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"We don't live alone. We are 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

"We don't live alone. We are 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? Priestley's main aim within "An Inspector Calls", is to express his political and moral values by using the characters and situations to convey the inequalities of society. He emphasises the importance of collective responsibility to show how our actions affect those around us and demonstrate that we are all responsible for each other. Priestley's attitudes towards society and class are established in 'An Inspector Calls' by his belief that within society everybody should be treated equally. The play focuses on life in which society is highly segregated creating the rigid and hierarchical class system. Women lack social and political rights, particularly those in the lower classes and they are therefore frequently exploited. Priestley uses characters such as Mr Birling to depict the arrogance of an affluent industrialist who expresses concern purely for his own image and his own interests. Birling highlights the apparent contrasts between the wealthy capitalists and the under represented workers with quotations such as, "A man has to make his own way, has to look after himself" emphasising Birling's selfish nature. ...read more.

Middle

Each of the stories that involve Eva Smith all describe different moral situations that led to a tragedy. The main function of the Inspector in 'An Inspector Calls' is to highlight the importance of collective responsibility by acting as device by which Priestley can express his views to the audience. The Inspector can be seen as a supernatural character by his ability to control the development of events in the story. As the story of each character develops, the Inspector grows in confidence and gains control over the characters. The Birlings accept that he is able to decide who is allowed to speak, who is allowed to leave, and who is allowed to see the photograph, although they know nothing about him. Despite the dismissive behaviour of Mr and Mrs Birling, the Inspector is set on probing the characters, and nothing distracts him. He is manipulative in the way he interviews and has an ability to get people to answer all of his questions, which is indicated by, "Somehow he makes you". He appears to be more concerned with what is morally right or wrong rather than what is legal or illegal. The character of Eva Smith is used by Priestley to illustrate his political and social views in order to attempt to change the audiences' attitudes towards others. ...read more.

Conclusion

When Eric comments, "The money's not the important thing. It's what happened to the girl", it is clear to the reader he has accepted his responsibility involving Eva's death. Mrs Birling is so concerned with her own self image that she doesn't care about the mistakes she has made in life, so long as it has no affect on herself or her family. Despite knowing that she has made mistakes, she chooses to ignore her faults and puts the blame onto other people. Comments such as, "You are quite wrong to suppose I shall regret what I did" describe Mrs Birling's indignation at being told she is partly to blame for Eva's death. Gerald is a much more balanced character within the play, and he remains sceptical of the Inspector throughout. Quotations such as, 'Is it a fact?' support Gerald's scepticism. He too appears to forget about the lessons he has learnt when he finds out that Eva Smith did not exist. In "An Inspector Calls", Priestley emphasis the importance of collective responsibility to enable the reader to understand that our actions affect those around us. He achieves this successfully by using the characters and situations to convey the inequalities of society and the impact that each of us can have on others. ...read more.

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