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We don’t live alone. We are all members of one body. We are responsible for each other.’ What is Priestley’s main aim in An Inspector Calls? How successfully does he achieve it?

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Introduction

Rosanna Moss, 11H G1 14th November 2000 'We don't live alone. We are all members of one body. We are responsible for each other.' What is Priestley's main aim in An Inspector Calls? How successfully does he achieve it? John Boynton Priestley was a committed socialist. He was born in 1894 in Bradford and his mother died the same year. Priestley was raised by his father, who was also a passionate socialist. At the age of fourteen he became a junior clerk at a wool firm in his home town, before joining the army in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War. During his time spent fighting in France, Priestley developed a strong sense of the class divisions that were an integral part of the capitalist system; 'I went into that war free of any class feeling, no doubt I came out with a chip on my shoulder; a big heavy chip, probably some friend's thigh bone.' Priestley grew to hate the way a few rich and greedy businessmen and industrialists exploited and abused the working classes, for the sake of greater profits. In Priestley's mind, it was simply the nature of this society which had made war in 1914 inevitable. ...read more.

Middle

Mrs Birling also treats Eva Smith as a second-class citizen, and airs these views to the inspector; Mrs Birling: 'And in any case, I don't suppose for a moment that we can understand why the girl committed suicide. Girls of that class--' (Act Two, page 30). Like Mr Birling, Mrs Birling feels no sense of responsibility towards Eva Smith at all; Sheila: 'Mother, she's just died a horrible death - don't forget.' Mrs Birling: 'I'm very sorry. But I think she only had herself to blame.' (Act Two, page 43). From An Inspector Calls we can also find clear examples of the men's attitudes towards the women, and also the attitudes of the women towards their own place in society. In 1912, women had not yet gained the right to vote, and had no real rights. Perhaps by highlighting this fact to an audience in the 1940's, where women had more rights and freedom than ever before, Priestley is trying to show that society can change, and becomes all the better for it; Sheila: 'What's this all about?' Birling: 'Nothing to do with you Sheila, run along.' (Act One, page 17). Birling: '...I protest against the way in which my daughter, a young, unmarried girl, is being dragged into this--' Inspector: (sharply)'Your daughter isn't living on the moon. ...read more.

Conclusion

This difference between them underlines the fact that Sheila is willing to accept change, whereas Gerald does not want to. I think Priestley chose a good medium with which to put across his views, because a play based upon a possible real-life situation gives the audience an example of the evils of capitalism which they can relate to their own lives. Perhaps including more examples of the benefits of a socialist society, rather than concentrating on the disadvantages of capitalism could have further endorsed Priestley's pro-socialist message. Priestley delivered his opinions in a concise and accessible way. Obviously, there was a mood for change after the Second World War, Tony Benn writes; '...He (Priestley) wrote An Inspector Calls in 1944 and consciously intended it to make a contribution to public understanding which, in its turn, he hoped might lead to a Labour victory after the war was over... The story of that Labour government is now history, with the welfare state, the national health service, full employment and a huge house building programme which gave the people of this country their best chance ever. I believe that Priestley, with his commitment, his perceptive mind and his skilful pen, contributed greatly to the mood of hope which produced that change.' ...read more.

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