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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 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? In the play an 'Inspector Calls' important messages are presented which can be used for any society. I am going to explore the way Priestley communicates these messages. 'An Inspector Calls' was written in 1945, however is set in an earlier time period of before World War 1. The first impression we get from the play is that it is a typical detective story. This is due to the fact that a dinner consisting of the Birling family and their guest Gerald Croft, is interrupted by the arrival of an inspector who presents the news that there has been a suicidal death of a young woman. This ruins the Birling's evening and some important moral values are also learned through the enigmatic figure of the inspector. Priestley believed that everything you do has an effect on other people. This is one of the aims presented in the play. Another message is that upper and middle class people have societal responsibilities. I believe Priestley's main aim was to show his support of socialism as opposed to capitalism. Priestley felt that people needed to practice a compassionate form of socialism. The text of the play is controlled by Priestley in order for his opinion to be expressed. Priestley was a socialist and he preferred this to capitalism as a political belief. Socialism is the median between capitalism and communism. Socialism entails the possibility of free speech and an equal society in where people are restricted in their attempts to use their power to earn more money. Priestley uses a diverse range of characters. Arthur Birling and Eva Smith are such different characters. Priestley deliberately juxtaposes these characters in the society of that time period so that the social division between different social classes is made obvious. ...read more.

Middle

The fact that every person did not help or support her, but denied her drove her to suicide. Priestly is trying to teach us that all our actions have an effect on people's lives; it teaches us to have a societal conscience and take responsibility. Priestley's main aim is to show his support of socialism and to encourage others to do the same; he sows the importance of socialism using the extreme example of the suicidal death of Eva Smith. The inspector represents socialism whilst the juxtaposed figure of Arthur Birling represents capitalism. Capitalism is all about accumulating as much wealth as you can for yourself and family. Arthur Birling believes his ideals are correct. He tries to impose his family with his main principles relating to capitalism. This includes his basic belief that "a man has to make his own way-has to look after himself- and his family too, of course, if he has one-and so long as he does that he won't come to much harm. This statement made by Arthur Birling is contradicted through the harsh example of Eva Smith. One reason she committed suicide was because Birling kicked Eva out of a job solely to benefit himself. Another opinion expressed by Birling relating to capitalism is "But the way some of these crank talk and unite now, you'd think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive- community and all that nonsense". Birling is saying here that he is opposed to socialism. Socialism is about working together as a community. Again Birling is proved wrong by the fact that if he supported Eva Smith she would not be dead with her insides burnt out. This makes that socialism is the way forward as everything Birling says is proven incorrect. Birling constantly expresses the need for being heartless, tough and selfish when it comes to business. ...read more.

Conclusion

The younger generation, in contrast show guilt and remorse, Sheila says "but now you're beginning all over again". Gerald Croft has been raised with some sense of responsibility towards the less privileged of the society, but these views are not felt by the older generation because of the traditions of his class. The message here is that traditions will always get in the way of fair and equal treatment of everyone. Eva Smith represents ordinary people, hence the surname "Smith" which is very common. Eva's character represents lower class people who have been destroyed by indifference and social divisions when they are denied dignity, respect or compassion. Priestley conjures up sympathy in the audience as a young life is destroyed by the Birlings, who represent upper class people's complacency, selfishness and total disregard for others. The audience become psychologically drawn into believing that no girl has died and that Birling family are innocent. The shock at the need makes you realise that the family may not be innocent after all. When the inspector arrives he says, "A young woman has died in an infirmary". In the closing speech by Birling he states that, "A girl has just died- on her way to the infirmary". This makes the audience believe that this is a deliberate action and that the Birling family are to blame. The messages Priestley present in the play are vital to any society. There is a strong message about the need to care for others in society. The characters in the Birling family are unamiable, however some of them, such as Sheila face up to their actions and are able to learn a social message we can empathise for them. Due to this Priestley's message has been conveyed effectively. Priestley's aim is to influence the audience about societal responsibilities which all leads to the need for socialism. There are twists and confusion deliberately placed in the play to make the audience ponder further the aims of Priestley in the play. There is considerable dramatic impact used in the play so the audience were consistently interested in the play. By Oluwatoyin Aiyegbusi ...read more.

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