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An Inspector Calls has been identified as a play of social criticism. How does Priestley use the theatrical device of the Inspector to convey his criticisms of Mr Birling in Act One of the play?

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Introduction

"An Inspector Calls" has been identified as a play of social criticism. How does Priestley use the theatrical device of the Inspector to convey his criticisms of Mr Birling in Act One of the play? "An Inspector Calls" by J.B. Priestley is a play of social criticism. Inspector Goole visits the Birling household to inquire into the apparent suicide of a woman named Eva Smith. He questions each of them on their social crimes. The Inspector warns the Birlings that if they do not change their ways, all of society will be punished in "fire and blood and anguish". Priestley was well known for expressing social criticism in his work and he especially liked writing plays as they seemed to have more of an immediate impact on an audience. The play was written in 1944, produced in 1945 but is set in 1912 which helps Priestley convey his social criticisms. 1912 was part of the Edwardian era where a small percentage was extremely wealthy but the majority was in poverty. The national wealth was unevenly distributed. Skilled workers, especially women, were paid very little, around �1 a week. There was no welfare state or National Health Service and workers had no rights whatsoever. ...read more.

Middle

"It's too late, she's dead." It is vital that Sheila is not helped to feel better about the past if she is to change her attitude in the future. Moreover, social class prejudices and distinction is greatly criticised in the character Mrs Birling. She comes into contact with Eva when she appealed for help to the Brumley Women's Charity Organisation. Mrs Birling is prejudiced against Eva because she used the Birling name which she believed to be "gross impertinence". The Inspector criticises her the most, "You've had children. You must have realised what she was feeling. And you slammed the door in her face." She thinks Eva is inferior socially and morally, "As if a girl like that would ever refuse money!" Eva does have a moral code as she doesn't take stolen money and wouldn't marry the one who made her pregnant because he didn't love her. Furthermore, people with a lack of a moral code are strongly criticised. This is shown in Eric who does not seem to have a moral code although that point could be argued against. He coerced Eva into having sex with him and stole money which is his father's main concern. ...read more.

Conclusion

He helps Mr Birling to recognise Eva with a photo, names her as an individual and presents the consequences so Birling can see what he has done. Birling objects to it being his fault but is contradicted by the Inspector. "I can't agree with you there. Because what has happened to her then may have determined what happened to her afterwards. A chain of events." The Inspector focuses on Birling's motives which surprises him as the Inspector asks, "Why?". Birling has never had to explain himself or reflect on the consequences of his actions. The Inspector is more critical of the older Birlings such as Mr and Mrs Birling and straight to the point, "She was here, alone, friendless, almost penniless, desperate. You've had children. You must have known what she was feeling. And you slammed the door in her face.". He is forceful with Sheila and Eric because they are younger, more impressionable and can change their attitude, "Just used her for the end of a drunken evening, as if she were an animal, a thing, not a person. No, you won't forget." In the Inspector's final speech before he makes his exit he says, "And the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. ...read more.

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