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An inspector Calls

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An Inspector Calls To what extent can the characters in Priestley's An Inspector Calls' be seen as symbolic? "An inspector calls" is a well known British play written by J.B Priestley in 1946. Priestley has always been politically aware with what was going on in Britain, and in 1930 he became very concerned by the consequences of social equality in Britain and in 1942 Priestley and others set up a new political party called, the Common Wealth Party. The party argued for greater democracy, ownership of land and a new "morality" in politics. To understand the background of the play we must delve deeper into the economic and social structure of Britain. At the time the play was written the Nazis had just been defeated during World War Two and there seemed to be a great deal of optimism in the air. The future seemed very bright to a country which had struggled through the days of capitalism; in fact it now looked like Lloyd George's wise words about Britain going to be "a land fit for heroes" was turning into reality. At the time it seemed like there was a new feeling abroad in the land and as if to emphasise this, Winston Churchill was defeated in the 1946 general election and Cement Atlee found his way into the political representing the Labour party. ...read more.


This is an extended metaphor, referring to changing the old way of living (capitalism) to the new and improved way (socialism). He seems to also represent the high handed political giants who didn't want change in the society by bringing in a new government. Birling also highlights the main theme of the play 'responsibility'. Here he is questioning the notion of responsibility. On pages 6-7 Birling is portrayed as a pompous, arrogant, opinionated buffoon: "Just let me finish, Eric... the Titanic... unsinkable" This reference to Titanic is very important because we know that only the rich, upper class people had a much bigger chance of survival when it sank in comparison to the working class. As indeed is the case in life itself. From this speech we also see Birling being acting on behalf of all the optimists in Britain who thought that there would be no more wars. He states that "by that time... there would be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere..." from this we can see that Birling is an optimist and is confident that there would be no more wars in the future. Obviously the audience is aware that there is of course going to be a war. This makes us doubt Birling's judgement because if he is wrong about the war; how much more is he wrong about? ...read more.


On page 31 Mrs. Birling says "I'm talking now if you don't mind... You know of course that my husband was Lord Mayor only two years ago", here Priestley questions the abuse of power of the ruling class - Mrs. Birling is used to being not questioned. Therefore this represents the time when aristocrats were obeyed by the lower class just because of their position. It is almost as if Mrs. Birling seeks to remind the inspector of his 'place' by reminding him that her husband was 'Lord Mayor'. From this play we also see another side of Mrs. Birling as she dehumisises those at the bottom of the social hierarchy i.e. Eva Smith. By doing this it makes it easier for her to exploit them. For example on page 47 Mrs. Birling describes to the Inspector how she exploited her. "As if a girl of that sort would ever refuse money!" from this we can clearly see Mrs. Birling's uncaring, exploitive nature of the ruling class which she represents. In this essay I have covered how Priestley creates a perfect model of the world as it previously was in the bad, old days of Capitalism; when bosses where free to exploit the working class and other social classes. This play is nothing but a warning that we should never return to the days of Capitalism - this is Priestley's whole reason for writing this magnificent play. ...read more.

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