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How does the Inspectors Visit Affect two Characters in the Play?

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Introduction

How does the Inspectors Visit Affect two Characters in the Play? John Boynton Priestley was born in Yorkshire in 1894. He knew early on that he wanted to become a writer, but decided against going to university as he thought he would get a better feel for the world around him away from academia. Instead, he became a junior clerk with a local wool firm at the age of 16. When the First World War broke out, Priestley joined the infantry and only just escaped death on a number of occasions. After the war, he gained a degree from Cambridge University, and then moved to London to work as a freelance writer. He wrote successful articles and essays, and then published the first of many novels, The Good Companions in 1929. He wrote his first play in 1932 and went on to write 50 more. Much of his writing was groundbreaking and controversial. He included new ideas about possible parallel universes and strong political message. During World War 2 he broadcast a massively popular weekly radio programme which was attacked by the Conservatives as being too left-wing - and eventually cancelled by the BBC for being too critical of the Government. He continued to write into the 1970s, and died in 1984 Inspector calls is set in the early twentieth century, in the year of 1912, though the play itself was composed in 1946, just after the Second World War. The plays setting of 1912 is the complete the opposite of the time it was written. The society of 1912 is completely different, compared to the 1940's. The largely conservative society of 1912 was transformed to a largely socialist community after the Second World War. The play was set in the imaginary industrial town of Brumley, in the North Midlands, in a society of distinct and segregated classes. The society of 1912 was deeply divided on the basis of wealth and status. ...read more.

Middle

He is a "hard headed businessman" after all. Arthur Birling is optimistic for the future and considers that there will not be war. As the audience knows that there will not be war, we begin to doubt Mr Birling's judgement. When put with other things Birling's has said in the play, we see that Priestly has made Mr Birling's predictions as false and wrong- such as the Titanic is "unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable", "The Germans don't want war. Nobody wants war" and that "were in a time of increasing prosperity". This also gives the impression that his views of community and shared responsibility are misguided also. Every one of the predictions made by Birling are wrong. The Titanic sank on her maiden voyage; world war broke out two years later after the play was set and the American stock market crashed in 1929, plunging the world into economic chaos. This leads us to regard him as a man of many words but little sense. Birling wants to protect his reputation. As the Inspector's investigations continue, his selfishness gets the better of him. He is worried about how the press will view his story. The most disturbing part for Birling is the scene in which he learns his own son is a thief, a drunkard and is responsible for fathering a child. When he learns about all this, he exclaims "you damned fool- why you didn't come to me when you got yourself into this mess?" As he is worried about his reputation and so he says, "I've got to cover this up as soon I can". Eric's reply indicates that Mr Birling was never close with his son, "because you're not the kind of chap a man could turn to when he's in trouble". Such a response indicates that things aren't going to improve much after the play ends. Mr Birling is a capitalist; he has strong conservative views and opinions. ...read more.

Conclusion

Each member of the family has a different attitude to responsibility. The Inspector wanted each member of the family to share responsibility of Eva's death. He tells them, "Each of you tried to kill her". However, the final speech is aimed not only at the characters on the stage, but also the audience too: "One Eva smith has gone-but there are millions of Eva smiths and John smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do". The Inspector talks about collective responsibility; everyone in society is linked in the same way that the characters are linked to Eva Smith. Every one is part of "one body". The Inspector sees the society as more important than individual interests. The views he is propounding are like those of Priestleys', who was a socialist. The criticism of society is organised, the rich preying on the poor is very strong. Priestley makes sure his message about the corruptness of society is understood. Priestley shows that each character in the middle class is corrupt. Each one of them is guilty for using their social superiority and privileges for their own gains. Another of Priestley's messages seems to be that there is hope for the future. On seeing how they have affected Eva smith, both Sheila and Eric act with remorse. The ending symbolises that if you don't learn your lesson the first time you will face the same problems again and again. It symbolises that you can't run away from your conscience. I think the aim of the Priestley when he wrote the play was to make us think, to make us question our own characters and beliefs. He wanted to ask whether he wanted us to be a Sheila or Sybil, an Eric or an Arthur. He wanted to make us think of the people who have nothing. A sign of social responsibility and brotherhood is included in this play. We are after all "members of one body" and "responsible for each other". ...read more.

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