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How does J B Priestley put across the idea of 'Community Responsibility', in the play, An Inspector Calls?

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An Inspector Calls: J B Priestley How does J B Priestley put across the idea of 'Community Responsibility', in the play, An Inspector Calls? The play, An Inspector Calls, was written in 1945, within a week of World War 2 ending, but is set in 1912, before World War 1. J B Priestley wrote this play purposely, as he saw an urgent need for social change, and he used the play, to convey his desire, for social equality. The period between the dates used, is to make us the audience, aware of what has happened, and to learn from mistakes made. Priestley, made the audience, take full notice, of how much wrong, can come from assuming the future. I will be analysing, how J B Priestley put across his idea, of 'Community Responsibility'. The play opens, with the celebrations of the family, for the engagement between Gerald Croft and Sheila Birling, in the Birlings' dining room, in Brumley, 1912. During their party, Inspector Goole arrives, bringing the news of the suicide of a young girl named Eva Smith. She had swallowed some disinfectant and died. Each connection alone was not too terrible, but putting them together, they amount to a lot. Two years earlier, 1910, when she worked at the Birling Factory, Eva Smith, had been dismissed by Arthur Birling, for asking for a pay rise. She soon got a job, working as an assistant at Milwards, an admirable shop. After just two months of working there, through one of Sheila's bad tempers, she got the sack. She then became Gerald's 'mistress', and for a while, she was happy; but that was all to come to an end in September 1911, when Gerald called off the affair. Two months after that, she met Eric Birling, and she becomes pregnant. She has no money, and will not accept Eric's, as she knows it was stolen. She then goes to Mrs Birling, who works for the Charity Committee, for help, and she is turned down. ...read more.


Just before the Inspector enters, Birling is giving a speech, and he is talking about the nonsense of communities. Mr Birling: you'd think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive - community and all that nonsense. (Act 1, Page 10) Here, J B Priestley is using the Inspector's entrance timing, as a sign of disproval with what Mr Birling has just said. Priestley has given Birling, completely the opposite personality to himself, to show that his own views are right. The audience can clearly see how wrong Birling is, so the only other way of living, is to live in contrast to him, and this is what Priestley wants people to do. In the middle of Act 1, when the Inspector is talking to Mr Birling, Sheila and Gerald, Gerald says, Gerald: I don't really see that this inquiry gets you anywhere, Inspector. It's what happened to her since she left Mr Birling's works that is important. (Act 1, page 18) Here, Gerald is partly correct. It is important to see what happened after she left the works, but it is also important to find out what happened at the time of working there. Gerald has been very quick to defend his future father-in-law and to tell the Inspector that Birling is not to blame, but what he does not realise, is that he is telling the Inspector that the rest of the family and himself, are to blame. After being dismissed from Arthur Birling's works, Eva Smith found herself a job as a sales assistant at Milwards. Sheila had been a valued customer there, and she had used her influence, to get Eva the sack, after seeing her smiling in the mirror when she had been trying on a dress. Sheila had been jealous of the way that Eva had looked, and this tells us that she was a pretty soul. ...read more.


And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if man will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. (Act 3, Page 556) This is the main speech of the play, which really spells it all out for the audience. It is telling the audience, what has just been told in the play, and it is like a final conclusion. This brings us to the question, 'Who is the Inspector?'. Although we never actually find out who he really is, the audience can make their own assumptions. Through clues in the play, I was led to believe that the Inspector was someone with very close connections to Eva Smith/Daisy Renton. The clues that I picked up on, were the following; his foreknowledge of the girl's death, and his intimate knowledge of her, despite never actually speaking to her. Also, the Inspector's telling Sheila that there is not reason that she should understand about him. He is assumed to be some sort of a time-traveller. When I saw the National Theatre Production of this play, the Inspector was dressed in period clothes from the late 1940's. This suggests that he is someone from the future, but the only thing that the audience can do, is imagine. The final part of the play, which expresses his ideas to the audience, is his method of dramatic irony again, at the end of the play. The family have just found out that it had all been a sham, and that no one had really died. Then, it is so ironic, that after finding out that they had not in fact killed a girl, and some of them are relived, while others are still very disturbed, that it has in fact all happened, just the way that the Inspector had told them. This play has such a strong message, and J B priestly uses many ways to show us this, as I have explained above, and this message is likely to stay with the audience, for a long time to come. Word Count: 3, 246 ...read more.

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