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English Coursework - An Inspector Calls

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Introduction

English Coursework - An Inspector Calls An Inspector Calls - a tale of suspense and biting social criticism of an upper class family. With each minute that goes by another enigmatic incident is unravelled -leaving the reader engrossed by the ongoing tales of lies and deceit, that together form the plot for Priestley's masterpiece. Set in 1912, An Inspector Calls introduces us to the rich Birling family-comfortable in their upper-class luxury and middle-class morality. An unexpected arrival one evening converts a small family celebration to an interrogation with a twist. For gradually it is bought to light every member of this respectable family's complicity in a mysterious young girls fate-suicide. As the evening wears on, the Inspector introduces links between the late Eva Smith and each of the Birlings- and the family find themselves unable to return to their complacency-as they are led to believe their involvement in Eva Smiths death was far from innocent. The reason for setting 'An Inspector Calls' in 1912 is fairly obvious if you examine the writer himself and the chain of events happening around him. The play was written in 1945 and first performed in 1946. Priestly opens the play with a scene of great luxury-a wealthy family is celebrating an engagement in a rather lavish fashion. To an audience that had spent the years of the Second World War without the luxuries the Birlings are so abundantly enjoying - it would be impractical to set the play during or just after the war. Therefore Priestly set the play before the war and used his own personal preferences to decide on the exact year. As he was a supporter of the Labour party, Priestly chose a period of time before there was a welfare state in the United Kingdom, and when employers had great power over their workers. It is ironic that Mr Birling predicts a war at the early stages of the play-"you'll hear some people say that war's inevitable"-as the war broke out after this play is set. ...read more.

Middle

After discovering the involvement of her father, she is quick to be critical of him, and not to protect him. This shows that, although Mr Birling may think they are a close family and would protect each others interests in times of need, they most certainly are not -"But these girls aren't cheap labour, they are people"-Sheila's words contradict her fathers. She is very quick to defend the girls, rather than to defend her own family. Sheila then recognises the photograph that the Inspector presents to her and 'runs out'. This exit has an affect on the audience as their early suspensions that Sheila knew Eva are proved accurate. Due to the audience knowing that Sheila recognised the photograph they immediately would begin to question themselves- 'How did she know her?' and 'Could she have anything to do with Eva's death?'. Sheila's exit reveals that she felt guilty and perhaps even shocked -as before the photograph was shown she had come across a confident and sympathetic girl. It is also made apparent that Sheila was hiding something associated with Eva -as she did not walk out, she ran out. After this moment the structure of the play begins to build up-for it is slowly becoming apparent that Mr Birling knowing Eva Smith was just the tip of the iceberg. Shortly after, a guilty Sheila emerges back into the dining room- 'You knew it was me all the time, didn't you?'. A distressed, sympathetic and emotional Sheila attempts to explain herself- and a whole new side to her emerges. She seems to be horrified by her own part in Eva's story and is full of guilt for her jealous actions. She blames herself as "really responsible". In this act, we learn that Sheila is an essentially honest character who is grounded and clearly has no problem admitting her faults -unlike the other characters-"I felt rotten at the time-but now I feel even worse". ...read more.

Conclusion

Sheila was the only character who shows any genuine sympathy for Eva- 'I cant help thinking about this girl, destroying herself so horribly - and I've been so happy tonight" .She actually says this before she learns of her involvement in Eva's death-which basically summarises how sympathetic she is in contrast to her unsympathetic father. At the end of the play, Sheila is much wiser. Mrs and Mrs Birling are shocked by some of Sheila's honest remarks, because they prefer to live in a world where unpleasant realities are suppressed or ignored, but Sheila does not try to deceive herself. She has the courage to admit her guilt and to speak out honestly, even when she knows this is not considered the 'right' thing to do (by her parents). She can now judge her parents and Gerald from a new perspective, but the greatest change has been in herself: her social conscience has been awakened and she is aware of her responsibilities. The Sheila who had a girl dismissed from her job for a trivial reason has vanished forever. She is such an important character as she represents change. Priestley's aim was to influence people into becoming more moralistic and ethical towards each other-of which Sheila is a fine example. By the end of the play Sheila has become more clear and open to criticism and is overall an honest and responsible young lady who is independent and principled. I think that Priestly wanted the audience to relate with Sheila -as she is the only character that actually sympathises with Eva. Sheila is essentially a good character who in a moment of uncharacteristic cruelty committed an act which she would regret for the rest of her life. Her remorse is Priestley's way of showing that human beings do have a good side to their nature, and that if there is hope that people will one day develop a social conscience and awareness that "We are members of one body", then it will be among the younger generation. By Jeewanjyot Kaur, 10E ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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