An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley
An Inspector Calls is the tale of a wealthy manufacturer who is
holding a dinner party for his daughter’s engagement. Into this cosy,
what seems secure scene, appears a harsh police inspector
investigating the suicide of young working class woman. Under the
pressure of his thorough investigations, every member of the Birling
family is revealed to have a shameful secret that finally led to the
corruption, and consequent death of this young woman, Eva Smith.
Priestly attempts to convey his attitudes and ideas through his
characters and their behaviour in the play. Quite importantly, J.B
Priestly was a socialist with strong socialist ideas and tendencies.
‘An Inspector Calls’ actually incorporates a mass of Presley’s
socialist ideals, and a whole network of underlying morals surface in
connection with the apparent storyline.
The inspector is used to symbolise Priestly and his liberal ideas of
equality and fairness, and through the inspector, Priestly's main aim
was to encourage people to take responsibility for their actions, not
to shift the blame on to others. The Birling's on the other hand are
used to demonstrate the ignorant, perhaps arrogant side of seemingly
perfect upper-class families, taking advantage of lower classes and
exploiting their rights for their own financial or social status.
Priestly established each of his characters in the play the way he
thought people were. The Birling's were very worried about
appearances. The way they dressed and how their house was decorated.
Their house had 'good solid furniture of the period'. `The general
effect is substantial and heavily comfortable but not cosy and
homelike'. The lighting is pink and intimate before the Inspector
arrives, they are hiding behind a wall of false pretences. It become
brighter and harder when the Inspector enters, this is them being
opened up to the world.
At the beginning of Act 1, the dialogue reveals that the family does
not care about anyone but themselves. Arthur Birling believes `a man
has to make his own way, has to look after himself and his family
too.’ The way Priestly writes “but the way some of these cranks talk
and write now, you’d think everybody has to look after everybody else,
as if we were all mixed up like bees in a hive – community, and all
that nonsense.” Followed by the abrupt arrival of the Inspector, sent
to oppose and try to change these irresponsible views of the
The effect of Inspector Goole’s visit has a different effect on
different members of the family according to factors such as, the
extent to their involvement in Eva’s death, their own conscience, and
how they react to criticism. Priestly effectively shows how the
different generations also react differently, with the outcome
basically being that Sheila...