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Book Title: An Inspector Calls (Drama) Author: J.B. Priestley Essay Title: To What Extent Is Each Character In "An Inspector Calls" Responsible For The Death Of Eva Smith.

1483 words - 6 pages

“An Inspector Calls”, by J.B. Priestley, is set in 1912 England, at a time when social divisions between different classes were huge. Eighty-seven percent of the country’s wealth belonged to just five percent of society, to people like Arthur Birling. Meanwhile, the remaining ninety-five percent of all the Eva Smiths and John Smiths have to get by on less than twenty-five shillings a week. Yet, as Priestley suggests throughout the play, the lives of the rich and poor are all intertwined together. The actions, words and thoughts of one can be of paramount importance to another’s life. On the surface, this performance depicts a family’s reaction to an investigation by a very strange inspector. On a deeper level, however, it examines the core value of community and society, the idea that everyone should be responsible for their actions and for each other.In the first act of the play, the stage opens with a normal family dinner, and a happy family celebrating an engagement. Right at the beginning, Arthur Birling’s character is depicted as very arrogant and self-centered. This can be seen evidently in the long engagement monologue speech, in which he does not give anyone else a chance to talk. He tells Gerald and Eric that, “ You’ll hear some people say that war is inevitable. And to that I say – fiddlesticks!” (Act 1, Page 6, Bottom) This is ironic to the audience, who know that the World War One started that very year. The playwright uses this dramatic irony to involve and immerse the audience in the play, and at the same time show how opinionated Arthur Birling’s character is. He is very stubborn and egotistic, which is one of the reasons why he is perhaps the one who is most responsible for Eva Smith’s death. He refuses to consider giving Eva Smith and her co-workers a fairer wage, and instead fires her, which is what started the whole chain of events that lead to her death.The Inspector then arrives, and changes the audience’s opinion of the Birlings. Inspector Goole’s arrival is emphasized by its dramatic timing, which is right after Arthur tells the boys about how “A man has to make his own way…but these cranks talk and write…[about] community and all that nonsense...” (Act 1, Page 10, Top) This once again accentuates Birling’s attitude of each man for himself, which is at the heart of his every action, and which lead to Smith’s discharge.As the Inspector interrogates each member of the family, the onlookers are gradually led to realize how different the reactions of the younger and older generation are towards their responsibilities. Although they are all guilty in some way, the parents refuse to accept the fact that they have wronged, while the younger ones realize their mistakes and feel bad for what they have done. How the family treated Eva Smith is but an example of how many of the upper class exploit the lower class, both physically and...

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