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J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls Essay

2058 words - 8 pages

J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls

The play was written at the end of the Second World War, and performed
a year later; it tells the tale of how a middle class family from the
midlands are tied up inexplicably with the fate of a young woman who
tragically commits suicide. It is set in 1912 (two years before the
First World War) in the fictional town of Brumley.

The fact that the play was set just before world war one is very
significant to the message within the play. The gap between the upper
classes and the working classes was very large, and thus there was a
great social prejudice between these classes, something which plays a
massive part in the play. It has to be understood that Priestly, the
writer of the play, had been alive during both world wars, and wanted
to express how even though Britain had been through the two most
significant events of recent history, her society hadn't changed much
since before the two great wars. Living conditions for the working
class was still very bad, with most people earning barely enough money
to get feed themselves, let alone their families. Poverty was also
rife in these conditions, as there was no national health service, and
therefore many of the working classes contracted (what we would
consider trivial) medical conditions that many died from. The next
step up from working class was middle class, which consisted of
wealthy families (mostly those heading a business), often of high
social standing (e.g. Mr. Birling being an ex-mayor and a magistrate).
Evidently, these families could afford amenities such as a health
service, and plenty of money with which to raise a family. Slightly
above the middle classes were the upper classes, who were often very
important members of society and held titles.

The fact that there was no NHS has a significant bearing on the life
of Eva Smith, because when she had nowhere to go when she needed help,
she went to a women's charity where she was rejected. If the NHS
existed, many desperate women like Eva Smith may've been able to give
birth and raise their children (the latter of which would have been
funded by the social services). One of the messages that the
playwright was trying to give could have been that even after two
world wars, and no social change that one would have expected, the gap
between the classes and the privileges (or not) that they received had
not changed - something that needs to happen in order to improve the
flagging society.

In the play I believe that the most important character is Birling -
not only does he play an important role in the play as simply a
character, he also acts as an interesting symbol to the play as a
whole.

During the play, Birling acts as an ironic symbol of Britain at the
time. He plays down the thought of war, and of the impending labour
...

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