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How Priestely Uses The Characters In An Inspector Calls To Show Us The Social And Political Situation In England In 1912

2476 words - 10 pages

How Priestely Uses the Characters in An Inspector Calls to Show Us the Social and Political Situation in England in 1912

'An Inspector Calls' is set in 1912 England. The British Empire was
very wealthy, successful and powerful however things were beginning to
change. J.B.Priestley wrote the play in 1940, reflecting the changes
that took place to both the social and political aspects of life in
1912. The Birling household is the set for the entire play, and
Priestley uses Eva Smith and Inspector Goole as tools to portray his
views on what happened during 1912. These views were of the rising
power of socialism and the sinking of capitalism, which had been the
way of life throughout the recently ended Victorian era. Arthur
Birling, a rich upper-middle class factory owner symbolises the many
capitalists in Britain. He is very narrow-minded and never open to
suggestions due to his 'hard headed' and pompous nature. The Inspector
represents the massive socialist force, which formed in Russia and
spread to England in order to gain social justice for the working

During the play, the death of Eva Smith is used to portray how
miserable and laborious the lives of working class girls were in
England around 1912. This sets the scene for the Inspector to enter
the play and bring about a message of necessary changes to the lives
of upper class citizens. It is this change, which begun to take place
on a much greater scale throughout England in 1912, as the need for
greater social justice was highlighted to the capitalists in Britain.

Priestley uses Arthur Birling to symbolise capitalism. Birling is an
upper-middle class citizen and is very well off. He sees himself as a
'hard-headed business man' and is always out to generate more profits.
Even on the night of his daughter's engagement party, his obsessions
get the better of Birling. He toasts to Sheila and Gerald Croft's
engagement and then proceeds to make a long speech toasting to times
when 'Crofts and Birlings are no longer competing but are working
together.' Birling seems to see his daughter's engagement simply as a
business deal, getting him not only a higher social status but also
'lower costs and higher prices' resulting in more profit- the ultimate
capitalist objective. The audience sees Birling as a narrow minded,
pompous individual and Priestley presents him in such an extreme
fashion, that we simply do not like him. An example of the
narrow-mindedness that Arthur Birling shows is when he confidently
proclaims that 'nobody wants war'. Birling does not allow any
suggestions of things which could harm his business empire to be put
forward to him. Also, Birlings narrow-mindedness is displayed when he
tells Eric and Gerald about the Titanic being 'unsinkable...
absolutely unsinkable'. The Titanic represents the power and wealth...

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