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Discuss this view of responsibility, guilt and blame in ‘An Inspector Calls’ and discuss how the Inspector functions as a dramatic device.

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Introduction

'The Inspector does not condemn- his job is to warn- he is more concerned with the principle of collective responsibility. "We'll have to share the guilt." (PG 28) He is only concerned with individuals in so far as they help or hinder society as a whole. "We are members of one body." (PG 54) Discuss this view of responsibility, guilt and blame in 'An Inspector Calls' and discuss how the Inspector functions as a dramatic device. Priestley wanted to ensure life after the war was better than before and he hoped that through his writing he could influence people's ideas and change society. Although he wrote an Inspector Calls in 1945, (a week after the war ended) he deliberately set it in 1912 because that time represented the sort of society everybody wanted to leave behind. The message of the play was particularly effective to the audiences of 1946. Priestley knew that the message of his play would reach the war-weary audiences of the era more effectively than it would reach the audiences of a different time. The "fire and blood and anguish" reference to the First and Second World Wars would be very influential to the audience. The audiences had experienced the horrors of war and were not eager to experience them again, so they may think that if they followed JB Priestley's message, they would prevent yet another world war. Priestley wrote this play intentionally as he saw an urgent need for social change and used the play to express his desire for social equality. The time span between the dates used (1945-1912) is to make us aware of what has happened and learn from mistakes made. Priestley hoped his play would give society the chance with hindsight to look back on the past and not just carry on life in the same way as before. He was particularly concerned about the living conditions of the lower classes, represented by Eva Smith (the name "Smith" being cleverly used: a common name ...read more.

Middle

She is very distressed by the girl's suicide and thinks that her father's behaviour was unacceptable. She readily agrees that she behaved very badly and insists that she never meant the girl any harm. The Inspector says that she is only partly responsible and later on, when he is about to question Gerald, he encourages her to stay and listen to what he has to say so that she does not feel entirely responsible. Not only is she prepared to admit her faults, she also appears keen and anxious to change her behaviour in the future, "I will never, never do it again". (PG) She is aware of the mystery surrounding the Inspector, yet realises that there is no point in trying to hide the facts from him. She is mature about the breaking up of her engagement and remains calm. She will not be rushed into accepting the ring back once the Inspector has left. She is unable to accept her parents' attitude and is both amazed and concerned that they have not learned anything from the episode. Although the Inspector might be a hoax, the family have still behaved in an entirely unsuitable manner. She learns of her responsibilities to others less fortunate than herself (the idea of the community) and is sensitive. Her readiness to learn from experience is in great contrast to her parents. Gerald croft, at the beginning of the play, is thought of a respectable upper class man who is getting married to Sheila. Unsurprisingly, he also has a secret that is uncovered. He had kept Daisy Renton as his mistress for a time when simultaneously courting Sheila. Indeed, had he not been engaged to Sheila his conduct would have been entirely acceptable for a normal relationship. However, the fact that he was means that he is thought of in very low esteem by Sheila and her parents after he tells the details of his affair. ...read more.

Conclusion

It symbolises that you cannot run from your conscience, as the Birlings will find out. Priestley uses the dramatic twist of the Inspector returning at the end of the play to emphasis this point, and makes it more effective by placing it just as the characters are beginning to relax. It serves to 'prick' the consciences of both the characters and the audience. At the end of reading the play, I was left feeling as if I would like to think I had learned from the example of the Birlings and the message it contained. As it is a play though, I would have liked to see it acted out. The ending is well crafted, leaving an open ending to add to the dramatic effect, but looking at it differently, there is not really another way to have ended the play after that plot twist other than an open ending where it was without ruining the play itself. I think the majority of people who have seen this play would have liked to think of themselves as an Eric or a Sheila. The aims of Priestley when he wrote this play, I believe, were to make us think, to make us question our own characters and beliefs. He wasted to show us that we can change, and we can decide which views we side with. He wanted us to ask ourselves if we wanted to be a Sheila or a Sybil, an Eric or an Arthur. Or, were we in-between like Gerald. Priestley wanted the audience to learn from the mistakes of the Birlings. I think that Priestley wanted to make a difference; not a world changing difference, but a small difference in the way people think. Then, if you think of every person who coming out of the play gave some money to a beggar in the street, you would see that Priestley did make a difference. It would have changed people's views on society, however small those changes would be, and so Priestley achieved his aims in writing the play. ?? ?? ?? ?? Lucy Webster 10H ...read more.

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