J. B Priestly lived from 1894 to 1984. “An Inspector calls” was written in 1945 and challenges the social class system of pre-war Britain. This era is often called “the Golden Era”, but is also remembered for its terrible poverty in lower social classes. The play shows the two states of rich and poor in the quote.. ” “. Historically and socially, the years around 1912 were very unsettled. The British Empire was beginning to decline and Queen Victoria had died in 1902, leaving the people expectant about the new “era”; much like the turn of the century or new millennium.
Priestly uses a character within the play to get across his views on society, and some of the following questions can be picked up from the text, Is there a true society? Should we take responsibility for everyone? And finally, Do actions we take directly affect others? If the play was written in a political article rather than a play, the information would not be put across but by expressing certain opinions in a play, people think of the views actually within the characters, therefore making it much more effective, it’s like almost learning from enjoyment.
From Act One we know certain aspects about the Birling family. With out reading the play we can know so much about them just from the stage directions. They were a rich wealthy family but not too rich as they lived in a ‘ fairly large suburban house’. Also you can tell that they had money coming form a factory.. ‘A prosperous manufacture’. It can be said that there was a metaphor for the Edwardian society and this is the word titanic.
The Birling family can also been seen as the titanic, this is because it showed hope, luxury, progression and wealth. The Birling family represents the higher society in the social class system; we can tell his by the way they look down upon other classes. Mr Birling says ‘well, well this is very nice. Very nice. Good dinner too, Sybil. Tell cook from me’. Then later Mrs. Birling comments on his statement ‘Arthur, you’re not supposed to say such thing. ‘ This shows those being that high up couldn’t even tell their cook it was a lovely meal.
Priestly describes the Inspector, when he first appears on stage, in terms of ‘massiveness, solidity and purposefulness’, symbolising the fact that he is an unstoppable force within the play. His ‘disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before speaking’ gives the impression that he sees through surface appearances to the real person beneath. It also gives him a thoughtfulness that contrasts with the thoughtlessness of each character’s treatment of the girl.
His role in the play is not simply to confront each character with the truth, but to force each character to admit the truth they already know. He works methodically through the characters present one at a time, partly because he recognises that ‘otherwise, there’s a muddle’, and partly because, given the chance, the characters are all quick to defend each other, or to call upon outside help (such as Colonel Roberts) in order to avoid accepting the truth of what he suggests.