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An Inspector Calls By J.B Priestly - The play has been described as a play of social criticism. What is being criticised?

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Introduction

An Inspector Calls By J.B Priestly The play has been described as a play of social criticism. What is being criticised? The play An inspector calls was written in 1945 within a week of world war two ending but is set before world war one. J. B Priestly wrote this play intentionally as he saw an urgent need for social change and used the play to express his desire for social equality. The time in which the play was set is used because Priestly hoped that the play would give society the chance, with hindsight, to look back on the past and learn from its mistakes. Priestly also used this method so that it would make the audience realise how wrong they may have been assuming future events. The play of an Inspector Calls centres on society's lack of collective responsibility. The character of the Inspector is talking about a collective responsibility, everyone in society is linked, in the same way as the characters, although they live a completely different social class, were all linked to Eva Smith. Everyone is part of "one body"; the Inspector sees society as more important than individual interests. The views he is propounding are in fact those of Priestly who was a devout socialist. ...read more.

Middle

Mrs Birling seems particularly unaware of her son's drinking problem, and the behaviour of certain people she knows, such as Alderman Maggarty. Another aspect of society that is criticised is the upper class's view towards industry, and the " one man for himself" philosophy of Arthur Birling. Birling has no time for the ideas of socialism and worker's rights, saying that no one should worry about labour trouble in the future. This is shown in his disregard for the strike conducted by Eva Smith. He also dismisses Russia, where the communist movement was gaining strength, stating that it will always be backwards. Another place in the play, where Birling shows resentment towards any movement representing equality is after discovering the Inspector is not all he seems, he dismisses him as a socialist or some sort of crank. There is also criticism of social ignorance of the middle classes, and their historical attitudes. Most of these stem from Birling's early speeches in Act 1, where he makes a series of predictions about the future. These grand predictions would have seemed particularly bitter and ironic to the audience at the time, because during this period the world was going through a disastrous war and Birling's wildly optimistic prophecies would be seen to be completely wrong. ...read more.

Conclusion

In this speech, the Inspector underlines collective responsibility, the exact opposite of Birling's views. Eva is one of the most important characters in the play, yet the audience never actually see her. Priestly has intended for Eva to represent all other people who were in similar situation at the time. The name Smith is very cleverly used, as it is a very common name and can therefore represent society very effectively. Another of the Inspector's poignant speeches is when he says: " And I tell you tat the time will soon come when, if men will no learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish." This is probably the most famous line of the play, J.B Priestly I probably partly thinking about the world war they had just lived through- the result of governments blindly pursuing national interest at all costs. But surely also of the Russian revolution in which poor workers and peasants took over the state and exacted a bloody revenge against the aristocrats who had treated them so badly. Priestly conveyed his message efficiently, showing us how the situation can be changed, and who to depend on to change it. J.B Priestly's play presents a fascinating study of guilt and innocence of prejudice and hypocrisy, through a very controversial social criticism. ...read more.

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