An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley
On page 56 of J.B Priestlys Play An Inspector Calls, the Inspector
makes his final speech in which he says:
'But just remember this. One Eva Smith is gone - but there are
millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with
us, with their lives and fears, their suffering and chance of
happiness, all intertwined with our lives and what we think and say
and do. We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are
responsible for one another. And I tell you the time will soon come
when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it
in fire blood and anguish. Good night.'
I am going to try to understand an explain the effect it is supposed
to have on: 1) the other characters, and 2) the audience. I will study
techniques the inspector uses in his final speech. And explore the
meaning of 'Fire Blood and Anguish.' I will refer to the social
context and the themes in the play. I will also discuss the inspector
and analyse who or what he is meant to represent.
There are three main themes in the play: Social versus individual
responsibility, Capital verses labour, and Guilt verses denial.
Throughout the play, Mr and Mrs Birling show the belief in individual
responsibility (looking after yourself), Denial, and Capital views.
Some of these are initiated in the first few pages, this is ignorance
to the idea of society and social responsibility. Birling - 'But the
way some of these cranks talk and write now, you'd think everybody has
to look after everybody else, as is we're all mixed up together like
bee's in a hive - community and all that nonsense. But take my word
for it, you youngsters - and I've learnt in the good hard school of
experience that a man has to make his own way and to look after his
own.' (10). This is where his self-centred philosophy is first made
apparent but continues to be shown throughout the inspector's visit.
Mrs Birling also shares these views and appears unable to show any
remorse for the death of Eva Smith when she is first informed of it,
she says 'I'm very sorry but I think she had only herself to blame.'
(43) She basically says exactly what Mr Birling says but is slightly
less crude and outspoken about it. This is typical of the time around
1912, where the husband and man of the house would set the views and
the wife would agree with them.
On the other hand, Sheila and Eric have the opposing opinions in the
themes: social responsibilty, labour and guilt. They show great
understanding of the points made in the play. Sheila immediately shows
remorse and empathy for Eva and doesn't hold back when making this
known. She contradicts her father and says 'Well I think it was a mean
thing to do.' (19) This, at the time of the play, would be something
greatly frowned upon and shows...