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J.B Priestley and his audience Essay

J.B Priestley is someone who has seen enough of the world to make his own judgments. Therefore he has written this play “An Inspector Calls” to get these views of his across to the rest of the audience. He believes in socialism and doesn’t support the view of capitalism. He tries to promote socialism and show capitalism as an act of egotism.

The two main views of society he has portrayed and contrasted capitalists and socialist. We know this through characters of the book to begin with I will look at Mr. Birling as a capitalist. This character was shown to be a very arrogant and proud man. He believed he had more authority and rights than/over everyone else. He is

‘Self made man’.

His objectives of life are to make money, and profit for himself,

“It’s my duty to keep labour costs down”.

Money for him isn’t an issue. It’s an important part of his life. Even in situations like the sort he finds his image essential.

‘Look, inspector – I’d give thousands’

Mr. Birling can seem to be hollow at times in the sense that he doesn’t always perform in the way he portrays himself to his surroundings. He finds a reason to believe that the inspector’s onset maybe a hoax, He than begins to proceed as though the inspectors arrival had no effect on him. But as soon as the phone rings he begins to panic.

Mr. Birling doesn’t like to argue. He is optimistic about the future yet we know what he predicts will not come true.

‘The worlds developing so fast it’ll

make war impossible……….’


‘The Titanic…. unsinkable absolutely unsinkable’.

The inspector’s comment to Mrs. Birling about young people – ‘They’re more

Impressionable’ (pg 30) – adds weight to our feelings that the older generation is

Fixed in its attitudes and that if society is to become more caring it will have to be through the efforts of the younger generation.

The inspector is just someone who is making the characters in the play realise what they are doing wrong in life, not to cause havoc. This is shown when Sheila ( Mr Birling’s daughter) takes the blame of Eva Smith’s death [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA9lpcBIiL8] all on to her own accord, the inspector assures her and asks her to stay and listen to Gerald’s (Sheila’s fiancé) part of the story, so she doesn’t feel herself entirely to blame.

Sheila is an example of a capitalist who has realised her mistakes, owned up to them and is prepared to adjust her life after the events taken place in the dining hall that afternoon. She is very intelligent but spoilt. She is naïve and is very distressed by the news of Eva’s death caused by stress which drove her to committing suicide. She thinks that her father’s behaviour was unacceptable. She readily agrees that she behaved very badly and insists that she never meant the girl any harm.

‘I’ll never ever do it to anybody again’

Sheila had gotten used to the fact of going into a shop and behaving in such a cruel manner, and get somebody (Eva Smith) permanently excluded from their job just because of jealousy, how self-centered of her. Now after somebody had made her see her mistakes she decided her actions were not acceptable, and this sort of approach to life is intolerable.

J.B Priestley wanted to show that there are people out there who haven’t recognised their error’s in life and that maybe this play will help them to do just that.

Priestley shows just how wrong capitalism is that it can even lead to death of innocent citizens. So this means there is chance of another war, if capitalism isn’t erased from this world. He shows that people are out there who predict the future like Mr Birling and say things like ‘the Titanic is unsinkable… and the world’s developing so fast it’ll make war impossible’, we know that these predictions made were wrong. But who are we to say that there won’t be another war. It makes you think what might happen In the future if entrepreneurship isn’t stopped, doesn’t it? This is what Priestley wanted, his capitalist audience to feel guilty, and wanting to change themselves for the better.

Mr Birling represents Priestley’s hatred of businessmen who are only interested in making money. He (Birling) will never alter his ways and it is left to the younger generation to learn from their mistakes.

Mr Birling’s family may seem cheerful, but if you inspect them internally you’ll notice how ruined their family really is. Mr Birling has feelings of guilt but doesn’t show them because of his bold image he has to keep up with,

‘We hard headed businessmen’

He is hurt by the fact that when his son Eric (an alcoholic), was in trouble (with Eva and the money problem he had) he didn’t approach his father with this problem and ask for help, like any other son would have done. This makes Mr Birling upset and angry.

‘You damned fool – why didn’t you come to me

when you found yourself in this mess?’

Eric is bad-mannered and coarse towards his father and makes him feel as though they never had a father and son relationship.

‘Because you’re not the kind of chap a man

Could turn to when he’s in trouble’.

Priestley also shows that money can’t buy happiness. Mr Birling has all the money but does he enjoy time with his family? Is his family falling apart?And is it his entire fault?

Capitalism also has this effect on people, that it can tear families apart just as it’s done to The Birling’s.

Inspector Goole’s final speech is J.B Priestley’s personal opinion which is that he is concerned that there are many people like Eva Smith who are poor and their lives depend on the way we deal with daily life.

‘One Eva Smith has gone-but there are millions and millions of Eva Smith’s and John Smith’s still left with us ‘.

The reason for capitalism is people like Mr Birling who have no sympathy for others and don’t care about the rest of the world or poverty; they only care about money and image this is why capitalism and wars are still going on today. If there was more socialism there would be peace. This is J.B Priestley’s major motive of writing this play ‘An Inspector Calls’ is to promote socialism. (Which I hope he has)

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