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‘An Inspector Calls’ has been described as a play of social criticism. What is being criticised?

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'An Inspector Calls' has been described as a play of social criticism. What is being criticised? 'An Inspector Calls' is a play written in 1942 about a retrospective time just before the First World War. This was at a time in history when the industrialists had extensive power, and the working classes were destitute and disadvantaged. Through the play, Priestly sends a political message about society, criticising many things. The play begins with the Birlings' celebrating the engagement of their daughter, Sheila, to Gerald Croft, a wealthy, well bred young man. The Birlings' appear to be a reasonably happy family but they are so wrapped up in themselves that they fail to notice that anything that is going on around them until an inspector calls. Inspector Goole cleverly visits the family while they are celebrating the engagement in high spirits. This could signify that the upper classes are too busy having a good time and not thinking about the rest of the world, that they have to be brought back to reality by something 'horrible' happening; in this case, the death of Eva Smith, a working-class girl. ...read more.


In 1912, when the play was set, class was a major issue among society and everyone was placed in definite class boundaries. Mrs. Birling says, "I don't suppose for a moment that we can understand why the girl committed suicide. Girls of that class-", displaying, aptly, the attitudes of the people in higher classes towards those in lower class. Mrs. Birling is the head of an organisation that helps all women in distress, but she only does it so that she appears to be putting something back into society because she wants to look like she is a caring, upper class woman. When Eva was pregnant, she went to Mrs Birling's charity for financial aid. Eva unwittingly used Mrs. Birlings' name, and Mrs. Birling, horrified by the girls' nerve, decided not to help her. She was disgusted that 'a girl of that status' would presume to use the name Birling. Her lack of regard for people shows that she is only the head of the organisation because she wants power, not because she cares for people, and therefore she does not deserve this position. ...read more.


Through those in power she was used more as an object than a human being until she was of no further use, and then discarded. Priestly wanted to show that this will continue to happen if we do not learn from our mistakes. Between the years when the play was set and the play was written; 1912-1945, the country experienced World Wars, unrest, Depression, the atomic bomb, fascism and the Holocaust. By 1945 it was possible to look back with hindsight and see that a full circle had taken place: an uncaring society had helped each other to survive the devastation of wars and worse. This emphasises how important it is that we care for each other and don't just think of ourselves, but help others who are weaker than ourselves. The play is undeniably a social critique, criticising the class system, the attitudes of the rich, the way society tries to shift blame to others and the hypocrisy of people. Society puts on a fa�ade, and Inspector Goole broke down the Birlings' grand exterior to open up their eyes, making them aware of reality and showing them that in effect, everyone is equal. Roopa Modi Page 1 of 3 ...read more.

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