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We are responsible for each other, says the Inspector. What issues about responsibility does 'An Inspector Calls' bring to light?

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"We are responsible for each other", says the Inspector. What issues about responsibility does 'An Inspector Calls' bring to light? How does Priestly use dramatic structures and devices to convey his message? Do you think the play still conveys an important message about responsibility for audiences today? J.B Priestly wrote 'An Inspector Calls' just as the 2nd World War was coming to an end in 1945. The play was based in the time just before the 1st World War, around 1912. At this time the wealthy were considered superior to the poor, all this had to change, though, during the war, as all the classes were forced to mingle together in the armed forces, evacuation centres and in air raid shelters. The play shows all the members either accepting or rejecting responsibility; in this essay I will explain this. In the opening scene of 'An Inspector Calls', we see a contented Mr Birling enjoying dinner whilst celebrating the engagement of his daughter, Sheila Birling, to a respectable, very wealthy young man Gerald Croft, son of Mr Birlings 'friendly' rival in business Sir George Croft, of Crofts Limited. Mrs Birling and Eric Birling are also present. Mr Birling is pontificating to the younger male characters. Gerald really seems to agree with most of Mr Birling's views on life and the future. Eric doesn't seem to agree with his father as much though, and often can appear to be rude to his father. ...read more.


I started off by saying that the play opens with a contented, optimistic household really looking forward to a prosperous future. Movements are easy and comfortable; everyone seems pleased and relaxed with one another. Conversation is upbeat and pleasant, while Mr Birling offers advice and his knowledge. Sheila encourages her mother to 'drink to their health' while Gerald offers his congratulations to Birling as they chat. The audience however, realise that Mr Birling isn't all that knowledgeable as he talks about the impossibility of war, but war broke out only two years after the play was set, something the audience would know, this is quite a large piece of dramatic irony and is made quite obvious. There is also another piece of dramatic irony quite close in the play to this. Mr Birling mentions in passing the Titanic, describing the ship as- " Forty six thousand eight hundred tons - New York in five days - and every luxury - and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable. That's what you've got to keep your eye on, facts like that, progress like that." This is very ironic, as it is widely known that the Titanic sunk on her maiden voyage, and although it was thought at the time the Titanic was unsinkable, it never did make it to New York in 'five days' like Mr Birling described. The audience would recognise this instantly as dramatic irony and also realise Mr Birling often doesn't really know what he's talking about. ...read more.


His instability is probably a new side of his character to Sheila and one she probably doesn't admire. I think Priestly uses the return of characters very wisely. He uses valid reasons for them to leave and then on their return they find themselves more involved all of a sudden. Eric returns to find his mother has been digging his proverbial grave for him, stating- "Secondly, I blame the young man who was the father of the child she was going to have. If, as she said, he didn't belong to her class, and he was some drunken young idler, then that's all the more reason he shouldn't escape. He should be made an example of. If the girls death is due to anybody, then its him." This last sentence is particularly interesting. Little does she know, in a clear piece of dramatic irony, she is naming her own, upper-class son, as the main carrier of responsibility for Eva Smiths death. Although later she attempts to redeem herself by saying things such as 'Eric isn't like that'. It's quite clear she has a limited knowledge of the outside world and closer to home happenings. This point is backed up when Alderman Meggarty is mentioned as a drunk and general layabout, which seems common knowledge among the party and the Inspector, but Mrs Birling sees it as a 'revelation' and says 'we are learning something', Sheila replies ' Everyone knows about Big Joe Meggarty," this says to me Sheila is more aware and awake to the happenings than her blinkered mother. Craig Roe ...read more.

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