AN Inspector Calls
J B Priestley’s play, An Inspector Calls, first performed in 1945, is a morality play disguised as a detective thriller. The morality play is a very old theatrical form, going back to the medieval period, which sought to instruct audiences about virtue and evil.
Priestley’s play revolves around a central mystery, the death of a young woman, but whereas a traditional detective story involves the narrowing down of suspects from several to one, An Inspector Calls inverts this process as, one by one, nearly all the characters in the play are found to be guilty. In this way, Priestley makes his larger point that society is guilty of neglecting and abusing its most vulnerable members. A just society, he states through his mysterious Inspector, is one that respects and exercises social responsibility.