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Priestly chose to write this play when he did, in 1945 because he had seen both world wars. He set it in 1912 because he knew what was to come, this way he had an insight to what was going to happen, so he could show the ignorance of the upper sector. Mr. Birling should understand the common people better than he does, especially as he came from a working class background. It would seem that he does not appreciate the working class anymore, as he would not even increase the wages of his workers.
“They were averaging about twenty-two and six which was neither more nor less then is paid generally in our industry. They wanted the rates raised so that they could average about twenty-five shillings a week. ” It is also evident that he runs his life by looking after himself first, as he tells Gerald and Eric at the beginning of the play “And as you were saying, dad, a man has to look after himself. ” Mrs. Birling should have some understanding of Eva Smith because she is a governor of a charitable organisation to help women in desperate situations.
But her ignorance gets in the way of her work, she doesn’t even think there is a possibility of there being more than one Birling family, so she dismisses Eva Smith straight away. “Yes I think it was simply a piece of gross impertenance – quite deliberate – and natrally that was one of the things that pedjudiced me against her. ” Mrs. Birling’s ignorance is also apparent when she is saying what should happen to the young man who impregnated Eva Smith. Sheila had to learn, not to use status as an extended tool for jealousy.
After Sheila has been told about her involvement in Eva Smith’s death she seems genuinly sorry for what she has done “And I know I’m to blame – and I’m desperately sorry” As well as what Sheila says, the stage directions like “distressed” are used to show how she is feeling. Her youth also opens her to the exposure of Inspector Goole “We are most impressionable on the young” this also makes us realise how Inspector Goole “breaks down the barriers”. When you are “far gone”, or as you would more commonly say it now, drunk, you are quite likely to get yourself into some sort of trouble as Eric learns.
Unlike his parents and Sheila, Eric realises that what he did was wrong at the time and tried to make amends for it by giving Eva Smith money. “I insisted on giving her enough money to keep her going” At first when Eva Smith left him he didn’t change his ways, you can see this when he “helps himself to the decanter”. After the Inspector has gone through the events it looks like Eric has finally come to grips with what he has done and will make some sort of effort to change now, because of the imppression left on him by the Inspector.
The message Inspector Goole is trying to present is that, whatever you do, you will eventually be judged for it. “We are members of one body. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire, blood and anguish. ” Inspector Goole also delivers the message that everyone must look after everyone else, and almost exactly contradicts Mr. Birling’s teaching of “every man has to look out for himself” or else the world will turn into a cold, miserable place, full of hatred and selfishness.