JB Priestley, the playwright of 'An Inspector Calls,' chose to highlight the death of an innocent girl in order to show the audience how important it is that we take responsibility for our actions in our community.
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An Inspector Calls Coursework JB Priestley, the playwright of 'An Inspector Calls,' chose to highlight the death of an innocent girl in order to show the audience how important it is that we take responsibility for our actions in our community. It is 1912, a labour shortage seems imminent and war inevitable but somewhere in upper middle class England a family is being confronted with a tragedy of their own. Each of the Birlings; Arthur (Mr. Birling), Sybil (Mrs. Birling), Sheila and Eric as well as Gerald Croft somehow affect the life of Eva Smith until she is forced to commit suicide. Of the five characters, Sheila and Eric change for the better while their parents, Arthur and Sybil, remain their old selves taking no responsibility for the death of the girl. Gerald Croft seems to be capable of changing but takes the easy route and denies responsibility after it appears the inspector was a 'fake'. It is very easy to notice how the Birlings and Gerald change (or how they fail to) because of their distinctive characteristics before the inspector arrives. The family have just celebrated Gerald and Sheila's engagement and are 'pleased with themselves'. Mr. Birling, a self described 'hard-headed business man,' is especially happy that his daughter is marrying Gerald Croft because Gerald's immediate family run a rival business 'Crofts Limited'. He sees the marriage as a potential business opportunity and seems more concerned with this than the love that the two should share.
They refuse any responsibility for their actions and genuinely believe they aren't to blame. Mrs. Birling goes as far as to place the blame solely on the father of the unborn child - which unknown to her is her son Eric. But Mr. Birling by this time has lost any credit he may have had for previous statements about the 'unsinkable' Titanic and that there war was not going to happen. The dramatic irony is that these things did happen; the characters in the play do not have the luxury of knowing this but the audience in 1945 would have. Gerald's reaction changes through the course of the inspector's stay. When he first hears of how Mr. Birling fired Eva Smith after the strike he supports Mr. Birling's decision noting he 'couldn't of done anything else'. As he has done before, he is agreeing with Mr. Birling, but this stops once he realises he may have played a part in the girl's death at the end of Act One. At the first mention of 'Daisy Renton' Gerald becomes 'startled'. Interestingly, Gerald still maintains that they don't 'come into this suicide business' and that nothing should be said to the inspector. Later on when Gerald finds out the Inspector was a hoax he rids himself of any guilt; this shows that Gerald believes in the philosophy of only cheating if you're caught and has no real conscience.
The play shows that the world continued to make mistakes and wars became the product of those mistakes. If we continue to make mistakes then more wars would come as a result. Another thing Birling mentions in his speech is that 'in 1940 - you may be giving a little party like this,' of course, the war was taking place at this time, people would have remembered the terror of the war and associated it with the ignorance of Mr. Birling's character. The way the Birlings' pride gets in their way of having any real feelings is apparent; Mr. Birling being more concerned about business propositions than his daughter's marriage, being more concerned about a public scandal and his knighthood being in jeopardy than how he may have driven a young girl down a spiral to suicide. To conclude, the clear message set by the ambiguous character of the inspector is that we all have a responsibility in our society to look after each other. It was written in a time when much hope had to be placed on the future; the end of a war had left millions killed and people clearly didn't want to see history repeated. The drastic changes shown by Sheila and Eric give hope to a new world and the message given is still relevant in today's society where much emphasis is placed on avidity and one's own benefit; most people do not see the need to help those they do not know, but we must treat others as we would like ourselves to be treated. Stephen Pritchard 10G 28/04/2007
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