An Inspector Calls


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An Inspector Calls: Set In 1912; written 1940's but a play for the
millennium. What important issues are raised by the play? How does
Priestly use the Settings, Characters and Events to convey?

I've been studying the play 'An Inspector Calls' that is concerned
about problems and issues of year 1912 and used the characters of the
play to allow his feelings of the time to be put across to others, in
1912 and now. Many of the problems faced then are still around today
and will be probably will be in years to come, despite him trying to
make changes in the way we think. However the play was wrote in 1946,
just after the Second World War, he was trying to make people aware of
what was going on and how this shouldn't happen again. At the time
there were a lot of coal miners on strike for having low wages,
working, living and conditions also Dockers for the same reasons
nothing was done. The poor were manipulated by the rich into what they
wanted, for instance take the World War Two Germany the much stronger,
powerful and richer country, against poorer countries such as Poland
and there was many more countries in similar situations. The play was
attempting to get across, that we need to look after the people and
things around us no matter how small, as it's not acceptable to use
them to our advantages:

Remember this. One Eva Smith has gone but there are millions and
millions of Eva Smith and John Smiths still left with us.

There were always people there to look after or at least realise about
the 'Eva Smiths' in the world. In a world scale other countries came
into help the poorer countries but notice its always too late in a
way, people have already been hurt, In the play there was Sheila and
Eric Birling and of course the inspector. A more recent event like
this took place in 1982, the Falklands. Argentina invaded the Islands,
thinking nothing would be done because they're so small. The British
advanced to help their fellow men, and stopped the conflict in its
tracks. They made Argentina pay for it, in the death of their own men,
'then they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish', The
Inspector (page 56). I think the ideas of Priestly were heard by the
people, but still have not embedded themselves into today's society:

Nonsense! You'll have a good laugh over it yet.

We've been had, that's all. Birling(both p70)

This is only Mr Birling's general opinion but this could also be the

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opinion of many more people now and then. Just after this there is a
phone call saying 'a girl has just died and an Inspector will be
around shortly', I feel this could be a hidden message. It was as
though they didn't learn their lesson and had to be taught once more
again and this time definitely in 'anguish'. This also happened to the
Germans, it seemed like they had been put to sleep after WWI, but no
they certainly hadn't and returned to their old ways of controlling
the small eastern countries, the First World War was far from a world
war. The Second World War basically Germany and Japan against the real
deal the rest of the world! So the Birlings (Mr and Mrs Birling) may
have escaped from what was thought to be inevitable outcome the first
time, however they weren't so lucky later on when told a real
inspector would be coming round.

The Inspector is major character in the play as he is the man who
exposes the seedy under belly of the Birling family. He uses an
unusual style to interrogate the family with, none of which a normal
inspector would use:

Don't stammer and yammer at me again man. I'm losing my patience with
you people. Inspector (page 56)

No Inspector would normally talk to people of a higher class in this
way, especially in the time it is set, it would be preposterous. His
style of interrogation allows him to take full control of the
situation and force the family to spill information of what they've
been up to. Although the Inspector may seem like an obnoxious man, he
is trying to tell the Birlings a valuable lesson. The Inspector always
has the right questions and answers and the Birlings soon learn not to
challenge him, as he will shoot you back down. He dominates over the
family telling what he want and when he wants 'Don't start on that I
want to get on', the Inspector is untouchable even when found to be a
fake in a sort of way he gave them a taste of their own medicine. What
was the Inspector? Was he genuine, I think not as he never enforced
anything on to the Birlings (laws, police, arrest) however he may have
been from the future and warned them of what was to come but in my
opinion, no. I think he was more likely to be their conscious but more
simply the voice of J.B Priestly carrying on his message.

To understand the message of responsibility, we need to understand the
characters that propelled the word of Priestly through out the play of
An Inspector Calls. In my eyes the character that stand out for me in
the play, as the main perpetrator is Mr Birling. Mr Birling is a
self-made businessman that climbed his way out of poverty. This would
make one think he would have a larger horizon on the issues of
responsibility, but no quite the opposite actually. This is because he
is man who made his own way through the ranks with no helping from
anybody else but him! This makes him bitter of people who aren't
pulling their own to help themselves, Mr Birling is been a hypocrite,
not allowing this girl to try and help her self, but was also helping
her fellow colleagues. Mr Birling probably was much like this when he
was making his way up, but wouldn't like to see somebody else do the
same. Mr Birling is extremely hard-headed and stubborn, not letting a
man take an inch:

If you don't come sharply on these people they'd soon be asking for
the earth.

This shows how Birlings mind thinks, having a negative attitude
towards his employees and thinking of only one man, him! Despite
Birling been a major culprit in the crime he still fails to realise
that he was in the wrong and at the end refused to accept
responsibility for his action. A well known saying is out of sight out
if mind.

Other characters that play a part in the play are Sheila and Eric
Birling. They are two, which I talked about before, explaining how
they are the good Samaritans of the house hold, usually, and had just
behaved out of character for one moment but soon after was deeply
upset about her action and tried to help the inspector in any way
possible:

And if your not telling the truth why should the inspector apologize?
And can't you see both of you, you're just making it worse? Sheila
pages 41-2

This just proves how Sheila is taking a responsible role, telling her
parents how to behave. Sheila is attempting to show her own mother
that honesty is really the best policy and how you cant hide behind an
Iron Curtain forever. Eric shows some understanding to the situation,
when the inspector asks if he'll remember he replies with, 'My God -
I'm not likely to forget'. These are strong and powerful words from
such a young man, it really gives one an insight into his mind, you
truly know with words like that, he is truly sorry about the whole
episode and will never forget!

I think this play will continue to be printed as book and continue to
be shown in The West End as play. This is because I feel
unfortunately, The mistakes that people made in 1912 and the issues in
1912 will still be around in many years to come, because we sill now
have constant war throughout the world, Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and
many more. Ever since history has been recorded there has not been one
day where there has not been war on Earth, not one! When will man wake
up and see the suffering and pain around them, however I feel they see
it but choose not look at it. We need to realise that there is no
stronger and weaker man we all help to carry each other in this world
today, the people who think their better, need to see that their not.
In a way I feel sorry for Priestly because he failed, he had message,
It was wrote such a long ago, I ponder over the message, thinking


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