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An Inspector Calls - I am to comment on how Priestly uses the characters of Arthur and Sheila Birling to represent his own views on society.

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Introduction

An Inspector Calls I am to comment on how Priestly uses the characters of Arthur and Sheila Birling to represent his own views on society. The play "An Inspector Calls" is set in 1912 but was written in 1945. Edwardian society at that time (1912) was strictly divided into social classes and over two-thirds of the nation's wealth was in the hands of less than 1% of the population. Below the very rich were the middle classes (doctors and merchants, shop workers and clerks), after that came the craftsmen and skilled workers. At the very bottom of the social ladder was the largest class of all - the ordinary workers and the poor, many of whom lived below the poverty level. The men of industry treated the workers very badly and they were paid pittance. This caused workers to become better organised and strikes were becoming more frequent as they demanded better conditions and higher pay. J.B. Priestley was writing the play for a middle class audience and was trying to speak up for the working class by showing how the Birlings and Gerald Croft were all involved in making a young working class girl's life a misery. ...read more.

Middle

Sheila is a woman for the future and she is trying to break the boundaries of that period in time. Both of the characters react differently to the death of Eva Smith in different ways. Mr Birling tries to "make everything better" by using his money, "Look inspector, I'd give thousands..." I think this may be a "domineering" attitude, because he wants to dominate people, and do all he can to do it, which reflects on how he treats his employee's. In his factory, there are certain employees that ask for a pay rise, but Birling refuses to pay more than "the going rate". Birling can afford the pay rise, but returns by sacking one member of the "strike" pack, Eva/Daisy Smith. After this, Birling was blamed for starting the "domino" effect of Eva/Daisy's suicide, but refuses to accept the blame. When the inspector asks questions about and to his family, he tries to protect his reputation by acting the innocent to the questions, even though we know, that he knows the answers to the questions, but wont tell them, to protect his reputation. Mr Birling does not care one bit and in no way does he think that he is responsible for Eva Smith's death. ...read more.

Conclusion

The play was written in 1945, the final year of the Second World War. Priestley was trying to show the predominantly middle class audience that despite all the death and destruction of the Great War, the working class were no better off. The 1920's and 1930's were a time of unemployment, strikes and depression. This time around, Priestley says, things could really improve if only people were to become more socially responsible for the welfare of others. We have to confront our mistakes and learn from them. The fact that his use of time sometimes makes it seem as if events have not yet happened and the characters might have a chance to change their actions, reflects this - there was a Second World War and people have a second chance to change things. The older Birlings represent those who failed to learn from the First World War, while Sheila and Eric are the younger generation who still have a chance to learn and change. In conclusion, this play is a comment on the society of the Edwardian age, as well as being a play about relationships as a whole. Priestley sets out to show the failings of that society and succeeds. ...read more.

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