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The Theme of an Inspector Calls is Collective Responsibility. How Does J.B. Priestley present this as the Drama Unfolds?

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Louise Squires The Theme of an Inspector Calls is Collective Responsibility. How Does J.B. Priestley present this as the Drama Unfolds? Priestley's play; 'An Inspector Calls' was written in 1944-5 but was set in 1912. It is interesting that Priestly set the story just before the First World War, having written it just after the Second World War; when the idea of people and countries are collectively responsible for what happens in other parts of the globe just as much as they are responsible to themselves and immediate family. Priestley sets the scene in the front room of middle to upper class family, headed by Arthur Birling, together with his wife, two children, fianc�, maid and unexpected visitor of Inspector Goole. The scene never leaves the original set of the front room. Priestley takes us through the drama exposing each individual for their bad behaviour towards others and their lack of responsibility to the less fortunate and to society as a whole. Is 'Eva smith' the same girl, each abused in their own way? Or was she a totally different person in case? Priestly shows us through the dialogue that each of the characters has not only a responsibility to Eva, but also collectively to each other. ...read more.


A robust character he fills the stage with a purposefulness of trying to make the family see the errors of their ways and be more responsible for their actions as individuals and collectively. As the drama unfolds each character appears to have known Eva Smith in some way. Birling hired Eva at his factory, she asked for a pay rise but Mr Birling would not give it to her. On one hand, Eric believed this to be perfectly fine, while Gerald's view was that she was causing trouble. She only wanted a little more money to live on. But Birling was having none of it, so he discharged her! 'Well, it's my duty to keep labour costs down, and if I'd agreed to this demand for a new rate we'd have added twelve percent to our labour costs.' At first, Birling was very anxious as to why he had anything to do with Eva Smith's suicide. 'As it happened more than eighteen months ago-nearly two years ago-obviously it has nothing whatever to do with the wretched girl's suicide.' He did not believe or understand that this had anything to do with him or his family until the play unfolded, even then could not recognise his part in the tragedy. ...read more.


Sheila and Eric though responsible for their part in Eva's death eventually do realise their mistakes and refuse to go on pretending. While the Birlings' and Gerald still close their eyes, believing it to be Sheila and Eric's age as to their change of attitude, the door bell rings again and an Inspector Calls! Was Priestley in this play reminding us that we are responsible not only for ourselves, for our family, but we are responsible for all of the world's population? What we do today has a knock on effect to those of tomorrow. He wrote the play after the world had seen two world wars. The first believed to be the war to end all wars and yet within 21 years another war had begun - an inspector calling for the second time. Birling to Eric - 'Glad you mentioned it, Eric. I'm coming to that. Just because the Kaiser makes a speech or two. Or a few German officers have too much to drink and begin talking nonsense; you'll hear some people say that war in inevitable. And to that I say- fiddlesticks! The Germans don't want war. Nobody wants war except some half civilised folks in the Balklands. And why? There are too much at stake these days and everything to lose and nothing to gain by war.' ...read more.

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