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"We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other". This is Priestley's main aim in An Inspector Calls. How successful is he in achieving this?

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Introduction

"We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other". This is Priestley's main aim in An Inspector Calls. How successful is he in achieving this? JB Priestly wrote 'An Inspector Calls' to enhance the message that 'we don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other'. This is something Priestly felt strongly about and he succeeded in representing his views through the character of the Inspector in the play itself. He wanted to communicate the message that our actions, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, always affect others. He uses the downfall of Eva Smith and a chain of events to demonstrate this. This leads to a very convincing and well-devised play, which puts across JB Priestley's views clearly and precisely. In Edwardian Britain there was a great difference in the roles of men and women in society and the outlook of what and was not accepted differed substantially. A prime example of this in the play is when Mr Birling says 'Nothing to do with you, Sheila. Run along.' This tells us that women are treated as inferior to men as they should not interfere with their conversations. For example, upper class men were encouraged to gain sexual experience with lower class women. This way, women were preserved until the wedding night as a sign of purity. ...read more.

Middle

'Still I can't accept responsibility. If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we'd had anything to do with, it would be very awkward wouldn't it?' Birling is an example of a typical Edwardian Upper class man. He feels because he was within his rights it is not necessary for him to feel any guilt what so ever. He fails to understand the message of responsibility the Inspector is striving to deliver and so when he is interrogated by the real inspector he will not do anything differently and will therefore face another repeated circle of events. Mrs. Birling reacts indifferently to the news about the death. She is the person who denied Eva Smith help when she most needed it. Mrs Birling runs a charity shop, but denied Eva any help although she was heard to say 'Yes. We've done a great deal of useful work in helping deserving cases'. She overruled her committee and rejected Eva's cause because at first Eva called herself 'Miss Birling'. She used this name because she was carrying Eric's child. But Mrs. Birling does not know this and fails to see and understand what has happened. She is unwilling to accept any responsibility for Eva's death. The inspector asks Mrs Birling who she blames, she replies 'First, the girl herself'. This is rather ironic considering it was her and her family's interferences with her that resulted in her death. ...read more.

Conclusion

'You began to learn something. And you've stopped. You're ready to go on in the same old way'. She irritated and disgusted with her family and forces them to consider their actions. Essentially though, she has learned her lesson and like Eric, she new moral when the event reoccurs. Eva is described as 'lively... charming...with soft brown hair'. This instantly captures an image of an attractive young girl and makes us feel sympathy for her, which is exactly what Priestley wants. She is Priestley's representation of the working class. It is unlikely she is real because each one of the Birling's is shown a different photo of her or no photo at all. But it is irrelevant whether Eva is real or not because the Birling's still behaved the way they did. The whole family's actions are the cause of Eva's death however the message about responsibility the Inspector presents is only take on board by Eric and Sheila. In conclusion, Priestley clearly gets across his message of responsibility towards others in the play. A clever script cunningly executed points out Priestley's views to the audience. 'Responsibility' is the focal point of the play and is consistently addressed at the end of each interrogation, but the Birlings fail to recognise this. Only Sheila and Eric will act differently when the event is repeated according to Ouspenksky's theory of time. The others though are destined to the same fete and will face the same treatment over and over again until they understand the message of responsibility the Inspector is teaching. ...read more.

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