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An Inspector Calls - Understanding the Text

This GCSE English Literature quiz will test your skills of comprehension in An Inspector Calls by JB Priestley.

Understanding a text is one of the most important skills to master, but it is not always easy! Authors very rarely state what they mean directly. Instead, they show the reader what they want to convey through character, setting, plot, theme and dialogue. This means that you have to pay attention and try to understand a text as you read. Sometimes you might even need to go back and reread sections when you realise you don’t understand as well as you should.

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Comprehension works on several levels simultaneously. Be sure that you understand how the context relates to events and how each event is related to the others. Sometimes jotting down a quick timeline of events can help.

With characters, think about the motivation behind their actions. What are the clues in the text which explain their behaviour? Can you trust their words at face value, or do you need to listen for subtext and undertones? Do their words always match their actions and their beliefs? If not, why not?

It can also be useful to think about beginnings and endings. What is the reason for the text to begin at a certain place? How do you know about previous events? Does the author rely on flashbacks, for example? Are future events foreshadowed? How? You can consider individual chapters, scenes or acts in a play in the same way. Why has the author structured the text in a certain way? How does it add to the meaning and to your understanding?

Read the questions below on An Inspector Calls and test your knowledge and understanding of the text.

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  1. How does Mr Birling try to dismiss the Inspector?
    At first Mr Birling believes that the Inspector needs his help because of his former position as Alderman or as Lord Mayor
  2. Which of the following indicates that the Birlings have not finished so easily with the fate of "Eva Smith"?
    The police ring to inform Mr Birling that a girl has died after swallowing disinfectant and that an inspector will be visiting the Birling home to ask the family some questions
  3. Why are Sheila and Eric angry with their parents' reaction?
    Mr and Mrs Birling respond to Gerald's news with anger at the Inspector, a return to their patronising treatment of Sheila and Eric, a concern to limit any public scandal from the death of Eva Smith and a willingness to forget the consequences of their own actions. As Eric says, 'Whoever that chap was, the fact remains that I did what I did. And Mother did what she did. And the rest of you did what you did to her' (Act Three)
  4. Mr and Mrs Birling feel relieved shortly after Inspector Goole leaves their home. Which of the following events is responsible for their change of mood?
    Gerald returns from his walk to inform the Birling family that he has spoken with a police sergeant who has informed him that the police force has no inspector by the name Goole or matching his description
  5. Why is the absence of the Croft family from these celebrations significant?
    Gerald confirms his parents' attitude to Sheila by his embarrassed response when Mr Birling deliberately suggests that Lady Croft believes her son might have married someone of a more appropriate social standing
  6. What are the Birling family celebrating at the beginning of the play?
    The family are celebrating not only because Gerald and Sheila have become engaged, but also because the marriage might result in a business alliance
  7. Eric says he met Eva Smith when he was a "bit squiffy". What does he mean by this?
    Eric drinks too much and too often
  8. Why is the Inspector's name "Goole" significant?
    The Inspector is otherworldly. He investigates Eva Smith's suicide before any news that it has taken place
  9. How is Sheila responsible for Eva Smith's fate?
    Sheila feels angry and humiliated when she tries on unflattering clothes and believes Eva Smith to be laughing at her
  10. Gerald's former mistress was called Daisy Renton. How is he involved in the fate of Eva Smith?
    As Eric and Sheila realise at the end of the play, whether they were each involved in the life of the same woman makes little difference. The Inspector shows how each of the characters played a role in destroying a young, poor woman's life. He remarks that there are countless Eva Smiths

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