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An Inspector CallsHow does Priestley use the character of the Inspector to convey his own opinions and attitudes?

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Introduction

An Inspector Calls How does Priestley use the character of the Inspector to convey his own opinions and attitudes? An Inspector Calls, set in 1912, is a play with many social and political messages. J. B. Priestley believed a great deal in socialism and believed that many other people needed to be more caring about their community and the people in it. Priestley uses the character of the Inspector to convey his own thoughts, feelings and opinions about social issues. However, he also uses other characters, particularly Mr.Birling, to show the audience how cynical some people can be. It is possible that J.B.Priestley set this play in 1912 for a reason. Arthur Birling is a rich businessman who thinks very highly of himself, even though he is often wrong. Arthur's family respect him and listen intently to his ideas that 'there isn't a chance of war' and the Titanic is 'unsinkable.' As the play was written in 1947 and set in 1912, this is an example of dramatic irony and the audience would know that Arthur was very wrong in his opinions and might even think him to be stupid. When he says 'the way some of these cranks talk and write now, you'd think everybody has to look after everybody else', he explicitly says that he is strongly Capitalist and is narrow minded. ...read more.

Middle

Once the line of questioning turns to Gerald, the Inspector is more friendly to Sheila. He understands that she would want to hear about Gerald's affair with Eva Smith and ensures that she stays by arguing that if she left then and heard no more she would 'feel she's entirely to blame.' When Gerald tells his story, he is questioned mainly by Sheila who is angry with Gerald for betraying her. The Inspector treats Gerald with neither fondness nor contempt. He observes that 'he at least had some affection for her and made her happy for a time.' By questioning Gerald about his affair with Eva Smith, or "Daisy Renton", the Inspector is showing that everyone should think about the possible consequences of their actions, before they carry them out. This is something that Priestley wants the audience to notice. Mrs. Birling is not present for the majority of the questioning, so she is unfamiliar to the Inspector's abruptness. She describes him as 'a trifle impertinent'. She, like Arthur Birling, seems to be used to receiving nothing but respect. This is because she is of a high-middle class. The Inspector treats the characters with the same disregard as they gave Eva Smith. Mrs. Birling becomes increasingly annoyed at how the Inspector treats her. This is shown when the Inspector says, 'You're not telling me the truth', and she replies 'I beg your pardon!' ...read more.

Conclusion

I think Priestley used the idea of war to convey his message because it was a major issue when the play was written and everyone would have suffered from it and would care greatly about it. The play finishes with a telephone call from the police saying that 'A girl has just died.... after swallowing some disinfectant' and a real Inspector will question the family. This is an unexpected twist. The fake Inspector was there to punish them on a moral level and to try and make them feel guilty enough to change their behaviour. This was accomplished with Eric and Sheila, but not with the others. The only thing that they would be affected by was a 'public scandal,' and the real Inspector would ensure that that is what they would get. Without this twist, it would seem that the Birling parents and Gerald would escape unpunished. The Inspector's main purpose is to teach. In the context of the play, he told the characters what had happened to a particular girl because they had each been guilty of selfishness. In regards to the whole of society, he voiced Priestley's opinions that we cannot make any progress if we do not work together. In my opinion, those watching or reading the play today would not gain as much from the story in regards to the moral teachings because most have now accepted the advantages of Socialism over Capitalism and so do not have as much to learn on the arguments of this issue as the audiences of 1947. ...read more.

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