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An Inspector Calls – J.B. Priestley

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An Inspector Calls - J.B. Priestley In 'An Inspector Calls' there are many themes: two could credibly be considered most important; these are social justice and the individual characters' responsibility for the death of Eva Smith. Sheila is one of the most prominent characters. She realises that she is near the top of the social ladder and is prepared to use this influential position to manipulate situations to her advantage. This is particularly evident when she tells the inspector about the incident in the dress shop in which she got Eva Smith fired. However, once she has realised how she acted and what the consequences of her actions were she alters this view. Although the consequences were entirely unintentional, Sheila still feels considerable guilt and this is probably what causes her to change her view. Eric's behaviour pattern is similar to Sheila's, in that he feels immense guilt for Eva's death, which, like Sheila, causes him to change his views and reconsider before resuming his customary irresponsible behaviour. The death of Eva Smith is, for Eric, a metaphorical slap in the face. Before the death of Eva he is remarkably irresponsible, even 'a bit of a lad', if you will, this point is proved by his heavy drinking and the situation that it gets him into. ...read more.


Birling played possibly the smallest part in her death. This implies that Mr. Birling's position is owed mainly to his personal interests -such as his knighthood- and not to a feeling of guilt. Mr. Birling is possibly one of the only characters that do not express any obvious guilt; could this be because he plays, arguably, the smallest role in Eva's death? Or, on the other hand could this be indicating that he is rather thick-skinned and pitiless? Mrs. Birling's motive is similar in that she wants to save face, or rather her organization's face in the public view. She, like Mr. Birling, does not feel any guilt for Eva's death. She admits to this quite bluntly in act two when she says; "If you think you can bring any pressure to bear upon me, Inspector, you're quite mistaken...I did nothing I am ashamed of...I used my influence to have it [Eva's claim for financial support from Mrs. Birling's organization] refused. And in spite of what's happened to the girl since, I consider I did my duty...you have no power to change my mind." ...read more.


It may well be the case that Gerald's parents are actually too busy to attend but more likely is that they are not pleased with the fact that their son is engaged to a middle-class girl, as they are titled 'old money' and the Birlings are neither titled nor 'old money'. This theme is conveyed again throughout most of the book using the character of Eva Smith and the way in which the other characters act towards her and treat her; they do this as if she is a second-class citizen and much lower down the social hierarchy than they. This is true, she is lower down the social hierarchy than they are, but this poses the question; should they really be treating her in such a manner? A good example of Eva being mistreated by one of the other characters is in the dress shop where she is working, and because of jealousy Sheila uses her power to get Eva fired. Another example is that of the relationship between Eric and Sheila. Eric treats her with little respect and then he gets her pregnant and leaves her, and at the time in which the story is set this would ruin her life and abolish any chances she had of finding a husband in the future. Patrick Dempsey ...read more.

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