An Inspector Calls, a play written by J. B. Priestly in 1945. He set his play in 1912 just before the First World War. It is a story of the visit by an Inspector to an apparently normal family, the Birlings. The Birlings are celebrating their daughter Shelia’s engagement to Gerald Croft. Mr. Birling a successful factory owner gets the ball rolling with a speech, which he gives to his son Eric, and Gerald Croft. J. B Priestly makes good use of dramatic irony in this speech because many events took place after 1912, which we the modern audience, know about but Mr. Birling doesn’t.
Mr. Birling mentioned that the miners came out on a strike and there would be possible labour trouble in the near future. He said that there wouldn’t be any more worries about the strikes. But in 1926 we know that there was a General Strike in Britain. He talks about the Titanic being a spectacular ship with every luxury and it is absolutely unsinkable. But as we know in 1912 the Titanic sunk on maiden voyage and 1,513 lives were lost. He also mentioned about the wars not happening. He said that the Germans don’t want war. But in 1914 the First World War broke out.
He said that there would peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere but in 1917 there was revolution in Russia. In 1939 the Second World War broke out and in 1945 the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. This makes the audience doubt Mr Birling early on in the play. When Mr. Birling finishes his speech the Inspector enters into the scene. The Inspector is at the Birling’s because there was a death of a woman Eva Smith and he had come to ask questions about her. Mr. Birling was the first person that we were led to believe started off the train of events that ultimately led to the death of Eva Smith.
Mr. Birling had sacked Eva Smith from his factory after she started to cause trouble demanding higher wages. Mr Birling says that any man in his position would have done the same. She was making trouble as Mr. Birling said, ‘She had a lot to say – far too much so she had to goi??. But the only thing that Mr. Birling cared about was his family and the progress of his business. He didn’t care about his workers and he didn’t know them. As he says in Act 1 “I have a couple of hundred workers under me, who keep changing”.
So there wasn’t a personal relationship between these two until after the workers came back from their holidays that they were asking for a pay rise. As Mr. Birling wouldn’t, he sacked the ringleaders and one of them was Eva Smith. Now that Eva was sacked she was out of work for two months. She had no money and she was half starved. She had no one to help her. Her parents had died so they couldn’t offer any help and her friends had nothing to offer her. But then again it wasn’t the end of the world and she was capable of getting another job as we find out.