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

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Introduction

IN WHAT WAYS DOES PRIESTLEY EXPLORE RESPONSIBILITY IN AN INSPECTOR CALLS? "We are members of one body, we are responsible for each other" This is the sentence taken from the Inspector's last speech and I think that it sums up exactly what Priestley was trying to get across about responsibility. Priestley may have experienced difficulties during wartime; this may have led him to believe that in order to live in a peaceful world man must consider his responsibility to fellow men.. In this play it points out the need for a sense of personal responsibility in every member of society; responsibility not only for individual actions, but also for the way actions affect others. Priestley is very effective in using the Inspector to voice the view of responsibility most strongly. Priestley has created these characters so that they act as the communal conscience of the other characters. The character's past is also used to show another key theme-responsibility. Each person on stage has a secret to reveal- each linking and connecting every person to the death of Eva Smith. This presents Priestley's belief in socialism which really comes across in the play- every person has a responsibility to help each other and that your actions can affect others. In Act 1, a mysterious Inspector influxes mysteriously, Inspector Goole is his name and he arrives unexpectedly on the prosperous Birling family. Priestley's use of the Inspector startles revelations not only shatter the very foundations of their lives but challenge us all to examine our consciences. ...read more.

Middle

If there's nothing else, we'll have to share our guilt'. He points out that social responsibilities become greater as privileges increase. There is something else implied in the Inspector's comment. The society in which the Birlings live shares out material riches very unequally. Priestley's use of people like Birlings and Gerald's, have been granted the lion's share of material wealth, they are reluctant to accept a similar-sized share of responsibility for those who have been less generously treated. I think Priestly made the most responsible characters the older individuals because, generally, older people are more set in their ways. Ultimately, I believe that Priestly used each of the characters to portray a different part of society and he personified their actions to the death of Eva Smith. I believe that Mr Birling has the most responsibilities, morally and socially, and the unwillingness to accept them shows his utter insolence. Priestly is giving us a warning about what will happen if society doesn't learn to accept responsibility for others. For example, when the factory workers were on strike, Mr Birling didn't care about them and what would happen to them if they lost their jobs. All he thought of was cheap labour. When the Inspector leaves, Birling wants everything to return to normal. He cannot comprehend Sheila's and Eric's insistence that something has to be learnt from the whole experience. When the phone call concludes the play, J.B Priestly lets us see someone who is genuinely ignorant and unfeeling towards others and one who cannot take responsibility for what he has done. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Inspector wanted the family to share responsibility. Priestly uses the Inspector to put pressure on the family and interrogate them to find out their shameful secrets. Priestly cleverly gives the Inspector an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness. The Inspector always speaks precise, carefully and demanding as he interrogates the family and is always in control. He always seemed to know everything and this increases his supernatural quality. Priestley engages the idea of responsibility in the eyes of a child, immature, not suited to the world. Eric was the last person to be interrogated by the Inspector. Eric Birling returns to the play in Act Three and under questioning from the inspector reveals the extent of his drinking, his relationship with Eva Smith and that he had spent a night with Eva and she had fallen pregnant with his child. Eric had no stable relationship with Eva as Gerald did. It also comes to light that Eric is also an alcoholic something that he had managed to keep from his parents for a number of months. This shows him as dishonest, weak and immature. He then commits a shameful act, despite it being in Eva's favour. He steals fifty pounds - which was a lot in 1920 - from his father's office. Although this was in Eva's aid, it was still a very selfish and irresponsible. All in all Priestley is quite successful in exploring the idea of responsibility, through the characters, using dramatic techniques, using examples referring to Word War One. FAHIM TALUKDER 11TS ...read more.

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