Priestley's Presentation of the Inspector in An Inspector Calls

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Priestley's Presentation of the Inspector in An Inspector Calls

To properly answer the question, we must firstly consider what society

was really like during the time that the play is based and then

compare it to the time it was preformed. During the early 1900's, if

you were rich, life was good. The British Empire was at its peak and

trade unions were not powerful enough to cause significant grief for

factory owners, such as Arthur Birling or Gerald Croft. A rich person

was pretty much untouchable. On the other hand, if you were poor, it

was very different. With very limited employment rights and no

organised state welfare, you were practically a slave to the owner of

the local factory. This kind of society is considered now, by most,

and back then by some, morally wrong. This society is shown through

Priestley's characters, which, it could be argued, should not be

looked at in isolation, but should be viewed as archetypes of society

at the time. By viewing the characters of the play in this way, we can

see what Priestley's political and social views of society were. The

way Priestley used stage directions and character entries and exits

throughout the play was very effective and somewhat crucial to the

effect his political message had.

The focal point of An Inspector Calls is the inspector and how he

presents Priestley's message and how the Birling household is affected

by it. The play itself is set in the Mr & Mrs .Birling comfortable

home. They are having a party to celebrate the marriage of the

daughter, Sheila, to Gerald Croft, the rich son of a successful

factory owner and Lord. During this party, a supposed inspector,


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... work into its

plot a rich and in depth look at the wickedness and weakness of the

people in that "upper" class bracket. When reading and then further

analysing this play, something struck me. The whole play is a long

fable. It tells the story of the Birlings, shows the message and then

tells the audience not to worry, we can still change. Also, I would

like to remind you that Priestley's message holds true to this very

day. I will leave you now with the quote that best illustrates and

embodies this message. During a conversation with the Inspector in act

one Gerald states that

'After all, you know, we are respectable citizens, not criminals'

To which the Inspector replies:

'Sometimes, there is not as much difference as you would think. If it

was left to me, I don't think I would know where to draw the line.'
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