An Inspector Calls Essay
An Inspector Calls
Throughout the play An Inspector Calls JB Priestly uses the characters to portray the different levels of society. He does this so as to give each class a moral belief and name. The play is called ‘An Inspector calls’ and was written in 1946 by J. B. Priestly. It is set in the year 1912, in between the time in which it was set and the year it was written two world wars had taken place. In 1912 classes were very different and were socially divided.
There was a lot of poor people and very few rich people. A lot of the rich people disliked the working class and disrespected them. He uses the characters Mr and Mrs Birling to represent capitalists they are middle class and only out for themselves. They bid for higher prices and pay their labourers little so they make as much profit as possible. Gerald is of a higher middle class and is much younger, he has some empathy for the lower class but is still very much a capitalist.
His parents Lady and Lord Croft are of a higher status than the Birlings but they share the same socialistic views. Both Eric and Sheila have a lot of empathy for Eva Smith, they were brought up by capitalist parents which means that their judgement can be swayed to a capitalist view but morally they see what they have done and are willing to accept that. The inspector, represents JB Priestly’s views of society. The Inspector’s last speech sums up how Priestly feels about capitalism and such. “but just remember this.
One Eva Smith has gone but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffereing and chance of happiness, all interwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do. We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell that the time will soon come when if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and aguish” In this play JB Priestly is aiming to make his audience think again about their views and make them realise that everyone should be responsible for everybody else.
Mr Birling is a middle class, wealthy business man who used to be “an alderman for years – and lord mayor two years ago” he is a magistrate and talks of his “way into the next honours list. Just a knighthood” He is described as being “heavy looking” and as being “in his middle fifties. ” Through the inspector’s questioning the audience are made aware of all aspects good and bad. His good side being that he cares about his daughter getting married to his fiancee “treating Gerald like on of the family. ” His bad points being a mans priority – his work and reputation.
He comes across a being very mean, cruel and even extremely pompous as a complete snob – in his opinion, his and only his views are correct. Since he is a self made man he thinks that every man is for himself and is strongly against collective responsibility. This is a part he tries to imprint into much of Gerald and Eric. He does this by preaching to them, “The worlds developing so fast that it’ll make war impossible” an example of Dramatic irony which Priestley uses alot throughout the play.
Priestly attempts to convey the part that these values are incorrect and though the inspectors final speech he lets the audience know that: if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish” The most important factor of Mr Birlings character is that he is incapable of change: Priestly wants the audience to know that change is the key. As well as Priestly the audience or the reader can see that the fire, blood and anguish is referring to the war, therefore the audience should realise that the moral lessons are not only meant for the Birlings but also for the audience. If the Arthur Birlings of this world don’t change war will never cease.
Mrs Birling is the wife of Arthur, she is an extremely callus woman who is very out of touch with the reality of life. She has a lack of understanding in certain areas, such as her naivety to her son when she is preaching “find this young man and then make sure that he has compelled to confess in public his responsibility” Mrs Birling is constantly very hypocritical: she first describes Gerald’s relationship with Eva (Daisy) as “a disgusting affair. ” Then later when the inspector is found to be false she is quite content worth forgetting about the whole thing.
Also he begins by laying all the blame on the “young man” that impregnated Eva saying, “he should be made an example of”, but when Eric, her son is found to be the young man she denies all comments previously made until Sheila reveals them. She is very prejudice and has awfully stereotypical views. Gerald is the son of a big rival of Arthur’s Sir George Croft. He is well mannered of course and very self but he too has moral flaws. Whether Inspector Goole was truthfully an inspector or not shouldn’t have changed the fact that Gerald had commited a moral crime through his exploitation of Eva.
Although he sets out with good intentions in the way that he saves Eva from Alderman Meggarty, his utilisation of his social standing and economic power to use Eva is wrong. The audience can also see his lack of loyalty from the way he betrayed Sheila at such ease. The way that he begins the sequence of proceedings leading to the view that the inspector wasn’t an inspector shows that he reacts on his suspicions. Gerald wasn’t all bad though he gave Eva more than any other character in the play and “had some affection for her and mad her happy for a time. He also didn’t burden Eva with a child, as did Eric.
He is much more concerned with legalities than moralities, as are Mr and Mrs Birling, in the way Mr Birling treated Eva is warranted. Gerald is also similar to Mr and Mrs Birling in his inability to change. Sheila in her early twenties and at the beginning seems quite self-centred in the way that she loves the attention she is receiving because of her engagement. She appeared to be shallow taking her misfortune out on others by getting Eva scared at Milwards because she smiled at the assistant and looked better in a hat than Sheila did.
