J.B.Priestley’s play, An Inspector Calls

J.B.Priestley’s play, An Inspector Calls

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An inspector calls is a play written by J.B Priestley in 1945. However,
the play is set in 1912. The main themes of the play are lies, love,
guilt, pride, status and responsibility.

An inspector calls is a play written by J.B Priestley in 1945.
However, the play is set in 1912. The main themes of the play are
lies, love, guilt, pride, status and responsibility.

This play was set in 1912 because it gave the audience a more dramatic
impression of the rapport between the rich and the poor.

Throughout the play, we can see that Priestley is a socialist. The
audience knows that the message he is trying to put across is that we
are a community and responsible for each other.

We also know that the predictions Birling makes at the beginning of
the play seemed to fail. He says, “…you’ll hear some people say that
war’s inevitable. And to that I say-fiddlesticks!” which means that he
thought there wasn’t going to be a war. This prediction failed because
the World War I happened in 1914. This let down Mr. Birling's
certainty. Another example in which Mr. Birling's predictions failed
was when he said, “the Titanic …unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.” We
all know that the Titanic did sink and proved him erroneous again.

An impressive contrast between the young and old generation is shown
in the play aswell. We can see that after the so-called inspector
left, the younger people such as Sheila's perspective about society
changed whereas the older people such as Birling's didn’t.

The character of Arthur Birling in the play is that of a very shrewd,
selfish and hard-headed businessman. He has very defined views on life
and other people. For example, he says, “…if you don’t come down
sharply on these people, they’d soon be asking for the earth.”

Mr. Birling is extremely self-centred and he feels that he has nothing
to do with the community. We know this when he says things like, “a
man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own.”

The repetition of the word “own” shows that he is too absorbed in
himself. He isn’t even concerned about the workers in his factory
leave alone the society. We know this because he says, “we were paying
the usual rates and if they didn’t like those rates, they could go
work somewhere else.”

All through the play we can see that the character of Birling
completely opposes the character of the so-called inspector Goole.
Also, we can see that Priestley is a socialist and he portrays it
through the character of the inspector.

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The inspector says that there
are numerous people like Eva smith to whom injustice is done - “…there
are millions and millions of Eva smiths and john Smiths …with their
lives, their hopes and their fears.”

The last speech of the so-called inspector has very strong dialogues.
Through the use of those dialogues we find out that Priestley is
totally against people like Arthur Birling and he believes that we are
all dependent as well as responsible for each other.

In this play we can see that the inspector gets very easily to the
truth. One of the reasons why no one could avoid his questions or lie
to him was probably because he already knew everything. He just wanted
the characters to confess directly to him and come face-to-face with
the truth.

Another thing that the inspector did to make the characters surrender
to him was by making them feel guilty. He does this by describing all
the horrendous facts in too much detail. For example- “…she’d
swallowed a lot of disinfectant. Burnt her insides out of course” or
“she was in great agony.”

He also tries to use this unpleasant imagery towards the end of the
play when he says, “… the time will soon come when , if men will not
learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire, blood and

As a result of inspector Goole's visit, the younger generation such as
Eric and Sheila seemed to have changed and grown as persons. They both
are quite embarrassed of themselves as well as their parents. We know
that this is not going to be easy for Sheila to forget and she also
doesn’t want the other characters to forget the incident and act
normal because she says, “I’m ashamed of it. But you’re beginning to
pretend all over again that nothing much has happened.” Consequently,
Eric says, “It’s all what happened to the girl and what we did to her
that matters.”

On the contrary, since the so-called inspector left Mr. and Mrs.
Birling behaved very callously and as if nothing had happened. All
they’re bothered about is that if the inspector opens his mouth and
unveils their secrets, their reputation will be spoiled. To stop this
from happening, he even tried offering money to the inspector- “Look
inspector-I’d give thousands-yes thousands—”

Conversely, being a true socialist and the voice of Priestley, the
inspector refuses and says, “You’re offering money at the wrong time
Mr. Birling.”

At the end of the play, the Birlings get a phone call in which someone
informs them about a girl died on her way to the infirmary after
swallowing strong disinfectant. This is a major twist in the story
through which we know that Priestley is trying to say that you can
never run from your conscience. Your mistakes will keep haunting you
till you learn from them.

This time when the inspector calls on the door of the Birling
household, Sheila and Eric are more likely to give in than Mr. or Mrs.
Birling. This also tells us that in the future you wouldn’t expect
Sheila, Eric or Gerald to repeat their mistakes and become more
conscientious people. This however does not go for Mr. and Mrs.
Birling who still haven’t realised their mistakes.

Also, by the end of the play, we can see that Sheila has changed from
an arrogant, immature and naïve girl to a more grown-up and sensible
individual. She doesn’t deny her mistakes anymore and takes full
responsibility for them. She says, “I behaved badly too. I know I did.
I’m ashamed of it.”

Eric has changed from a drunk, foolish and negligent young boy to a
more thoughtful and earnest person. It is very evident that he’s
learnt his lesson and shows bitterness towards his parents. He says,
“I’m ashamed of you aswell – yes both of you.”

Another message that Priestley might be trying to convey here could be
that the younger generation are a hope for the future not the older
people. He might have done this to influence the younger generation to
be socialists and know how to respect and behave with people who need
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