An Inspector Calls

An Inspector Calls

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An Inspector Calls

'An Inspector Calls' was written by J.B Priestley in 1944. The play
was set 32 years before the play was actually written. It was set
around the year 1912. Britain in the early 1910's was very much a
strong, powerful business nation, one of the richest in the world. For
large factory and business owners, it was a time for great success.

When J.B Priestly wrote the play in 1944, World War 2 was occurring
and Britain was involved. The world was turned into chaos and the
ideas of highly powered people of the past had been one of its
majoring contributing factors.

'An Inspector Calls' is about a family called the Birling's which
consist of Mr. Arthur Birling and his wife, his daughter Sheila and
her fiancce Gerald and Eric, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Birling. They are
a middleclass family in a town called Brumley. The play is based on a
girl called Eva Smith who committed suicide by drinking disinfectant.
The inspector then visits the Birling's house on the night of Sheila
and Gerald's engagement. He interviews all the members of the family
and without them realizing, they all have an awful story to say and
they all have part to play to her death. At the end of the play, it
ends with a very mind thinking twist which you end up asking yourself,
how did he know? The twist is the inspector is telling this story
about a girl who swallowed disinfectant and questions all the family
and they all have something to say about themselves and Eva Smiths
relationship. When the inspector leaves, Mr. Birling phones up the
police to see if girl has died tonight. The police reply no there
hasn't been but when Mr. Birling hangs up the phone, the police call
straight back and say someone has just reported a girl committing
suicide by swallowing disinfectant. How did the inspector know that
the girl was going to die?

J.B Priestley's aims are to show the audience that middle classed
families in the 1910's were not as clever and capable as some may
think. They can be in fact very foolish. Priestly puts across a clear
message in the play is that being responsible for you is not enough to
make the world a better place. Mr. Birling does the opposite to this
in the play by when he says 'a man has to mind his own business and
look after himself.' Also the message about power comes across quite
clearly in the play. Priestley's view on having power is to use it
carefully. You can relate this to Mr.

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Birling for he is a powerful
business man has the decisions in firing his employees. So he is a
powerful man which needs to think carefully.

Mr. Birling is a middle classed family man who owns a business. He is
an ex lord mayor and has been nominated for a knight hood. He comes
across as quite a selfish character as he is very determined to get
the knighthood and will do anything and protect himself from anything
to get it. He has a lot of pride and he thinks he is better than
everyone else, some may call him a snob and I tend to agree as he
cares a lot about money and himself.

'There's a fair chance that I might find my way onto the next honors
list, just a knight hood of course.' Mr. Birling likes to boast to
people about his high status even at a time of sorrow and a family
dilemma, he still manages to add a time to boast about himself and be
proud of himself. This is a good quote to show about his selfishness.
Another quote of his selfishness is when he says' I still can't accept
responsibility...' He is a very unwilling person and the acceptation
of responsibly in the older generation. He denies every bit of
evidence when it comes to him looking bad and him loosing some of his
pride. 'Well, well- this is very nice, very nice. Good dinner too,
Sybil. Tell cook from me.' He may come across as being quite a kind
man but this could be for an act as to gain capitalism. Birling also
can be quite big headed with his powerful status of being a wealthy
business man. This quote shows this well:-'I'm treating Gerald like
one of the family. And I'm sure he won't object.' He tries and jokes
about being big headed but when really he is being quite serious, he
thinks he is the best.

Sheila represents the younger generation. She is Birling's daughter
who is engaged to Gerald. She is a typical middle classed snob. She is
very much like her father in the beginning of the play, very self
centered. Sheila is quite a caring character which brings out the
better of her. When the inspector tells her that Eva committed
suicide, he response was 'Sorry! Its just I can't help thinking about
this girl- destroying herself so horribly....' this shows she
appreciates life but as she carries on talking '- and I've been so
happy tonight. Oh I wish you hadn't told me.' Then she goes back to
being selfish. Sheila is the most sympathetic character in this drama
and she feels guilty when she realizes she has a part to play in Eva's
suicidal. She is caring before she realizes she has a part in Eva's
suicidal which shows the personality difference between her and her
Father. This divergence really emphasizes the wide generation gap
between the two characters.

Both Sheila and Birling use there high class status to the maximum but
Birling does more, probably because he has more to offer. It seems
that every chance he gets he will brag and boast about himself. 'I was
an alderman for years- and lord mayor two years ago' this was when the
inspector first arrived and Birling couldn't wait to introduce himself
and offer him a drink of whiskey. Whiskey was most probably an
expensive drink in the early 1900's. Birling thinks the inspector has
called of 'some trouble about a warrant'. Birling could also be
described as an impatient character as he tends to hurry the inspector
with the questions. Birling uses his status for protection against the
inspector. 'Well, inspector, I don't see that's in any concern of
yours how I choose to run my business. Is it now?' he is quite rude to
the inspector for it is his job but he does has something he wants to
hide which is why he is acting as thou he wants to protect himself.
Birling also tends to look down on the inspector, what a real snob
would do:-'...They'd be soon asking for the earth.' and the inspector
replies with a sly, witty comment '…But after its entire better to ask
for the earth than to take it.' Birling has no comment to the
inspector and changes the subject by asking for his name again.