She uses her position to bully the less fortunate, ordering the manager at Milwards “if they don’t get rid of that girl, id never go near the place again and id persuade mother to close tour account with them. ” But unlike Mr and Mrs Birling and Gerald, she is authentically sorry for her action and doesn’t share their moral faults and so has that potential to change. She shows this potential by the way she accepts that Gerald cheated on her and respects him for admitting it, she realise the importance of honestly and gives him the opportunity to change.
Sheila realises “these girls aren’t cheap labour – they’re people” and the fact that she comprehends things like that is why she is to seem to the audience that she is a better person than Gerald and her parents. Sheila begins to understand the values the inspector is trying to preach and how they are more logical than her families’ principals. She can therefore comprehend that her mother is “beginning all wrong” and that Mrs Birling should “stop stop” where as nobody else can grasp this essential point.
Sheila may have been a brat, but the fact that she and Eric are “more impressionable” enables her to understand that people need to learn from past errors and change. It is the ability to change that separates her, and Eric from the other Characters. At the beginning of the play, Priestley sets out an extensive series of stage directions. He applies them effectively as a dramatic device, in that he uses them to show how the Birling family are cold, distant people and how capitalism has corrupted them as a family.
He illustrates how the family are very well off, alluding to “dessert plates” and “champagne glasses” as well as other expensive items. However, there is also a sense of formality and distance between the family members as he writes that “men are in tails and white ties” and that it is “not cosy and homelike”. He also emphasises the remoteness between Mr and Mrs Birling by situating them at opposite ends of the table. Included in the stage directions is the colour and brightness of the lighting. Priestley also uses this as a dramatic device skilfully.
The lighting first used is described as “pink and intimate” showing a ‘warm’ and ‘joyful’ atmosphere. However the audience gets the sense that it is just a screen covering up secrets and that they are in fact looking through ‘rose-tinted glasses’ and that it is not really what it seems. This is confirmed when the Inspector appears and the lighting changes to a “brighter and harder light” where it gives the impression of exposure and the revelation of truth. In this way, the character of the Inspector has also been used as a dramatic device.
He is used to convey a message, as a mouthpiece to Priestley’s views. He makes it seem as if socialism is the true and honest way to live. The Inspector does not use euphemisms and instead uses graphic imagery in order to shock the Birlings into giving him information, “she’d swallowed a lot of strong disinfectant, Burnt her inside out of course”. He also has a feeling of omniscience and an almost ghostly presence. His name, Inspector Goole, indicates this as Goole sounds like Ghoul and Inspector sounds like spectre.
The Inspector is used to ‘correct’ the capitalists and makes a strong statement in favour of socialism in his final rhetorical speech. In this speech he states that for lower class, “Eva Smiths and John Smiths” there is a “chance of happiness” in socialism. The Inspector also makes the audience realise that they are “members of one body” and that they should try their best to help people like Eva Smith, otherwise, as the Inspector implies, “they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish”.
This almost acts as a threat to the audience and incites them to recognize the value of Priestley’s message. Dramatic irony is also used in many ways as a dramatic device. It is used to promote the Inspector yet mock Mr Birling. In Mr Birling’s speech at the beginning of the play, he proudly states that “as a hard-headed businessman” he thinks that “there isn’t a chance of war” and that the Titanic is “absolutely unsinkable”. With the play being published after two world wars and the sinking of the Titanic, Priestley makes the audience think that Birling is a fool.
Whereas the Inspector, who states in his final speech that “they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish” indicating that there will be a war, is elevated by the use of dramatic irony. This makes the audience believe the socialist views of the Inspector instead of the ‘foolish’ views of Mr Birling. The fact that a meaningful message is represented would indicate that An Inspector Calls, as well as being a murder mystery, in the way that Priestley uncovers the story of the death of Eva Smith, is also a moralistic play. Priestley shows the audience how not to live their lives, using dramatic devices to demonstrate this.
He makes the audience contemplate over the fact that they are actually “members of one body” and that they are all “responsible for one another” and has made them realise that socialism is the way forward instead of capitalism. In this way, An Inspector Calls is very relevant today’s society where people still do need to work together and help others in need. J. B. Priestley effectively uses many dramatic devices in An Inspector Calls, such as symbolism and timings. He applies them in order to portray his political views, using an upper class, Edwardian family to do so.
The end of the play was ambiguous and it left the audience craving a clear and understandable ending. Were there more girls than just Eva Smith? Was Inspector Goole real? What really was real? Some people thought Goole was a spirit that had come to foretell the future, others thought there were multiple girls in the pictures, while a few thought it was the same girl just in a different pose. Priestly uses the characters to speak his mind and get across wants he thinks through characters and that’s why people are leaving wanting more.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 15 February 2017
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