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John Boynton Priestley (1894-1984) wrote 'An Inspector Calls' in 1945 and it was first performed in 1946.

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Introduction

John Boynton Priestley (1894-1984) wrote 'An Inspector Calls' in 1945 and it was first performed in 1946. Priestley wrote this play to send a message to the people. During the Second World War, the people had united to fight one common enemy. This unity was what he wanted us to understand and believe in. He wanted to give everyone a choice. Should we go back to the way it was before the First World War, when everything was based on class and where an individual had to look solely after themselves, and no one else, or should we move forward, walk into a society where everyone looks out for each other, where we are all equal and we work together? He wanted people to choose. He demonstrates the difference with the older generation representing the society where you care for only yourself, and some of the younger generation represents a new society where we care for one another. Although the play was written after the Second World War, J.B. Priestley set it in 1912, even before the First World War. This was because he wanted the audience to have the benefit of hindsight, which is used to discredit Mr. Birling's pronouncements in the opening scene. When Mr. Birling, the head of the family and a respectable business man, talks of things that the audience knows is wrong, (such as his opinion of the "unsinkable" Titanic) we begin to doubt Mr. Birling's opinions, because we already know that the Titanic does, in fact, sink. In the time Priestley set his play, King Edward VII was on throne. During this time, women were still seen as lower class citizens, and were now fighting for the right to vote. This fight was called the suffrage movement. There were two main parties fighting for the vote: the NUWSS (National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies) who believed in petitions and very peaceful demonstrations and the WSPU (Women's Social and Political Union) ...read more.

Middle

Sheila can also recall the way the inspector made her feel, 'fire and blood and anguish', is how she describes her encounter. Priestly uses her as a hope for the future. Sheila is young, and is quite 'impressionable', which allowed her to be able to apprehend the faults of the society, and therefore able to create a better future. She accuses her parents of being 'childish' after the inspector left, as they are refusing to take the blame. It's like a child's situation, where the child does not want to take the blame, so they refuse to acknowledge the circumstances. It's exactly what Mr and Mrs. Birling are doing. I think that Priestley felt quite positively about Miss Sheila Birling. He uses her to show us the change from one way to another. Sheila used to be selfish, and only think about herself, but since the inspector's questionings, she has found a new way of life, and her opinions have changed. I think Priestley created this character to make us relate to her. If we entered the play with views such as Mrs. Birling and Sheila before the transformation, we may too, change, like Sheila. Mrs. Birling is a stern woman who believes the traditional system of the women being the home maker and the men being the bread maker. She accepts the role of being the submissive, accepting wife. She believes in the concept that the woman should be left at home and not question their husbands. She tries to impress this on Sheila by saying, "When you're married you'll realise that men with important work to do sometimes have to spend nearly all their time and energy on their business". This gives us a negative impression of her values, which are traditional; she is set in her ways. Mrs. Birling is more upper-class than her husband, and always tries to teach him the way he should behave, 'Arthur, you're not supposed to say such things'. ...read more.

Conclusion

'I didn't understand' she says, in an attempt to relieve herself of the blame, but that is soon forgotten when she finds out that the inspector wasn't real. Like Priestley, I believe in a society where everyone should look out for each other, and as Mrs. Birling believes strongly in the other society, where you look out for only yourself then your family, my feelings towards Mrs. Birling are negative. Eva Smith is my second favourite. Although she was written beautifully into the play, I don't think that I personally can relate to her much. I understand all of her actions and beliefs, but I think that I can never be that good. She is an innocent moral who stood up for what she believed in. I feel a lot of sympathy to her and her unborn child. I feel that Sheila is my most favourite character as I can relate to her the most. She is the change in the society, and her response to the queries are perhaps the same as mine would have been. I know that I would have changed my ways after hearing and acknowledging Eva Smith and for this, I appreciate the fact that Sheila Birling was in the play to show us that change. J.B. Priestley's message (told to us via the Inspector) tells us that we should have collective responsibility, and share our duties equally between us all. Do we really want to live in a world where those of higher class choose our fate, or do we want to choose our own fate? His message is still relevant today, as I think we still live in a society where those of higher class are those with more power (although it is far less today than it was back then). But even if we did live in a society such as the one Priestly desires, we still need to learn his message, as we need to remember our responsibility for others and ourselves. An Inspector Calls - J.B. Priestley Lena Tran 10A Page 1 of 7 ...read more.

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