In my essay I am going to look at how much moral responsibility the characters in “An Inspector Calls” accept for the death of Eva Smith/ Daisy Renton and also how the characters reflect the period the play was set in. In the play all characters are to blame for the death of Eva Smith/ Daisy Renton as they have all worked together in a way to make Eva Smith commit suicide. They are not officially to blame they had no idea that she would commit suicide.
J. B. Priestley was born on the 13th September 1894, in a middle class home in Bradford, Yorkshire, which was a large industrial area that produced cotton in the mills.
Priestley grew up in a thoroughly middle class home in a place where socialist ideals succeed and was proud of the fact that his grandparents were mill workers. He achieved real experience and understanding of working class life and people when writing ‘Rain upon Godshill’ (1939).
It was about his visits to “grandparents and uncles and aunts who still lived in the miserable little ‘back to back’ houses in the long, dark streets behind the mills. He wrote ”An Inspector Calls” to show the abuse and cruelty of the lower classes by the higher classes at that time.
Priestley set the play in 1912, thirty years earlier than when he wrote. He did this because he would be able to use dramatic irony to emphasize his point that the upper classes were not strong as they believed to be and shouldn’t have been quite so unworried.
Priestley uses the characters in “An Inspector Calls” to criticize attitudes of the society by showing how the upper class looked down on the lower class like the way Mr. and Mrs. Birling did to Eva. Mr. Birling uses his authority to get Eva sacked from his company. Sheila had used her power to get Eva fired.
Gerald was overwhelmed by fear and left her just because she was not from the same class. Eric had used his power to use Eva as a prostitute and Mrs. Birling used her power by rejecting Eva’s claim for some money. The working class doesn’t get anything for instance Eva, she can’t complain to get more money to live with as she’s treated like a slave. In the year 1912 charity wasn’t given if one was poor or didn’t have a job; you had to explain everything to them and if they didn’t believed it people couldn’t do nothing about it. Having a job was also an important thing to have because without a job there was no life.
Eva hadn’t got a job so life was tough for her as she couldn’t live in a house or couldn’t take care of her children. So the only way lower classes could get money was by becoming upper classes slaves or prostitutes but that wasn’t a pleasure job. People like the Birling family were from the upper class and treated people from the lower class differently. The first character who gets to meet Eva Smith is Mr. Birling who is described as heavy looking slightly self important man who shows off to everyone. “You ought to like this port, Gerald.
As a matter of fact, Finchley told me it’s the same port as your father gets from him”. He is showing off to Gerald about how the port is from good quality as Gerald’s father gets the same port and that makes Mr. Birling just like them, he might want to show in this way that he is not less than Gerald’s family as in those days only rich people could afford a good port. At the engagement of Sheila and Gerald, Mr. Birling is really satisfied. “Is one of the happiest nights of my life. ” Mr. Birling says this, to show everyone how much Sheila’s happiness means to him.
However he could have also been happy for his own matters, as Gerald is the son of Crofts Limited and working with them will do great for his business. J. B. Priestley might have wanted to emphasize Mr. Birling’s selfish character. Mr. Birling had sacked Eva Smith from his company. “Yes I do, she was one of my employees and then I discharged her. ” This shows that Mr. Birling is greedy because, Eva had asked for more money, and therefore he had sacked her from his company. Mr. Birling didn’t accept his moral responsibility for the death of Eva Smith. “I can’t accept any responsibility”.
He is straight forward even though he’s to blame he don’t want to be responsible for others rather than his family. The things he says are not to be trusted, because he would probably do anything to keep himself happy. “The Titanic is never going to sink”. The Titanic eventually sank, so this shows that Mr. Birling thinks he knows everything but is not always right. We can presume that J. B. Priestley wanted to show the audience that because of Mr. Birling’s status, a lot of people still believed him and he therefore could have got away with a lot. In my opinion Mr.
Birling has to accept his moral responsibility as he was the one who has started the drama by firing Eva Smith from his company. Sheila was the next one to meet Eva Smith. Sheila is described as an attractive also joyful and excited girl without knowing she was also responsible for the death of Eva she turned against her father’s way of treating people and chose Eva’s side. “But these girls aren’t cheap labour- they’re people”. This shows that she is a caring person and she wants her father to treat the workers as people and not as ”cheap labour”. After that Mr.
Birling had fired Eva Smith she came to work in the favourite store of Sheila which was called “Milwards” and again she was being fired but this time she was being fired by Sheila because she thought Eva had laughed at her. “When I was looking at myself in the mirror I caught sight of her smiling at the assistant, and I was furious with her. I’d been in a bad temper anyhow. I went to the manager of Milwards, and I told him that if they didn’t get rid of that girl, I’d never go near the place again and I’d persuade mother to close our account with them”.
Perhaps this could emphasize that Sheila was also a bit paranoid, spoilt, and not happy about the way she looked; as, she got Eva fired just because she looked at her and laughed. All the time she had her dad to blame but when she heard she was to blame she was ashamed of how she had reacted earlier towards Eva just because she was from the upper class and Eva from the lower class and felt sorry. “It was my own fault”. This suggests that Sheila has changed from how she was earlier and accepts her moral responsibility.
As Sheila accepts her moral responsibility she’s trying to convince the other members of the family to accept their moral responsibility. “The girl died a horrible death and we were parts of it”. Priestley might have used the word “part” to emphasize the fact that they were all together in Eva Smith’s death. I believe that Sheila is not the one to blame the most as she had made a mistake which she admitted and felt guilty for what she has done. Perhaps Priestley wants to show trough Sheila, that the way people from the upper class only care about class and them selves is wrong.
Gerald croft met Eva Smith, after his wife Sheila. Gerald was described as a nice good-looking man who is also emotional. When Gerald had met Eva Smith at the first time, she had changed her name into Daisy Renton and was being annoyed by Joe Meggarty. “The girl saw me looking at her and then gave me a glance that was nothing, less than a cry for help. So I went across and told Joe Meggarty some nonsense- that the manager had a message for him or something like that- got him out of the way- and then told the girl that if she didn’t want anymore of that sort thing, she’d better let me take her out of here”.
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