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An Inspector Calls By J.B. Priestly.

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Introduction

An Inspector Calls By J.B. Priestly * The reaction of Mr. and Mrs. Birling to the death of Eva Smith differs strongly from the reaction s shown by their children, Eric and Sheila. Compare and contrast the reactions of the two generations. Include in your account their reaction to the inspector. Comment on his role in the play, and the impression he makes on the four family members, showing their character development throughout the play. Priestly's play is about responsibility. His message is that we should be supportive of each other so when he created the Berling family he deliberately created characters that reflected what was wrong with society as he saw it. He sets the play in 1912 and through this he shows a modern audience how silly and arrogant Mr. and Mrs. Berling appear. This was a time of optimism for people like the berlings but in reality they were only two years away from the First World War. Priestly wrote his play in 1945 disgusted that people didn't learn their lesson the first time. J.B.Priestly's play is set in the household of an upper-middle class family in the north of England. The plot of this dramatic play is based around the Birling family's involvement in a young girl's suicide. The Birling family consists of the two parents, Arthur and Sybil Birling and their two children Eric and Sheila. Gerald Croft is soon to become a member of the family as he has recently announced his engagement to Sheila. As the story unfolds we find that each of the family members is partly to blame. Mr Birling is described by Priestly as 'heavy looking, rather portentous...in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners....rather provincial in his speech.' Mr. Birling is a posporous factory owner and is not the social equal of his wife, he is a 'self made man' and at first he is happy to accept Gerald into the family as he is a business link to a rival company, that of Gerald's fathers. ...read more.

Middle

As she feels so guilty when in fact she did relatively little. She also continues to feel guilty after learning that there was not an Eva Smith. She still feels that her acts were immoral and that they should not have done everything which they had done as it may have affected someone else. Her response to the tragedy is one of the few encouraging things to come out of the play. She is genuinely upset when she hears of Eva's death and learns from her own behaviour. Sheila is very distressed by the girl's suicide and thinks that her father's behaviour was unacceptable. She readily agrees that she behaved very badly and insists that she never meant the girl any harm. The Inspector says that she is only partly responsible and later on, when he is about to question Gerald, he encourages her to stay and listen to what he has to say so that she doesn't feel entirely responsible. Not only is she prepared to admit her faults, she also appears keen and anxious to change her behaviour in the future, 'I'll never, never do it again' Sheila is aware of the mystery surrounding the Inspector, yet realises that there is no point in trying to hide the facts from him. She is unable to accept her parent's attitude and is both amazed and concerned that they haven't learned anything from the episode. Although the Inspector might be a hoax, the family have still behaved in an entirely unsuitable manner. She learns of her responsibilities to others less fortunate than herself and is sensitive. Her readiness to learn from experience is in great contrast to her parents. Sheila Berling is one of the more sensitive characters in Priestly's play as she becomes fully aware of her responsibility and despite her parents she is prepared to change her selfish ways. Eric Birling was associated with Eva due to his relationship with her. ...read more.

Conclusion

Whilst Mr and Mrs Birling respond negatively to the Inspector's message of common responsibility, our faith is restored by the children's positive attitudes. Eric and Sheila symbolise hope for the future. The fact that they remorsefully admit to sinning against Eva Smith suggests that they (and the future generation of adults) will make a conscious effort at improving human relations. Unlike their parents, who are bent on only creating and sustaining material wealth, they will endeavour to create and sustain spiritual, meaningful social relationships by fulfilling their moral obligations towards their fellow men - especially those oppressed and desperate people such as Eva Smith. Inspector Goole's remark, 'But each of you helped to kill her. Remember that. Never forget it.' is important and we should all learn from it because Eva Smith does represent millions of similarly desperate people "with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, with what we think and say and do. We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other." Goole reminds us that if man will not learn the lesson of "common responsibility", then "they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish." In the final analysis, it becomes evident that success for the future lies with the younger generation. Whilst Mr Birling, to the very end, insists on regarding the Inspector's visit as a 'joke', it is Eric who restores our hope when he says "And I say the girl's dead and we all helped to kill her - and that's what matters -." Eric's admission confirms that Inspector Goole's visit was justified and that valuable lessons were learned. He proves to be a powerful force, a catalyst whose skilful and disciplined investigative approach is both instrumental and victorious in initiating positive change in the hearts, the minds and the attitudes of Eric and Sheila and thereby increases our optimism and faith that disadvantaged people will in the future be treated with dignity and respect. Assan Hussain GCSE English Literature coursework 10/05/2007 ...read more.

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