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Who is most responsible for Eva Smith's death? How does Priestley use her death to make a political point?

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Introduction

Haydn Alwahab Lower 5 10/05/03 20-Century Drama Assignment: Who is most responsible for Eva Smith's death? How does Priestley use her death to make a political point? The opening scene to the play 'An Inspector Calls' is vitally important as this is where the audience is introduced to the different characters, where their actions, expression, the way they speak, their appearance. All these affect the audience's impression of the character. The playwright J B Priestley creates in the first scene a dramatic impact, for us to get a certain prejudice against the character of Mr. Birling through dramatic irony. In the first scene we learn to a great extent the personality traits of the different members of the family. This plays a major role in the plot because we find all the members of the family treated Eva Smith in the way they thought were suitable; Mr. Birling as usual shifts the blame of her death unto other characters. The playwright has written this play to make a political point, and gain support for his socialist ideas from the audience. In this essay I intend to show who was most responsible for Eva's death and why and to suggest how J B Priestley uses this play to make political point. At the time the play was written, the world was going through a very important political phase. It was first performed a week before World War Two ended and set before World War One. J B Priestley wrote this play as he saw an urgent need for social change and used the play to express his desire for social equality. ...read more.

Middle

This is the reaction JB Priestley wanted to get from his audience. He wanted people to feel sympathy and care for each other and take responsibility for their actions. On reflection, perhaps Sheila does deserve more blame than her father. Although Sheila shows more remorse than Mr. Birling, her reasons for getting Eva sacked are less valid. Mr. Birling saw Eva as a ringleader of troublemakers who could disrupt his production and exploitation of cheap labour. Sheila however got rid of her for a far less important reason caused by her own temper, jealousy and spoilt behaviour. She used her power to get Eva dismissed. Gerald Croft becomes involved with the girl at this stage but she has now changed her name to Daisy Renton in an attempt to start a new life. She is needy and considers prostitution. We should not condemn her for this because she had no parents and there was no welfare state in those days for her to turn to, so it was probably a choice between starvation and prostitution. Gerald first met Daisy in a bar at the theatre. He saw Alderman Meggarty (a well-respected person in society) harassing her and went to her rescue. He took her for a drink and a meal because he pitied her and he learnt she was desperate and so let her use his friend's rooms. She then became his mistress and they were together for the whole summer of 1911. He finished with her and cast her aside because of his relationship with Sheila Birling Although he was probably fond of Daisy, there was never going to be any future in the relationship because of the class differences. ...read more.

Conclusion

She tells Eva to "go and look for the father of the child. It's his responsibility". She thinks Eva�s case is not a deserving one and that people should sort out their own self-inflicted problems instead of putting the responsibility on others. She is smugly complacent and believes she has done nothing wrong. As she tells the inspector, "I accept no blame for it at all". Out of the Birling family I feel most disgusted by Eric's actions, firstly because of his drinking, which leads to more and more problems. He then forcefully made love to Eva although he had not raped her. He did however threaten to make a row. He did in a certain way force Eva to have sexual intercourse with him. Furthermore he then does not face up to his problems he steals money from his father's accounts, then when she does not accept the stolen monies, he leaves her. I feel Eric Birling was the guiltiest of Eva committing suicide because he laid on her the burden of a baby and did not face his responsibilities. I feel this play had a political motive. J B Priestley was a renowned socialist, this play was written at a time the Labour party emerged and the welfare state was being created. This play had a purpose and that was to influence the audience on socialist ideas. The playwright presents Mr. Birling (the conservative) as a disliked character; on the other hand the inspector (a socialist) is presented as a more compassionate and caring character. The other political motive was to change the ideas of middle-classed people in Britain at the time, and J B Priestley warns if we do not try to help each other more wars, and problems, will occur. ...read more.

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