An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley

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An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley

This play was written in 1945 the year World War II finished but the

story itself is set in 1912, in which conservative forces continually

portrayed the working classes as a threat to capitalism, and

capitalists such as Arthur Birling, who is the prime example of a

wealthy industrialist. Due to this, the backward-looking government

resisted creating any reforms to help the working classes many of

which were not able to buy enough food to survive. Most of the nation

was considered as the working class.

However in contrast 1945 was a time of great optimism and of a desire

not to repeat the mistakes of the past - since 1914 there had been two

world wars and a terrible Depression. Social barriers had been

abolished by the wars; everyone was forced to pull together and

support their country. By setting the play in 1912 Priestley is

reminding a 1945 audience of an era long gone that should never be

returned to. The strong socialist message of the play ('we don't live

alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other',

says the Inspector) is Priestley's way of conveying his support for

socialist principles; they were the way forward, towards a 'brave new

world' in 1945.

The play starts with an apparently normal scene from Brumley, a

fictional industrial city in 1912. The Birling family are an

upper-middle-class family and they are celebrating their daughter,

Sheila's engagement to the wealthy Gerald Croft. However, there are

several hints of unease which include Mrs Birlings stage directions

'her husband's social superior' reproaches Mr. Birling after he slips

up by complim...

... middle of paper ...

... mystery (why Eva killed herself) and the

audience are left clues as to 'whodunit'. However since none of the

characters have done anything illegal the main function of the play is

a moral one.

We never see Eva Smith therefore we cannot pass judgement on her as an

individual. All we are allowed to see is the way she is exploited so

the only way we are able to view her is as the embodiment of the

working classes. The fact that all of the characters are highly

symbolic enables us to view this not only as a play about the Birling

family, but about the whole of society, and our own flaws.

It is due to this that the play is still relevant today. In my

opinion, 'An Inspector Calls' will never cease to be relevant,

challenging and controversial. There will always be Eva Smiths because

there will always be Mr Birlings.
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