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What do you learn from this play about attitudes to social status at the time? You should refer closely to language, actions and characters in your answer.

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Introduction

What is the importance of the role of Eric Birling in this play? You should look closely at language, actions and other characters, opinions in your answer. What do you learn from this play about attitudes to social status at the time? You should refer closely to language, actions and characters in your answer. J.B Priestley's play "An Inspector Calls" has as its main theme, social responsibility. The message of the play is developed through the behaviour of the characters. Two contrasting characters are Sheila and Arthur Birling. Sheila has learned to accept responsibility for her actions whereas Arthur refuses to care. The playwright makes the reader feel sympathy for Sheila because he makes her a more likeable character. The play begins with the family celebrating Sheila and Gerald's engagement. Their party is then ruined by a visit from an Inspector Goole who is investigating the suicide of a young girl named Eva Smith. During his stay, the family all reveal their involvements with Eva and arguments arise. ...read more.

Middle

And it just suited her; she was the right type just as I was the wrong type." Sheila then goes on to say how she saw Eva and the assistant laughing at her as she was wearing the dress and how she was so furious. She then went to the manager and in recounting her story of what was said at the managers, she almost broke down in tears. She says that if she knew she couldn't take care of herself, she would never have done it. Sheila regrets what she done to Eva and knows it was a terrible thing to do: "I've never done anything like that, and I'll never, never do it again to anybody." During the entire stay of the inspector, Sheila seems to be the only member of the family who understands what's going on. She's the only one who knows that the inspector is already aware of everyone's involvement with Eva: "I'm afraid you'll say something or do something that you'll be sorry for afterwards.....he knows, of course he knows and I hate to think just how much he knows that we don't know yet. ...read more.

Conclusion

Sybil has not learnt any social responsibility and tries to ignore the fact that what she did was wrong! After Sheila's outburst about everyone pretending that nothing happened, Sybil doesn't understand why they can't go on as it was before: "Well, why shouldn't we?" She believes that Sheila and Eric are just tired and that in the morning they will be amused just as she and Arthur are. It can be argued that Sybil's attitude is Imperious and Pompous towards both the rest of the family and the inspector. The ending of the play symbolises the fact that if you do not learn your lesson the first time, you will be taught it again and again. It symbolises that you can't run from your guilt, as the Birling's will find out. Priestley uses the dramatic twist of the inspector returning at the end of the play to emphasise this point and makes it more effective by placing it just as some characters are beginning to relax. It serves to "prick" the consciences of both the characters and the audience. ...read more.

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