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How does J.B Priestly explore the issues of social responsibility on 'An Inspector Calls'?

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Introduction

How does J.B Priestly explore the issues of social responsibility on 'An Inspector Calls'? The main story line of 'An Inspector calls' by J.B Priestly is that of an upper middle class family called the Birlings. At the beginning, the family celebrate the engagement of Sheila Birling to Gerald Croft. Everything is perfect and all of them are looking forward to the future with a degree of confidence, until the arrival of an inspector disturbs the once carefree atmosphere. He tells the family about the suicide of a lower- class girl, Eva Smith. Interrogatingly he questions each member and makes them all realise how they individually affected Eva whilst she as alive, the result being her suicide. But buried beneath this initial Birling storyline lies the real reason for why Priestly wrote this play and that is to make people aware that the social responsibility they have should be used wisely and the actions they make should be thought about before done. The ending emphasizes this reason when the Birlings find out that the inspector was not registered with the local police force and no girls had committed suicide that is until after the inspector had left the Birlings Suburban house. The Birlings are left questioning their social responsibilities as are the audience, which was one of the main points of Priestly's play. The issue becomes not whether Eva Smith had died or not, but how they were all in the position to affect her life by using their own power. One of the main Issues in this play is that of 'Social Responsibility' Priestly explores this factor in four different ways. These are: * Themes/ideas * Plot structure * Characters * Dramatic Qualities Priestly uses themes and ideas to help the audience relate to, and understand social responsibility and to make them realise how they must be aware of the consequences that other people, possibly with a lower status will have to face as a result of the choices and actions they choose to make. ...read more.

Middle

By choosing to leave the ending of the plot somewhat obscure Priestly is able to focus the audience in on the underlying themes rather than the surface plot. So, they realise when the inspector leaves that they had hardly told him anything that he did not already know. Gerald finds out that he was not a registered inspector down at the local police force, so therefore another unexplainable factor. Bought to their attention now is the fact that they may not have all been looking at the same photograph, so they could have all affected different people and not just one unfortunate girl. All of these points are never explained at the ending; there is not a right or wrong answer for whom the inspector was and how he appeared to know so much about the Birling family. The audience should go away with this in their minds, it is not whether the girl existed or who the inspector was but the moral issue to be learnt here was that they all managed to affect somebody's life in a negative way. The surface plot of the Birlings should become less significant. By using this very un-clear ending Priestly is able to focus on and explore social responsibility. Through his characters in this play, Priestly is able to explore the issues of social responsibility. He does this by choosing to use a family, this helps him to be able to cover many different ways in which various people are implicated in different contexts and represent how everyday behaviour and situations can impact on other people's lives. Mr Birling represents those who face the dilemma of businesses out to make a profit yet needing to handle responsibility that goes with being an employer of real people. As an employer of Eva Smith Mr.Birling abused his position of power when he fired her from his business. His first priority is to make money 'it is my duty to keep labour costs down'. ...read more.

Conclusion

The climatic pattern of action that J.B Priestly creates helps him to explore the issues of social responsibility by drawing the audience into the play and making them relate to the characters. The mysterious quality enhanced through the dialogue is another dramatic quality that Priestly uses to help him explore these issues of responsibility. The inspector is one of the most mysterious parts of the play and his identity is questioned a lot at the end when the family do not know what to think, after Gerald uncovers more information. But the mystery of him is also visible during the course of the play. I think this because he does not seem to inform the family of how much he exactly knows about this girl's life from the beginning of his introduction to them. This adds drama because as an audience we are kept in suspense not knowing what will unfold next. The dialogue indicates a mystery might develop when Sheila says to Gerald "yes except for all last summer when you hardly came near me" Gerald quickly replies to this comment explaining that he was "busy at the works" but the indication of some mysterious element is when Sheila says back to him "yes that's what you say so" These examples of mystery through the dialogue all help Priestly to explore the issues of social responsibility by keeping the audience attentive and binging them into the play. J.B Priestly has used a combination of techniques to help him explore the issues of social responsibility in 'An Inspector Calls' All of them appear to have made the play interesting whilst still focussing in on the how people of an upper middle class status treat and respect those of the working class or with a lower status. He has used a catchy theme, structured his play well, chosen a range of characters and added dramatic qualities, all of which help him to explore the issues of social responsibility successfully within the play. 1 ...read more.

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