• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How does Priestley explore the theme of responsibility in the play, An Inspector Calls?

Extracts from this document...


Post 1914 Drama Coursework How does Priestley explore the theme of responsibility in the play, An Inspector Calls? Written in 1947, J.B. Priestley's didactic murder-mystery, An Inspector Calls, accentuates the fraudulent Edwardian era in which the play was set. Britain in 1912 was inordinately different to Britain in 1947, where a country annihilated by war was determined to right the wrongs of a society before them. In 1912 Britain was at the height of Edwardian society, known as the "Golden Age". A quarter of the globe was coloured red, denoting the vast and powerful Empire and all Britons, no matter what class they belonged to were proud to be British - the "best nation in the world". Theatres, musicals, proms concerts and films entertained the growing population. The upper classes led such a lavish life of luxury that the Edwardian era is now infamous for its elegance, ostentation, extravagance and sexual license. However despite the illusions of these secure times this epoch was full of hypocrisy, prejudice and exploitation. There was a huge divide between the upper and lower classes and the difference between the affluent lifestyle the wealthy lived compared to the downtrodden existence of the poor was remarkable. In 1947 Britain had just come to the end of a devastating world war where families had suffered immense losses and society was desperate for a fairer, more equal lifestyle. Socialism and left-wing Labour views were becoming increasingly popular and Priestley, himself a Socialist, was anxious to point out the flaws of a society which rewarded rich men who openly exploited the poor for profit. ...read more.


"Goole" is similarly sounding to the word "ghoul", a ghost or phantom. It introduces a very eerie, morbid feel to the play as if the Inspector is not real, a ghost from the past and ever present in the lives of the Birling family. The Inspector is a "father-confessor", a moral force who has made the characters judge themselves. He claims to know a limited amount but expertly draws the confessions from each individual character. Throughout the play he has used relatively simplistic language, often minimal amounts, allowing the members of the family to relay their versions of events in their own time and manner. However when he states to the family, "each of you helped to kill her", he links all of the events together, recalling each character's involvement. His final speech dramatically contrasts his use of language throughout the play. He uses ornate, oratorical, exaggerated and hyperbolic diction in an almost biblical tone, preaching to the family and the audience. He moves from commenting on one particular person to all of those people who are cruelly and unnecessarily exploited in society, "millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths". This is Priestley's main message, echoed in the character's actions and the Inspector's interrogation through the play; we are all responsible for each other. Arthur Birling is head of the family, head of a firm and represents the views of Edwardian Britain. He is a traditionalist and is very pleased with himself but the character of Birling is in direct contrast to that of the Inspector. ...read more.


The two intervals are simply for the convenience of the audience and each act begins with the same scene and situation as the latter act. The confessions made by each character are in chronological order, except at the end of the play when Mrs. Birling's confession is presented before Eric's. This order of events can be viewed as an increase in responsibility, which allows a progressive climatic culmination. Priestley's two clever final twists in the plot after the Inspector departs leave the audience disconcerted and mystified. The Inspector was not real and there was no dead girl. However the telephone call at the end was genuine and this allows the audience to almost predict their own ending; how will the family react to the arrival of the real Inspector? Will they acknowledge this as a chance to admit to their mistakes or will they try and conceal their guilt? I thoroughly enjoyed studying An Inspector Calls and have learned a great deal about how society has changed and how moral ideals have evolved over time. I found the play effective although because of the way in which society has developed Priestley's morals may not be applicable to life today. As wealth and power have become increasingly more important socialist feelings of responsibility for one another have been progressively weakened. However I do feel that we as a society might be able to learn from some of Priestley's teachings and work together to form a more equal society for our future generations. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE J.B. Priestley section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE J.B. Priestley essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    How does Priestley explore the theme of social responsibility in his play An Inspector ...

    4 star(s)

    The writer chooses Mr. Birling as the first person to answer the Inspector's questions. The reason may be because of the intended audience of the play. Most theatre patrons at Priestley's time would have been upper class people, much like the Birlings.

  2. In what ways does Priestley explore responsibility in An Inspector Calls?

    This had started because the countries of Europe, instead of existing together, had formed themselves into two camps, with the countries within them allied together. Serbia was Russia's ally, who was also on the side of Britain and France, who had both promised to protect Belgium.

  1. An Inspector Calls. The play has many dramatic moments, explore these in relation ...

    considers herself to be a social superior, whereas towards the end of the play Sheila's character develops maturely and within the ongoing conflict she becomes more apt to the idea of collective responsibility. 'The worst part is. But your forgetting one thing I still can't forget'.

  2. The Theme of an Inspector Calls is Collective Responsibility. How Does J.B. Priestley present ...

    and for the first time starts to take responsibility for those actions. Eric Birling is a shy young man who appears cowardly in nature, a wimp at the start of the play, but who by the end of it, together with Shelia starts to realise their own responsibility to each other and to others.

  1. An Inspector Calls. Explore how Priestley portrays Sheilas role in the play and ...

    Sheila enters into the dining room and is the next to be questioned. Shiela was also linked to Eva smith, she had been jealous of Eva because she looked better in a specific dress. She went to the manager and told him that this girl had been very impertinent so, indirectly she made Eva lose her job.

  2. We are all members of one body. We are responsible for each ...

    Every other character except Sybil feels remorse for what they have done. To conclude I have to say that I found that age does affect the way the Edwardian family act. If Sheila was older and more grown up then she would have known that someone not of her class, can not intimidate her if she knows how to react.

  1. An Inspector CallsJ. B. Priestley - How does Priestley make a drama out of ...

    Unfortunately, Mr. Birling sees the world in a rather different perspective, more like, the other way round. He thinks in order to proceed in life, "a man has to make his own way", meaning if don't help anyone else, or talk to anyone else, then you won't get in trouble.

  2. An Inspector Calls - How does the writer explore the themes of social responsibility, ...

    For example, on page seven Birling rambles on about nonsense like 'The unsinkable Titanic', 'Very little chance of a World War' and 'Russia being technically and socially behind'. The audience watching the play in 1945 when it came out would be fully aware that what he says is completely the opposite to what actually happened or was proved since.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work