J. B. Priestley uses dramatic devices and dramatic irony in the play. His main device was the photograph and his main ironic character is Mr Birling. When Inspector Goole reveals he has a photograph, this creates tension and shows the characters reactions to the photograph, an example of this is Sheila, when she sees the photograph she starts to cry and she flees from the room and when she returns she is anxious to admit her wrong-doings. Also she decides she cannot marry Gerald after he was involved with Daisy Renton.
Mr Birling represents a very unattractive and selfish kind of man. He is obsessed by money. Even at the end of the play he feels sorry for what has happened but he still thinks in terms of money. He says to the Inspector “look, Inspector – I’d give thousands”. Although everything has been revealed about his family, he still tries to disguise this. When the possibility of the Inspector being a deceiver, he happily believes that it never happened and that if the Inspector was fake, so must the things that emerged. He impersonates the Inspector . This is example of pride before the phone rings. His pride makes you think that it was all a hoax but when the telephone rings it makes you wonder. Mr Birling represents Priestley’s hate of businessmen whose only care is making a profit. He will never learn from his mistakes.
Sheila is aware of the mystery surrounding the Inspector, yet realises that there is no point in trying to hide the facts from him. She is stable about the breaking up of her engagement and remains cool, calm and collected. She will not be hurried into accepting the wedding ring back once the Inspector had left, she is unable to accept her parent’s attitude and behaviour towards the Inspector and she is both amazed and concerned that they haven’t learned anything from the occurrence. Although the Inspector might be a hoax, the family have still behaved in an entirely unsuitable manner, she feels. She also learns of her responsibilities to others less fortunate than herself and the importance of the community. She is sensitive towards everything. Her readiness to learn from experience is in great contrast to her parents.
This play was relevant to the audience at that time; it was like of their past. Priestly feels guilty about the lower classes so he tries to demolish stereotypes, i.e. Eva being a “normal” unemployed girl of her time. Inspector Goole is Priestley’s perspective. The message the play is trying to convey is that we should take responsibility for our actions and consider the consequences the might have for other members of society. Priestley is also trying to say that you shouldn’t keep things secret because you conscience will unravel them.