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The Inspector takes the shallow morality of the Birlings and shows there is no love between them - He exposes the reality of the characters.

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Introduction

English Coursework - 'An Inspector Calls' From the onset of the play we are shown a glimpse of the reality of the Birling family. The furniture appears expensive and seems to show the Birlings are a wealthy, highly regarded and reputable family. Still, the house does not appear inviting or cosy. The Inspector takes the shallow morality of the Birlings and shows there is no love between them. He exposes the reality of the characters. The stage directions convey self-satisfaction, as each character is smiling. This emphasises the characters' smugness as J.B. Priestley creates an atmosphere of superiority and arrogance, which the Inspector will eventually destroy. Sheila is very pleased with life and is rather excited about her engagement to Gerald. I think J.B Priestley is deliberately trying to portray Sheila as perhaps dizzy or unable to make an independent decision of her own. Gerald, on the other hand, appears worldly wise and quite grown up. He seems just as excited as Sheila about their marriage. However he has similar values to Mr Birling. Sheila's brother Eric is a strange character - he seems not totally at ease and quite shy. He does stand up to his father though and becomes opinionated at times. Finally Mrs Birling is a cold woman who doesn't lower herself and never stops thinking about herself. She does however seem happy about the engagement. This is the way the characters appear to the audience in the first part of the play. However some of their attitudes change as the Inspector interrogates them. Birling is an unpleasant character. On the surface he appears decent and respectable. The Inspector unleashes the genuine Mr Birling and exposes the reality under the veneer of respectability. Birling does not believe he has a responsibility to society, only to his family 'a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own'. ...read more.

Middle

Sheila is not annoyed that the Inspector is questioning the family in the way that Mr Birling is. She feels that the Inspector is not to blame and he is just doing his job. The Inspector manages to gain so much of Sheila's trust that she too believed the family should be interviewed to help solve the mystery of Eva's death. This can be seen when Mrs Birling is being questioned. The Inspector is finding it hard to get information out of Mrs Birling, just after the Inspector has shown Mrs Birling a photograph of Eva. 'You recognise her?' 'No. Why should I?' Later in the play the truth comes out that Mrs Birling had met the girl in the photo. Sheila helps persuade her mother to talk to the Inspector. This makes the audience view Sheila as a morally correct character as she always wants to know the truth and has a strong sense of right and wrong. Sheila uses a metaphor to explain what she believes the Inspector would do if the family hid information from him. 'You mustn't try to build up a kind of wall between us and that girl. If you do, then the Inspector will just break it down. And it'll be all the worse when he does.' This is a very perceptive and prescient comment from Sheila and shows how she is now sufficiently changed. This is a direct consequence of the Inspector's visit. The Inspector seems to have the power to bring out the truth in people, and to make them confess what they have done. Sheila's outburst is a direct effect of the Inspector's presence. He has a massive impact on Sheila's attitude. She is unable to accept her parents' attitude and is both amazed and concerned that they haven't learned anything from the episode. She learns of her responsibilities to others less fortunate than herself and is sensitive. ...read more.

Conclusion

When Sheila gives Gerald back the ring in Act 2 he would doubtless have wished to get back in favour with Mr and Mrs Birling. This state of mind means that he appears to finally come out on the side of Birling and he does whatever he can to be supportive towards them. Gerald feels the same as Eric and Sheila, but he cannot afford to agree with them if he wishes to get back in favour with their parents, as this is the only way that he can hope to re-start the engagement with Sheila. This is shown in his systematic destruction of the Inspector's story, in which he is constantly prompting Birling to cast doubt on each part of the tale. In the plot of 'An Inspector Calls', the characters respond to the message that they are given by the Inspector in different ways. Sheila and Eric fully understand the idea that, as the Inspector says, "We all live as one body. We don't live alone'. Birling and Mrs Birling stubbornly cling to their beliefs and Gerald also comes out on their side, although this could be a result of him trying to impress the elder Birlings. The Inspector gives a short speech before he leaves and tries to make them think of what they had done to this poor innocent girl, how each and every one of them drove her to her own suicide. Priestley uses this speech and the play to display his and many others of the times political views in a form of his own political message. The message from Priestley is that the individual and the community have responsibilities. That we can all pursue our own self-interests but we have to think about others as well as ourselves. 'We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.' Kate Andrews ...read more.

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