"An Inspector Calls" By JB Priestley
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"An Inspector Calls" By JB Priestley Post 1914 Drama "Who do you think is the most to blame for the death of Eva Smith?" The play takes place in the dining room of the Birlings' house in Brumley, an industrial town in the North Midlands. It is an evening in spring, 1912. Arthur Birling, a prosperous manufacturer, is holding a family dinner party to celebrate his daughter's engagement. Into this cosy scene intrudes the harsh figure of a Police inspector investigating the suicide of a young working class woman, Eva Smith. Under the pressure of his interrogation, every member of the family turns out to have a shameful secret, which links them with her death. The Inspector is first introduced into the play under the attitude of fear and importance, as Priestley describes his presence under the clothing and looks which the Inspector prevails over his suspects. ..."dressed in a plain darkish suit of the period"... ..."Has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before actually speaking"... This description of character of the Inspector would create an atmospheric, fearful impression on the audience, as the audience would see the visual impact on which the Inspector has on his line of enquiry. The point at which the Inspector entered the household of the Birlings', is a Dramatic quality within the play, as Arthur Birling was conversing the fact that Eric might have been up to something, which is why the Inspector has come to their household. This comment alarms Eric, as Eric knows that he has been in contact with Eva Smith, he starts to feel paranoid with the comment made by his Father.
(Stage Direction-..."She looks at it closely, recognizes it with a little cry, gives a half-stifled sob"...) These statements suggest to the audience that Sheila feels responsible for the death of Eva Smith, as she caused Eva to lose a very stable job. The attitudes of upper-classed people at this time, was of power and greed for their own self-confidence, with little respect for lower classed citizens. The lower class were seen as cheap labour, at the service of more important people, which Sheila realised after her interrogation. Gerald Croft, the future son-in-law of the prosperous Mr. Birling, is the next character to reveal his revelation in the death of Eva Smith, but Gerald hides his part in the contact between himself and the young girl, denying he knew this girl, as of the case with Mr. Birling. The Inspector reveals that Eva Smith changed her name to Daisy Renton, which caused Gerald to respond with a startled manner. ..."(startled) What?"... This response creates dramatic effect within the audience, as the audience convey that Gerald may be responsible also for the death of Eva Smith, creating tension for the character's revelation. Gerald is not open to confess his ordeal with Daisy Renton, denying he had any contact with another women, but Sheila pressurised Gerald to confess due to his startled response. Sheila uses the fact that Gerald did not come into contact with her for several weeks, as he used his business as a cover to see Daisy Renton, instead of his fiancée. Gerald confesses to the other characters that he was involved with Daisy Renton, as he met her within the stalls at the Palace bar, in a situation with an unpleasant character named Joe Meggarty.
(Sheila with sudden alarm)- ..."Mother-Stop-Stop!"... This statement suggests that Mrs. Birling feels strongly for the punishment of the young man, but she does not realise it is her own son who was involved, with her grandchild's life at risk. The audience convey that Mrs. Birling believes punishment is fit for the young man involved, but she would not punish her own son in this way, creating a one-sided view from Mrs. Birling. In conclusion, I believe Mrs. Birling has the majority of the responsibility for the death of Eva Smith, as she refused a charity claim, which could have prevented Eva from taking her own life, and the death of the Birling's grandchild. Mrs. Birling was the last person to come into contact with Eva Smith, which could have been the main reason for her suicide action, but all the revelations of the characters could have caused emotional pain for Eva, with the responsibility held on all five characters. The characters revelations were caused for different reasons, as the male characters used their power as influential men of society, to use greed and power as a main factor. The female characters used their status as upper-classed women, to use their power over lower-classed people, in an act of revenge and jealousy. The comfort that the audience have when leaving the theatre, is that both Sheila and Eric have learnt from the revelations which caused the death of Eva Smith, unlike Mr. Birling and Mrs. Birling, who feel that their responsibility is not to blame for the suicide of Eva. The audience take on board that the character's are all to blame for the death of Eva Smith, with their own opinion on who is most to blame for the death of this young women.
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