Sheila uses her middle classed status to get Eva sacked. 'I went to
the manager and told him the girl had been very impertinent.' She uses
her status to exploit people in 'lower classes'. Sheila only went to
the manager because her jealously of the better of her. She goes
completely over the top and uses her status and being the daughter of
the boss to get ever the sack. She didn't feel any sympathy when she
did this to Eva but when Sheila found out Eva had killed her-self. ' I
behaved badly too. I know I did, I'm ashamed of it.' And 'I felt
rotten about the time and I feel worse now.' This shows how Sheila
used her status and is now regretting her power of the evil thing she
did. She has learnt her lesson and is highly unlikely to abuse her
status again and use it for only for others benefits. Priestly uses
social status as a point as don't take tour status for granted. If
using your status wrong, you must be prepared to be responsible.
Sheila learns this but as for Birling, he accepts no responsibility
for Eva's death as if he does, it will ruin his reputation. In the
elder generation, reputation is always paramount and this quote gives
another good idea of Birling's selfish personality 'When this comes
out at the inquest it isn't going to do us much good. The press might
easily take it up' He says 'us' in this quote but really he means
'me'. He is trying to cover up being selfish when it is obvious to the

Birling portrays the theme of community and the individual by the
Priestly using the point of we are all together in this world and
there should be no conflict. He uses this view by the inspector saying
'We are all members of one body'.


Birling's characteristics bring historical values to the play by
looking at his opening speech. He is in his house, with his family
toasting to Sheila and Gerald's engagement. Being the man of the house
and at this time, men was important at this time and men were treated
better than women, knowing a bit of history about the 1910's helps.
Birling congratulates his daughter and future son and law but also is
again being selfish and thinks of what good can come to him with this
wedding. Gerald has bout Birling's company and his fathers company
together and Birling is pleased of this, although the rest of the
family do not want to talk business on this special night. 'I don't
think you ought to talk business on an occasion like this'. Priestly
is trying to get the message through to readers that business isn't
everything and all types of class, as poor people to rich higher class
people should be treated the same and as individuals. Money doesn't
make the world go round. I think priestly comes across as being quite
biased thou because Birling has all the potential for the being the
negative character of the play. I think Birling was purposely meant to
be hated for he was the sort of person Priestly was fighting against.

Sheila has mainly all the positive characteristics and is supposed to
convey typical values and beliefs of the younger generation. Sheila
started of as a spoilt rich girl who lived of her father's status, who
didn't really look far into the world. Sheila only saw what she wanted
to see, and if she didn't see what she wanted, Sheila would change it
and not care until after would when you could see the damage it has
caused. Priestly thinks that being like Sheila you can learn from your
mistakes and to teach and tell other people your mistakes so they can
learn too from them. Through being like Sheila will lead to a better
world because she is being honest.

Reputation played a big part for Birling in this play as he didn't
want to ruin his reputation. 'Still I can't accept any
responsibility.' He can't accept any responsibility because he doesn't
want any thing to get in the way of him getting his knight hood. He
sees Eva's death as an inconvenience or just an obstacle, nothing to
important. 'I've got to cover this up as soon as I can' He is
embarrassed about this whole situation because of guilt.

Sheila, unlike her father accepts full responsibility and this could
be because of the age gap, you do not blame the elder.' But these
girls aren't cheap labor- they're people' she accepts that everyone is
the same. 'It was my own fault' A positive and obvious quote which
shows that Sheila holds responsible for her own actions and is not
afraid to express her feelings to the inspector, she has nothing to
hide all though she is embarrassed and ashamed. Why cant her father
just accept what he has done?

The characters change throughout the play but Sheila is the obvious
character which changes and is willing to change even more. Birling
doesn't really change at all; he stays his own arrogant self. Gerald
is very much like Sheila as he admits he is responsible and is honest
with his actions which are having an affair with Eva Smith. They are
both alike because they are honest to the inspector as for Birling who
will not give straight answers and avoids direct answers. 'Do you
remember her, Mr. Birling? 'No- I seem to remember hearing that name-
Eva Smith-somewhere. But it doesn't convey anything to me. And I don't
see where I come into this.' Again he sounds rather rude and stuck up
with his high status. Birling doesn't change because Priestly is
trying to make him the bad character and for the readers to realize.
It adds more conflict to the family if he is different by not holding
responsible and changing.
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