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How does J.B Priestley use 'An Inspector Calls' as a vehicle to express social and moral concerns?

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Introduction

How does J.B Priestley use 'An Inspector Calls' as a vehicle to express social and moral concerns? 'An Inspector Calls' was written by J.B. Priestley at the end of World War Two (1945) to express discontent regarding social barriers. The war had softened the 'walls' separating the classes because people were combined, working towards a shared aim. The war had brought women's responsibility into society; the nation was bonded because of the common enemy and the Welfare State was being established, thus creating more equality. People wanted life to remain unprejudiced. Surely the war had been fought for more than triumph but for a new balance in humanity? The play therefore carries a strong political agenda. The conclusion and moral message is to be considerate to others and distribute responsibility: which of course is a socialist motivation. The play is arranged in the pattern of an orthodox detective mystery: a standard exterior, but in fact it delivers a compelling moral theme. The drama is entirely performed in the dining room of the Birlings' family property, in the suburbs of an industrial city: Brumley. Priestley initially detaches the audience of 1945 by use of the period costume of 1912. This ingenious ploy initially makes it difficult to identify with a specific character. ...read more.

Middle

The name 'Eva Smith' shows just how much she could have been anybody; in the sense that if we all work together anybody can be capable of anything. The other characters in the play are also representations: - Birling is a limited man and is wrong about many things in the play. He is a terribly pompous, na�ve character, who likes to make speeches. He has a-lot of false optimism, is incredibly ambitious and socially pretentious. Priestley describes him on the stage as a 'rather portentous man', full of self-importance and greed. He twice mentions his far from definite knighthood as a way of impressing Gerald. Gerald Croft considers himself a good match for Sheila, he is an aristocrat who contradicts the whole moral significance of the play: by implying that if one is sufficiently respectable one is above crime. I think these two characters (as well as Mrs Birling) represent the upper class and perhaps, the capitalists. Sheila, Birling's daughter and Gerald's fianc�e is more perceptive than the other characters and she has the potential to develop a moral conscience, which is conveyed when she first senses the abnormal power of the inspector. Progressively throughout the play Sheila develops from an inexperienced juvenile, into a modern woman with the power to make her own decisions. ...read more.

Conclusion

They are the only two who have fully understood the depth of their behaviour. Sheila frantically pleads with the other characters to feel remorse for their actions but with no success, she admits defeat. The phone rings and they are told to expect the call of an inspector. All had not fully learnt the lesson and so must face their fate: of which the Inspector warned them. Only two of five people had learnt the moral message, and so the play ends leaving the audience to speculate about how this moral lesson can be applied to their own lives. The majority of the characters had missed the whole point of collective responsibility and therefore, in my opinion have got what they deserved. In a conventional mystery, the plot gets clearer and clearer until the conclusion where the murderer is revealed. Here, there is an inspector; we take him to be an inspector. There is a crime. We expect a conclusion, a 'round up' of the events that have occurred. But at the very end, we realise everything we have taken for real and unfeigned is not. In a typical detective drama, a single culprit separates the guilty and the innocent. Here, this does not apply; and this conveys the need for joint responsibility in this sort of crime; and as a result is very significant in every society. 1Lucy Tyler ...read more.

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