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Priestley’s Main Aim In An Inspector Calls

2202 words - 9 pages

Priestley’s Main Aim in An Inspector Calls

JB Priestly wrote ‘An Inspector Calls’ to enhance the message that ‘we
don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for
each other’. This is something Priestly felt strongly about and he
succeeded in representing his views through the character of the
Inspector in the play itself. He wanted to communicate the message
that our actions, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant,
always affect others. He uses the downfall of Eva Smith and a chain of
events to demonstrate this. This leads to a very convincing and
well-devised play, which puts across JB Priestley’s views clearly and
precisely.

In Edwardian Britain there was a great difference in the roles of men
and women in society and the outlook of what and was not accepted
differed substantially. A prime example of this in the play is when Mr
Birling says ‘Nothing to do with you, Sheila. Run along.’ This tells
us that women are treated as inferior to men as they should not
interfere with their conversations. For example, upper class men were
encouraged to gain sexual experience with lower class women. This way,
women were preserved until the wedding night as a sign of purity. The
background a marriage carried was seen as more important than the
relationship between the couple. In many cases it was necessary for
individuals to marry into families that offered greater status or
financial strength. This is shown in the play when Mr Birling says
‘Your father and I have been friendly rivals in business…we may look
forward to a time when Craft’s and Birling’s are no longer competing
but are working together. This suggests Mr Birling cares more about
his own welfare than Gerald and Sheila’s happiness.

The Inspector conveys the theme of responsibility. He shows we must
all look out for each other and think before taking actions. Priestley
uses Eva Smith’s death as an example of the suffering of lower class
women in Edwardian times and directs the blame at the whole family
caused by their small but consequential, chain of events. Priestley
cleverly brings in the inspector at a strategic moment, just after
Birling has stated ‘that a man has to mind his own business and look
after himself and his own’. This is the speech that Birling has just
made, which reveals his true character. That of a narcissistic,
unsparing old man. But then the inspector comes in and gradually shows
them how wrong Birling is and how we should feel and show
responsibility for one another.

In the play the Inspector conveys Priestly message that everyone
should take responsibility instead of pushing it aside. He expresses
this clearly when he interrogates each of them. ‘A nice little
promising life there, I thought, and a nasty mess somebody’s made of
it’. Here the inspector is referring...

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