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What methods does Priestley use to present selfishness in An Inspector Calls?

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Priestley criticises the selfishness of people like the Birlings. What methods does he use to present this selfishness? Priestley presents the theme of selfishness in AIC throughout the play as it is an important part of expressing to the audience how society was in the past. He shows this idea in the Birling family along with Gerald who previously had made decisions which they didn?t care/understand how they damaged the lower class. Selfishness is presented in multiple ways. Firstly Priestley talks to Mr Birling about how he fired Eva Smith from her job, just because she asked for higher pay. He explains that ?it?s [his] duty to keep labour costs down? and ?they could go and work somewhere else?. ...read more.


Gerald, Mr and Mrs Birling all don?t accept their responsibility for what happened to Eva after the Inspector visits them. Gerald seems to feel emotional when he learns about Daisy?s death, exclaiming ?In that case ? as I?m rather more ? upset ? by this business?? The use of the hyphens perhaps further express how he felt about her and he shows genuine sadness. However, at the end of the play, after deciding the Inspector was a hoax, he decides that he didn?t need to be emotional at all. He says to Sheila, ?Everything?s all right now, Sheila. Now what about this ring?? The fact that he has changed his mind so quickly shows the audience how he doesn?t understand that everything isn?t ?all right? for Eva. ...read more.


Priestley shows selfishness by conveying how society at the time could be so selfish that they didn?t even stop to think about others in their families, only for themselves. Also as Mr Birling?s desire for a knighthood has not changed after all that has happened the audience would understand how it didn?t matter, to the higher class of the society at the time, what damage they did to the lower class as long as they kept their reputation. The consequences of selfishness have a huge impact on Eva Smith; the audience would now consider their own actions in society. The older generation conclude that if the Inspector is a hoax then his message makes no difference to them. Priestly contrastingly convinces us that where or not the Inspector is real his message should be important to change how people treat each other in society. ...read more.

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