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Discuss J.B Priestley's Presentation of the Characters of Sheila Birling and Eva Smith in the Relation to the Social, Historical and Cultural Background of the play

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English Coursework 'Discuss J.B Priestley's Presentation of the Characters of Sheila Birling and Eva Smith in the Relation to the Social, Historical and Cultural Background of the play. In 1912, British society was very different to that of the one we live in now. Like lives of those people who were anything below middle class were poverty and disease stricken. 'An Inspector Calls' by J.B Priestley highlights the distinctive divide between the classes. Those that were rich and those that were poor. Those that had family status and those that had none. The living conditions of people during this time, when the play is set, were extremely poor with very little proper sanitation and cramped living spaces. People without any position in the social hierarchy would live in these types of places, where as those who were middle class, rich, families would live in spacious houses with all the latest necessities and would most probably have servants and maids. Eva Smith is a perfect example of someone who had to work to make her life worthwhile. From working in factories to shop work, Eva was always working to get even the littlest essential in life. For those higher up in the social hierarchy work for women was not an option, their lives consisted of social gatherings, shopping and skills such as reading and piano like Mrs and Shelia Birling. ...read more.


Eva, who is working at the time, watches as Sheila tries on the dress. When Sheila sees Eva smiling she is even more aggravated, and insists 'she be sacked or I'll tell mother to cancel our account here'. Milwards have no choice but to sack her. Sheila, at the time felt no remorse for what she had done 'she was very pretty and looked as if she could take care of herself. I couldn't be sorry for her.' This came as a big shock to Eva who felt that she was doing really well at Milwards. In her devastation, Eva tried to forget her old life and renamed herself Daisy Renton. Gerald admits that he too had known Daisy Renton. He had met her at the local Variety Theatre - known to be the haunt of prostitutes - and had 'rescued' her from the unwelcome attentions of Alderman Meggarty, a local dignitary. When he found out that Daisy was almost penniless, Gerald let her stay in the flat of a friend of his and she became his mistress. He ended the affair when he had to go away on business, giving her some money to see her through for a few months. Once again, Eva's life seemed to be going from bad to worse. ...read more.


However, his final speech is aimed not only at the characters on stage, but at the audience too: "One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do." The Inspector is talking about a collective responsibility, everyone is society is linked, in the same way that the characters are linked to Eva Smith. Everyone is a part of "one body"; the Inspector sees society as more important than individual interests. The views he is propounding are like those of Priestley who was a socialist. He adds a clear warning about what could happen if, like some members of the family, we ignore our responsibility: "And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, when they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish." This play carries a powerful message to society and this message continues still to this day and will most likely still be applicable for years to come. The message is telling us that we are not only responsible for ourselves, but for everyone around us and that our actions do not only affect us but everyone around us. Everyone else is 'all intertwined with our lives and what we think and say and do.' ...read more.

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