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How does Priestly present the contrast between Edwardian capitalist values and emergent socialist ideals through the interrogation of Mr. Birling?

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How does Priestly present the contrast between Edwardian capitalist values and emergent socialist ideals through the interrogation of Mr. Birling? An Inspector Calls is a play written by J.B Priestley in 1944 and was first performed in 1946. Priestley set the play in 1912, a time of change and conflict between Edwardian Capitalist values and emerging Socialist Ideals. Throughout the play Priestley conveys political messages, (in the limelight at the time), by creating microcosms out of the characters in his play. Mr. Birling is a prime example of this; Priestley uses Birling to portray the stereotype of a successful, upper class businessman of the time. Birling is given key, dated, Edwardian Capitalist values that are ever present throughout his actions and speech in the play. These values are contrasted with the younger generation of the Birling family. Eric and Sheila are given much more, "modern", emerging Socialist Ideals. Priestley's own views definitely leaned toward the socialist aspect. This is shown in the play by Priestley downplaying capitalist values by making Birling look arrogant and selfish, and having the younger generation being regretful and likeable. Priestley uses the Inspector as a dramatic model to bring about the events which bring about these reactions. Right from the opening of the play Priestley uses Birling to personify Edwardian Capitalist values of the time. ...read more.


When the 'sharp ring of the doorbell' sounds in the drawing room the Inspector has inadvertently put a stop to Birling's gospel according to Capitalism. Priestley does this to show that there is a way out of Capitalism, away from the dated views and into the exciting ideals of Socialism. Before the Inspector enters the play Priestley has started to establish Birling as an arrogant businessman with strong values and beliefs. By using the social historical context of the time, Priestley has enabled himself to use stereotypical Edwardian Capitalist views against Birling to make him unpopular with the audience. Birling states that 'the Germans don't want war, no one wants war', and that 'in twenty or thirty years you may be celebrating your daughter's engagement'- and there will be no more labour cranks around, and both predictions prove incorrect with time. Birling's view on the sensitive event of war makes him appear insensitive and na�ve to many of the audience who may have lost loved ones or close friends in these tragic events. Birling suggesting that the labour 'cranks' will disappear enhances his poor credibility. This period in the play displays great dramatic irony used to good affect by Priestley. Priestley uses it to set in stone the audience's opinion that Birling is an insensitive, arrogant, Edwardian businessman who always assumes he's right. ...read more.


People keep living the same lives over and over again until they elevate themselves by making a moral 'leap' to change their 'loop'. Events occur according to what's happening around you. This relates to An Inspector Calls because the Inspector is a dramatic model used to try and 'save' the Birling's from their current downward spirals. Without the Inspector warning them everyone in the family would continue to act in the same way until they made a moral decision to change their ways. The younger generation Sheila and Eric change their ways and feel remorse about what has happened because of their modern, Socialist ideals, whereas Mr and Mrs Birling don't change and continue believing that they acted appropriately, suggesting that they will continue to relive the events that took place. Priestley's strong socialist ideals emerge drastically during his play An Inspector Calls. By using Birling as a microcosm of the upper class, Edwardian gentlemen of Britain, Priestley downplays dated, Edwardian Capitalist views and warns the audience about the consequences of continuing on their current Ouspensky spiral. By using the Inspector as a dramatic model, Priestley is enabled to 'advertise' the pros of Socialism and the cons of Capitalism. When the Inspector warns the says; 'if men will not learn their lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish, he is not only warning the Birling's but also the audience about the consequences of Capitalism. ?? ?? ?? ?? Hugo gibbon 1 ...read more.

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