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An Inspector Calls - Compare and contrast the reactions of the older generation and the younger to interrogation by the Inspector. Evaluate the social and historical setting of the play and it's cultural setting

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Coursework: J.B. Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls' Compare and contrast the reactions of the older generation and the younger to interrogation by the Inspector. Evaluate the social and historical setting of the play and it's cultural setting. In Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls' one receives hints throughout the play that point towards a rigid class system, in that Sir and Lady Croft appear to be the highest ranking of the characters mentioned, followed by the middle class Birling's, with Eva Smith at the very bottom of the spectrum. After studying the historical background of the time of J.B. Priestley, one is able to see why such references to, and familiarity with, this class system appear to be second nature to the characters. The rigidity and order of the apparent class-system demonstrated by Priestley could be linked closely to the Feudal System, the last vestiges of which were far from gone in 1912 as it had been in force for hundreds of years before. Hence the great impact of the history of the time on Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls', a knowledge of which is crucial for a full and complete appreciation of the play. ...read more.


However, Priestley masks the reason in Sheila's statements with a cloak of supposed hysteria and mental instability, perhaps to stop Sheila's true persona being too readily identifiable to the audience so they have something to mull over long after the play is over. As we can see, the two generations react differently to questioning by the Inspector. Mr. and Mrs. Birling are at first indignant and resistant to the Inspectors queries, and when they learn what is going on fully they rack their brains for a solution to the problem that has arisen, namely that the family name will be publicly disgraced and that they may lose custom at the office, resulting in a degradation of their lifestyle, public image and social status. However, Eric and Sheila show totally different reactions to Mr. and Mrs. Birling, when the Inspector questions them. Both members of the younger tell the truth to the Inspector, and both are, at one time or another, strong advocates of the truth, believing that repentance for their collective crimes is by far more important than saving face in public. Throughout the whole play, Sheila encourages the entire family to tell the truth and admit their crimes. ...read more.


Two World Wars have broken out, both heavily involving the Germans, the Titanic has sunk after a collision with an iceberg, the Labour party has been voted in several times and will have continued success even though the war is won under a Conservative Churchill, and Russia will become a great 20th Century world power and birthplace of fabulous wealth due to it's abundance of natural resources. As well as Mr. Birling's predictions for the future being dashed to pieces by world events of the next 20 years, his very philosophies on how society should operate were proven to be outdated and incompatible with modern life by the new Socialist movement. The twelve years between 1906 and 1918 proved to be the turning point that defined our current political system in this country and the advent of 'the nanny state'. In this period the vote for parliamentary elections was rolled out to all persons aged 18 and over, education became compulsory up to the age of 12, and the Social Security system was founded, providing pensions and unemployment for people who needed them. Granted, these systems were not perfect, but this interlinked lattice of world events, the socialist movement, and the timing of the play serves to make Priestley's point just as eloquently and effectively as the play itself does. ...read more.

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