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The play ‘The Inspector Calls’ by JB Priestly is written in a very specific way. Priestly uses the characters in this play to show how upper class families see themselves compared with people who are much lower than them. Throughout the play the actions and speech are used to convey some of his own thoughts and views on social status. You could say that he uses some of his characters as a mouthpiece. In the play many themes are touched upon, one of the main ones being social status. At the beginning of the play we are introduced to a family and friend who are upper class.
The family are the Birlings who are described as living in ‘A fairly large suburban house, belonging to a prosperous manufacturer. ‘ Even though the speech in the play hasn’t actually begun JB Priestly already paints us an image of the way that they live and what they are like. He uses words such as ‘portentous’ and ‘superior’ to describe the way that the Birlings look in the first stage directions. The characters in the Birling family are; Mr. Birling, Mrs. Birling, Sheila and their son Eric. Also amongst them is Gerald Croft a ‘well-bred,’ man who is engaged to the Birlings daughter, Sheila.
The Birling characters see themselves as much better than others and are ‘tremendously happy,’ with their lives so far. The daughter Sheila is to be married to ‘the kind of son-in-law,’ that the Birlings always wanted. Not because he makes Sheila happy but, because his father is the owner of the Birlings rival company Croft’s Limited. This would mean the two businesses would be joining forces. In Birling’s eyes more money will come into the family because all Birling loves is money. Mr. Birling, is described as a ‘heavy looking’ man with ‘fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech.
‘ He is the first person to see the photo. From the moment we meet Birling we are introduced to a man who is very proud of his achievements although we see another side of his character once he has seen the photo. We are told that Mr. Birling owns a large factory and when questioned about the girl being one of his workers he denies it. Although we find out how hard a man he is when he dismisses a girl and doesn’t seem to care that she is a person, just ‘cheap labour. ‘ This shows us the authority of business owners who do not care for their employees.
Also when he is told that the girls’ death could be his responsibility, he passes it off straight away saying ‘I told her to clear out, and she went. That’s the last I heard of her. ‘ This is another good example of how owners put money before their social responsibility. It also shows us the weak position that this girl was in, she really had no control over her job. He treated her like an indispensable slave, when he did not want her anymore there was always another poor girl to step into her place.