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An Inspector Calls - Setting

This GCSE English Literature quiz looks at the setting in An Inspector Calls by JB Priestley.

The setting of a work of fiction includes the location where the events take place as well as the time. Context, such as any events occurring in the background of the text’s wider fictional world, is also a key component of its setting. Although more nebulous, atmosphere also plays an important role in establishing setting.

It is vital to understand the setting of any text you study. The context, or the world in which the characters live, impacts the decisions which they make over the course of the plot. This includes any political or social events which might affect the characters.

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In An Inspector Calls, social unrest, both local and international, fundamentally alters Mr Birling’s perceptions of events, which in turn dramatically affects Eva Smith’s own life. The experience of gender and class, too, depends entirely on the time in which this play is set.

Geographical setting includes several aspects. Do all the events occur in the same place? Do characters travel, or arrive from elsewhere? If the action is contained within a single building, or room, how does that alter the meaning of the text?

It can also be useful to think about when the text is set and if that differs from the time it is written. Find out why an author might choose to set a text in the future, or one hundred years ago. How does this change our understanding of the story?

Read the questions below to see how well you understand the setting of An Inspector Calls.

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  1. Over what time period do the events of the play take place?
    Although the characters discuss the events of Eva's life, which take place over a longer period of time, the action of the play takes place in a single evening, over three continuous Acts
  2. Which of the following best describes the mood at the beginning of the play?
    The family are busy celebrating Sheila's engagement to Gerald when the Inspector arrives
  3. An Inspector Calls is set in which country?
    The play is set in Brumley, a fictional city in the North Midlands
  4. Why is this date significant?
    The audience knows, although the Birlings do not, that war looms on the horizon for Britain
  5. Where does the action take place?
    All three Acts take place in the dining room of the Birlings' home, although various characters enter and exit the stage during the play
  6. Mr Birling comments, "Now you three young people, just listen to this - and remember what I'm telling you now. In twenty or thirty years' time - let's say, in 1940 - you may be giving a little party like this - your son or daughter might be getting engaged - and I tell you by that time you'll be living in a world that'll have forgotten all these Capital versus Labour agitations and all these silly little war scares." In terms of setting, what is significant about Mr Birling's remarks?
    Mr Birling's inaccurate view of the future draws the audience into the events of the play while reminding them that its lessons are as relevant to a 1940s audience as they are to the fictional Birling family
  7. Which of the following is true of Brumley?
    The fictional 'Brumley' is introduced as an industrial city
  8. The play is set during which year?
    Although the play was first performed in the 1940s (it appeared on stage at the New Theatre in 1946), it is set in 1912
  9. Which of the following is responsible for the tension evident in the opening scene?
    These tensions are apparent in the lecture Mr Birling gives to the younger members of the gathering, setting up many of the important themes of the play
  10. The set furniture should be 'good', 'solid' and 'of the period', appropriate to a prosperous man such as Mr Birling. What effect is this furniture intended to create?
    The introduction to Act One specifies that the dining room should not feel cosy and homelike

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