lends itself to analysis fairly easily and is a favorite among high school teachers. Its themes are easy to grasp and the use of dramatic irony and other techniques make it an excellent choice. The six main characters throughout the play provide practice for analyzing a character and doing an oral presentation.
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Instructions for an Oral Presentation
You are going to prepare an oral presentation in pairs on the following topic. The oral presentation involves analyzing a character in "An Inspector Calls."
How does Priestley use individual characters in the play to convey the message of social responsibility?
Choose one of the following characters.
- Mr. Birling
- Mrs Birling
- The Inspector
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Preparing for the Presentation
- Brainstorm the development of this character throughout the play.
- Do they change or do they remain the same?
- What is their attitude towards others in society?
- Are they affected at all by what the Inspector tells them/ says to them/warns them about?
- In the case of the Inspector how does he affect the other characters? What does he represent? What does he warn the other characters about?
- Look closely at the key scenes where your character appears.
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Plan Out the Structure
- Provide an overview.
- Place the play in its historical context.
- Explain the main ideas and main message of the play.
- Describe the social status of the Birling family in contrast with the majority of society in this time period.
- Present your character. Give an overview of your character. Be sure to mention whether your character changes or remains the same.
- Analyze key scenes where your character appears with relevant examples
- Analyze your examples in relation to the question about social responsibility.
- Concluding comments (go back to the main idea in the actual topic question.
** Students can also include a creative element--dressing up as the character, acting out a short scene from the play, or any strategy to make the presentation interesting.
Teaching 'An Inspector Calls': Assigning an Oral Presentation
This series will explain how oral presentations on texts can help students develop a better understanding of texts studied in class and also develop their analytical skills. It will also give specific lesson plans for oral presentations on individual texts.