Responsibility in An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley
J.B Priestly wrote 'An Inspector Calls' just as the 2nd World War was
coming to an end in 1945. The play was based in the time just before
the 1st World War, around 1912. At this time the wealthy were
considered superior to the poor, all this had to change, though,
during the war, as all the classes were forced to mingle together in
the armed forces, evacuation centres and in air raid shelters. The
play shows all the members either accepting or rejecting
responsibility; in this essay I will explain this.
In the opening scene of 'An Inspector Calls', we see a contented Mr
Birling enjoying dinner whilst celebrating the engagement of his
daughter, Sheila Birling, to a respectable, very wealthy young man
Gerald Croft, son of Mr Birlings 'friendly' rival in business Sir
George Croft, of Crofts Limited. Mrs Birling and Eric Birling are also
present. Mr Birling is pontificating to the younger male characters.
Gerald really seems to agree with most of Mr Birling's views on life
and the future. Eric doesn't seem to agree with his father as much
though, and often can appear to be rude to his father. Speaking to his
father on the issue of speeches he said " Well, don't do any, we'll
drink their health and have done with it."
Mr Birling begins to speak on the issue of responsibility, stating in
his opinion responsibility has been 'created by modern writers', this
shows he doesn't really believe responsibility has anything to do with
him, like responsibility is just something created to shake the
population up a little. Just as Birling talks about responsibility,
Edna informs the party that an Inspector has called. Mr Birling passed
it off as something about warrant, I feel he does this mainly for the
benefit of Gerald. However, Gerald offers Mr Birling reassurance,
saying to him, " Sure to be. Unless Eric's been up to something." This
last comment was made jokingly, this shows Gerald believes the
Inspector's arrival is all a joke, which is quite ironic as we later
find out it is something very serious.
Mr Birling conveniently informs the Inspector of his place on 'the
bench' and that he was Lord Mayor only two years ago. In doing this,
Mr Birling tries to put himself above the Inspector from the offset of
their conversation, as if to make the Inspector feel small and build
up a wall so it's harder for the Inspector to make any kind of
breakthrough. Mrs Birling also takes this route later on in the play
when it's her turn for questioning, Sheila warns her against it,
advising her quite wisely-
" You mustn't try to built up a kind of wall between us
and that girl. If you do, then the Inspector will just break
it down. And it'll be all the worst when he does."
This says to me that Sheila is mature and sensible; she can...