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An Inspector Calls By J.B. Priestley

2960 words - 12 pages

An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley

JB Priestley, the playwright of 'An Inspector Calls,' chose to
highlight the death of an innocent girl in order to show the audience
how important it is that we take responsibility for our actions in our
community.

It is 1912, a labour shortage seems imminent and war inevitable but
somewhere in upper middle class England a family is being confronted
with a tragedy of their own. Each of the Birlings; Arthur (Mr.
Birling), Sybil (Mrs. Birling), Sheila and Eric as well as Gerald
Croft somehow affect the life of Eva Smith until she is forced to
commit suicide. Of the five characters, Sheila and Eric change for the
better while their parents, Arthur and Sybil, remain their old selves
taking no responsibility for the death of the girl. Gerald Croft seems
to be capable of changing but takes the easy route and denies
responsibility after it appears the inspector was a 'fake'.

It is very easy to notice how the Birlings and Gerald change (or how
they fail to) because of their distinctive characteristics before the
inspector arrives. The family have just celebrated Gerald and Sheila's
engagement and are 'pleased with themselves'. Mr. Birling, a self
described 'hard-headed business man,' is especially happy that his
daughter is marrying Gerald Croft because Gerald's immediate family
run a rival business 'Crofts Limited'. He sees the marriage as a
potential business opportunity and seems more concerned with this than
the love that the two should share. This shows that Mr. Birling's
character is very greedy and selfish, as he is looking to make more
money, not too concerned with how suitable Gerald Croft is as a
husband for his daughter. He makes several speeches, the most
important of which he makes to Gerald and Eric once his wife and
daughter have left. He claims that to make it in life you mustn't
concern yourself with community, that looking after yourself and your
family is the most important thing and that if one does so 'he won't
come to much harm'. This is ironic, since Mr. Birling would soon be
questioned about the death of a young girl he had something to do with
despite taking care of himself only. It also contrasts strongly to
Priestley's views; since Birling has been made to look pompous and
arrogant it is unlikely the audience will agree with anything Mr.
Birling has to say.

Gerald is socially superior to the Birling family yet tries to impress
Mr. Birling by agreeing with everything he has to say. This seems a
little more odd as his father's company is 'both older and bigger than
Birling and Company'. If he wants to marry Sheila for a reason other
than business it seems obvious the choice is love, but what we
discover later in the play may disagree with this sentiment. Gerald
seems happy enough with his new position in the family,...

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