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-'An Inspector Calls' by J B Priestley Who or what is to blame for the death of Eva Smith?

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GCSE English Literature -'An Inspector Calls' by J B Priestley Who or what is to blame for the death of Eva Smith? Blame and responsibility are key themes in the play an inspector calls. Priestley set the play in 1912, but he wrote it in 1944. During that space of time many big social changes took place. After reading the play we come to realise each character has contributed to the death of Eva Smith, but is anyone solely to blame? The play shows the younger generation of 1912 starting to understand their responsibility to society. Sheila is a fine example of this. Sheila the Birlings' daughter is impressionable, and deeply affected by the Inspector's revelations. She and her brother Eric are the only characters who give any cause for optimism in the play. Sheila has an attractive and essentially honest character, and lacks in the cold-blooded attitude of her parents. Sheila first set eyes on Eva when Eva was working in a shop called Millwards. The previous months before, Eva had been unemployed after being sacked by Mr Birling. Sheila was jealous of Eva's pretty looks and Sheila, as a customer complained about her. Eva was sacked. ...read more.


And I am 'nothing whatever to do with that wretched girl suicide.' He shows no remorse. Birling is proud of his status; he and his wife set great store by his public offices and privileges. So sensitive is Birling about such matters that he feels a little uneasy about Gerald Croft marrying his daughter, sensing that Gerald's parents may feel that their son is marrying 'beneath himself'. At the end of the play the possibility that he may be deprived of his knighthood upsets him far more than anything else does. Mr and Mrs Birling see themselves as upholders of all the 'right' values and of the guardians of proper conduct. But both are exposed as self-centred and essentially heartless. They begin to try and put the Inspector in his place, through emphasising their own position in society. Both try to hide, or hide from the uncomfortable truths. As Eric points out his father is useless in a real crisis. It is plain that Birling's motives are not to save Eric from being found out, but to protect himself from social scandal. To do this, he is prepared to he is prepared to distort or ignore the truth. ...read more.


The Inspector is an enigment figure. He neither changes nor develops but frequently repeats: 'I haven't much time. Inspector Goole's name is obviously a pun on 'ghoul', a spirit or ghost. The stage directions talk of 'an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness'. There is an air of menace about him and, unlike all the other characters; he does not deviate from his moral position. Sometimes the Inspector behaves as the voice of social conscience: 'You see, if there's nothing else, we'll have to share our guilt.' He points out that social responsibilities have become greater as privileges increase. Significantly, the Inspector himself neither forgives nor punishes. Each character is made to face up to the fact that they must find the courage to judge themselves: only then will they have learnt enough to be able to change. The play points out the need for a sense of personal responsibility in every member of society. Responsibility not only for individual actions, but also for the way actions affect others. Different characters react to their guilt in different ways, when it is revealed to them. Not all show remorse or shame, and some are so hardened that they refuse to accept that remorse is appropriate. I can therefore conclude that society is to blame. In 1912 people did not care enough about one another. 1 1 ...read more.

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