?An Inspector Calls? Essay, Research Paper
?An Inspector Calls? has been described as a play of Social Criticism.
What is being criticised?
John Boynton Priestley was an English novelist, playwright and journalist who wrote many non-fiction books. ?An Inspector Calls?, written in 1945, is a satire on middle class-life.
The play is set in 1912, just two years before the beginning of World War One. Priestley chose to use the Birling household for his criticism. They are a typical middle class family of that time, whose peaceful domain is disrupted by the visit of an inspector. The Inspector is the voice of Priestley. The main plot is that of thriller, ?Who killed Eva Smith?? The play is about responsibility for each other and the inspector hopes that the Birling family will realise this by the finale.
The settings for the play show the audience that the Birlings are obviously a very wealthy family. In the opening scene the family are celebrating the engagement of Mr and Mrs Birlings daughter, Sheila, to Gerald Croft, heir to Crofts Limited.
In the early part of the play we begin to discover what each member family is like. Mr Birling is dogmatic, he believes that he knows what is best for everyone and that everyone should know their place. His predictions such as the Titanic being ?unsinkable? and his reassurances on talk about a war with Germany are hopelessly calamitous and optimistic.
?The Germans don?t want war. Nobody wants war, except some half-civilised folk in the Balkans?.
?The Titanic-she sails next week – forty six thousand eight hundred tons ? forty six thousand eight hundred tons – New York in five days ? every luxury ? and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable?.
We all know now that the Titanic sunk on her maiden voyage and that there was a war with Germany. Priestley does this deliberately to create a bad impression of Birling, and to show what he thinks of people like Birling.
Inspector Goole is a very predominant character and has the same values as Priestley himself. The Inspector is described in the play as having an impression of ?massiveness, solidity and purposefulness?. He is forearmed with vast knowledge about the family and he is determined to bring their guilt out into the open. When Inspector Goole does arrive the other characters are all affected especially Eric, who is particularly uneasy and jumpy. It is clear that Priestley dislikes Mrs Birling more than anyone. She epitomises the worst kind of snobbery.
?You?re looking tired, dear. I think you ought to go to bed ? and forget about this absurd business. You?ll feel better in the morning.?
?I don?t suppose for a moment that we can understand why the girl committed suicide. Girls of that class!?
She embarrasses herself by condemning the criminal before his identity is known. This is an example of dramatic irony.
Gerald?s crime is that of the young man taking advantage of his position to seduce destitute women. Both he and Mrs Birling abused their position to treat a young girl badly. Mrs Birling response to the inspectors? inquiries is one of arrogance and disbelief.
?It isn?t true. You know him, Gerald ? and you?re a man ? you must know that it isn?t true?
?If necessary I shall be glad to answer any questions the Inspector wishes to ask me. Though naturally I don?t know anything about this girl?
We learn that the Inspector is actually the voice of Priestley. The Inspector has the same morals as Priestley, i.e. sharing, equality, compassion etc.
?A pretty, lively sort of girl, who never did anyone any harm. But she died in misery and agony, hating life.?
After the Inspector has heard Eric confess he leaves. This could be the end of the play because the Inspector has achieved his goal. Each of the characters are quite shaken by what has happened, particularly Sheila and Eric. Priestley, however, doesn?t end the play at this point, and we soon come to the conclusion that there is no Inspector and nobody has died. Gerald, Eric, and Sheila have all learnt a valuable lesson but Mr & Mrs Birling are too late to ?save?, their opinions about society remain unchanged despite what has happened.
The young men have redeemed themselves through their guilt. They realise that they have behaved badly regardless whether the girl has died or not. This is the main point Priestley is trying to make. It is interesting that the Inspectors name is ?Goole?, which sounds the same as ?Ghoul?, does this mean that the Inspector is a ghost, or is he simply their conscience?
At the end of the play the telephone rings and the family are informed that a girl has died from swallowing disinfectant and that an Inspector is on his way round to question them. Priestley implies that the girl has died because some members of the family (Mr & Mrs Birling) have not learned their lesson. This is the purpose of the second visit.
The message of the play is look out for each other, and be willing to help the less fortunate.
?Everything we said had happened. If it didn?t end tragically, then that?s lucky for us. But it might have done!?
Really good essay here people.