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An Inspector Calls By J.B. Priestley

2751 words - 11 pages

An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley

In Priestley's play An Inspector Calls, the two main characters,
Arthur Birling and the Inspector, both show certain features of real
people but, in particular the Inspector seems to be representative of
political and social issues that were relevant in 1912. What seems
like a simple detective thriller, with an inspector asking questions
and the other characters answering them in order to find the person
responsible for the suicide of Eva Smith (alias Daisy Renton),
gradually develops into a complex investigation of political stances,
of capitalism and socialism.

To answer this question fully, we have to consider many different
aspects of Mr Birling and the Inspector's characters. We need to look
at the views they express, but we also need to look at their
interaction with other characters before we can fully decide whether
they have a rounded personality and can thus be considered to be real
people or whether they merely represent social and political concepts.
We also need to consider the time the play was set in, the events, the
setting and the ritual associated with it.

In An Inspector Calls many different issues are brought up about
social attitudes and political views, but the most important has to be
responsibility. In this particular context, Birling and the Inspector
clearly have to be seen as representatives of two opposing definitions
of responsibility. While Birling sees it as "a man has to make his own
way, has to look after himself and his family", thus excluding
responsibility for anybody else, the Inspector represents the idea of
social responsibility in a society where the rich share at least some
of their wealth with the poor and people are equals.

Although Birling, as we have just heard, represents private
responsibility and capitalism, in many other ways he is a real
character. Birling is a family man, a proud father celebrating his
only daughter's engagement to a wealthy and upper class factory
owner's son. However, money is still an important factor in his joy
over the engagement. He says, "we may look forward to a time when
Crofts and Birlings are no longer competing but are working
together-for lower costs and higher prices". Ultimately, his wealth is
more important than his daughter's happiness

Similarly, Birling's relationship with his son is poor. When he finds
out that Eric was stealing money from him to support Eva who he had
got pregnant and that he was visiting seedy drinking places, he tells
him, "Your trouble is your too spoilt!" which shows that he blaming
Eric rather than his own skills as a parent - or the lack of them. He
is also very worried about the possible consequences of Eric's actions
for his own career, should they become known. He says, 'There'll be a
scandal', and he even offers the...

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