J.B Priestly presents his play ‘An Inspector Calls’ with contrasting views of responsibility and guilt within the Birling family and the Inspector. He utilizes a variety of dramatic devices throughout the play to create tension between the characters. One of the many dramatic devices he applies is when the Birling family are interrupted by an inspector while having a celebration.
Inspector Goole is a firm socialist, he strongly believes wealth should be shared equally between all people, for example Eva Smith. He sticks up for the poorer classes rights to freedom of life. I suggest Priestly communicates his views through the character of the Inspector as he has fixed feelings about fairness and equality of everyone. He states ‘With privileges comes responsibility’ showing the understanding of those who are well to do should take responsibility for those who are less fortunate.
The Inspector is a powerful character in this play. He intimidates the Birling family and makes them seem dense. “He speaks carefully, weightily and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking.” He looks sternly in to their eyes before interrogating them. This makes the characters feel insecure and agitated, giving the impression of being responsible or guilty of something. Goole is very confident and can come across naive. He speaks like he knows everything about the Birling family and tries to drain the truth out of them. This shows the inspector has a function within the Birling household, he is there to make the family realise they need to take responsibility for their actions.
He shows a contrasting view of responsibility to what the family believe. They don’t consider taking responsibility as must. Goole displays no emotion and is calm throughout the whole play. When Mrs Birling says “you seem to have made a great impression on this child” He replies “coolly” and also “the inspector will take offence” He responds “cutting in calmly” Where as Mr Birling becomes very distraught towards the inspector and wants to receive a reaction from him. He sharply informs the Inspector “I Don’t like that tone” I imply Birling doesn’t think responsibility is something that he should require within him.
But Shelia is diverse she is very distressed. Her character develops into disturbance when the inspector reveals the news about Eva’s death. She illustrates remorse towards Eva, by projecting responsibility and becoming saddened. Shelia is one of the few characters in this play who takes responsibility for her actions. She realises they have to change their attitude in life and tries to convince her parents, but doesn’t succeed. “The point is, you don’t seem to of learnt anything” “it doesn’t much matter who it was who made us confess” (flaring up) “between us we drove that girl to commit suicide”
The inspector takes control of the pace, he demonstrate leadership within the Birling family, taking one query at a time. “Massively taking charge” Priestly does this to keep the audience on their toes, creating apprehension. This is another dramatic device in its self. Priestly interoperates the opposite views in the characters of Mr Birling and Inspector Goole. They are both dominant and prevailing. Mr Birling tries to take power of his home but Goole is much more controlling and takes power of the event. This shows there is a battle between the two. Mr Birling is a capitalist, he judges that man should look after himself and take no responsibility for others.
This proposes he’s a selfish person and is out for himself only. He articulates “you’d think everybody has to look after everybody else.” This implies he is highly against socialism and refuses to take responsibility for his community. Mr Birling is extremely unaware of the consequences he will suffer for the reason of his self indulgent attitude. He likes to impress people, “I speak as a hard headed business man who has to take risks and know what he’s about”. He expresses his thoughts with no consideration, to determine how he assumes how important and dependable he is.
But the Inspector presents Birling as if he has no importance to the community. He interrupts Mr Birling and his speeches numerous times. When Birling states “that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own – and-” Priestley creates a dramatic devise by generating sound. “There was a sharp ring of the door bell” I propose he does this to confirm how self absorbed Mr Birling and his speeches are, or how he judges what Birling utters is erratic and immoral. The inspector physically challenges Mr Birling’s beliefs about responsibility using these interrupting sounds.
Throughout this play Mr Birling doesn’t change his beliefs, his attitude and nor his actions. He refuses to take responsibility for what he had done to Eva’s life, how he began the chain of events leading to Eva’s tragic death. I believe Priestly formed a domino effect in these events, one leading to another, until the final stage, with Eva’s life at the finishing point. I suggest Mr Birling is set in his ways; he has just the one view of everything, a selfish view. He chooses his views to evolve them around himself and his life, trying to make himself more important. He desires people to think of him as a leader, a role model. He wishes they where devoted to him.
On the other hand, Shelia’s attitude and actions change drastically towards the end of the play. At the beginning she was a spoilt child but now she has become a young woman. She realises, unlike her father, that everybody has responsibilities. She is the key character that is moral with the most truth and decency; she faces the facts and knows she has to change her behaviour. But she is ashamed of her parents and concerned they won’t. “I remember what he said, how he looked and how he made me feel. Fire and blood and anguish, and it frightens me the way you talk.” This gives me an impression of Hell; this is why Shelia is changing, she doesn’t want to repeat the dreadful experience she has had that evening.
I imply J.B Priestley’s point in this play “An inspector calls” is People need to realise they have to change their attitude towards general things in life or people will suffer consequences.