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

How does Priestley present attitudes to the theme of morality in "An Inspector Calls"?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Explore how Priestley presents attitudes towards the theme of morality in "An Inspector Calls". The play "An Inspector Calls" is one that contains many broad themes, and one of these is that of morality. Morality manifests itself in many ways throughout the play, on a small scale in the individual case of the Birlings and Eva Smith, through the Inspector, and as a constant undercurrent running through the entire play, alongside other social issues like class, love and responsibility. The play also contains varied attitudes towards morality, which adds to the depth and universal message that it carries. One of the key situations in which attitudes to morality vary is the divide between young and old within the Birling family. Arthur Birling, the self-proclaimed patriarch of the family, takes a hard line towards morality. This is illustrated even before his or his family's involvement in Eva Smith's death is revealed, as he is shown to be a "hard headed practical man of business", proclaiming that "a man has to look after himself and his own". His attitude to morality is also highlighted by his attitude to responsibility, shown in his quote "you'd think everybody has to look after everybody else... ...read more.

Middle

Now you've stopped". This shows that Sheila can see past basic fact, and knows that morally, whatever the final consequence of any poor conduct, the conduct has still been poor and therefore cannot be condoned. This is again an example of the divide between youth and age, with Birling and his wife feeling that "this (the fact that the Inspector was a fake) makes all the difference", highlighting the moral naivety of the Birling seniors, and thereby emphasising the moral strengths of the younger. The other main example of Sheila's moral perception is that of truth and honesty, particularly in the dialogue preceding Mrs Birling's interrogation. She often interjects early on, seemingly unnecessarily, for example "no mother, please!" and "I feel you're beginning all wrong". However, she explains her stance further on in the scene, with "You mustn't try to build up a wall between us and that girl...the Inspector will just break it down". The Inspector then confirms Sheila's fears- "She's right". This perception of truth and honesty contrasts not only the moral empathy of the young with the more apathetic feelings of the older, but also their knowledge and perception of the world around them- another example being Birlings speeches of "There's no chance of war" and suchlike, which shows how out of touch he is. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Inspector's views on morality are furthered and deepened in the final acts of the play- in one very small section of his final speeches. He first recounts the chain of events theory that is running throughout the play, showing that moral actions and consequences can be linked- in total contrast with the denial of the senior Birlings. He states "The girl killed herself, and died a horrible death. But each of you helped to kill her". He then moves on to each character in turn and morally questions them, as he did in his investigation. He shows that despite events being similar, the extent of their morality, for better or for worse, can vary immensely. An example is that of Eric and Gerald, as previously mentioned, and also that of Birling and Sheila. He says to Birling, "You started it... you made her pay a heavy price for that. And now she'll make you pay a heavier price still", but to Sheila, simply "you helped". As with Eric and Gerald, these are two extremely similar events, but morally the Inspector sharply distinguishes them. His highlighting of how Eva Smith will now make Birling "pay" also shows the extent of his attitude to morality- it will remain long after the actions and consequences have passed. This is furthered by "I don't think any of you will forget". ...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. How does Priestley explore the theme of responsibility in the play, An Inspector Calls?

    Birling's consistency throughout the play shows that he has not and will not learn from his mistakes, or accept any responsibility for Eva Smith's death. Priestley hoped and believed that social change lies within the younger generations rather than the older generations and he uses the character of Sheila, representing the younger generation, to convey this idea.

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

    He meets Eva when she has changed her name to Daisy Renton, and though saving her from a drunkard, he really helps her for his own good. He shows compassion when it suits him but dismisses her when his plans change, and no longer thinks of her.

  1. Who is responsible for the death of Eva Smith? Pay close attention in your ...

    When the Inspector arrives, Sheila is out of the room. When she enters, she is immediately drawn into the situation, asking questions that her father isn't pleased about. When the news of the death of Eva Smith has finally been told, Sheila is shocked - "How horrible - was it an accident?"

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

    Mr Birling doesn't seem to understand that his opinions and the things he say reiterate his selfish behaviour, he took advantage of the female workers the threatened to fire them when they asked to be paid extra for working overtime.

  1. The Inspector takes the shallow morality of the Birlings and shows there is no ...

    socialist describes him in the opening stage directions as a 'rather portentous man', full of his own self-importance. In the play, he is certainly very concerned with his social position - he twice mentions that he was Lord Mayor as a way of impressing Gerald.

  2. "An Inspector Calls" - issues raised in the play concerning the social structure ...

    the door bell rings and the inspector enters - the fact he doesn't feel we should all look out for each other is about to be proved. Not only this, but for a third time Mr. Birling makes a very appropriate comment to Gerald; 'There's a very good chance of

  1. Examine Inspector Goole’s and Mr Birling’s attitudes to society and particularly their attitudes to ...

    to "run along" and accused the Inspector of upsetting the child" when she recognises the photo of Eva Smith. He also tries to shield his wife from any involvement with the Inspector and the truth about his son's involvement with Eva Smith.

  2. Priestley presents ideas about responsibility in an 'An Inspector Calls'

    At the end of the play, he has not changed. He has not gained a new sense of social responsibility, which is why Sheila is unsure whether to take back the engagement ring. Sheila Birling is the character who changes most in the play.

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