An Inspector Calls Essay Research Paper

An Inspector Calls Essay, Research Paper

??????????????????????????????????????????????? ESSAY – AN INSPECTOR CALLSJohn Boynton Priestley was a socialist. He believed

that whether we acknowledged it or not, we are in a community and have a

responsibility to look after others. He wrote "An Inspector Calls" to

highlight these beliefs and share them. In writing this essay, I intend to show

Priestley’s aims in writing the play, how he showed these aims and how

successful he was in conveying his ideas.You can only speculate on the aims of a playwright

in writing a play. In the case of "An Inspector Calls", a valid

speculation would be that the author aimed to educate the audience through the

characters’ realisation of their role in Eva Smith’s demise and thus their

individual responsibility towards other people. ??????????? Arthur

Birling is the kind of character the whole play warns against. "A

hard-headed business man", he believes that society is as it should be.

The rich stay rich, the poor stay poor and there is a large gap between the

two. He believes that "a man has to mind his own business and look after

himself and his own". When put with other things Birling has said in the

play, we see that Priestley’s views do not concur with Birling’s and he has

added statements to make the audience see Birling’s views as false. Birling’s

confidence in the predictions he makes – that the Titanic is "unsinkable,

absolutely unsinkable", that "The Germans don’t want a war. Nobody

wants a war" and that "we’re in for a time of increasing

prosperity" give that audience the impression that his views of community

and shared responsibility are misguided also. Every one of the predictions

Birling makes are wrong; the Titanic sank on her maiden voyage, World War one

broke out two years after the play was set and the American stock market

crashed in 1929, plunging the world into economic chaos. This leads us to

regard him as a man of many words but little sense!??? ??????????? If

we contrast the character of Birling with that of the Inspector, we can see

Priestly’s aims showing. The Inspector is the opposite of Birling. Where? Birling’s predictions are wrong, the

Inspector predicts that if people don’t learn their responsibilities, they will

be taught in "fire and blood and anguish". This prediction refers to

World War I most obviously, but also can refer to World War II. The lessons of

World War I weren’t learnt so the same mistakes were made and another war

started; and though Priestly was unaware of it when the play was written, sixty

years on the same mistakes have caused war after war. This makes his message

just as relevant to the audience of 2001 as to his intended audience. Another

contrast to Birling is that while Birling?

seemingly knows nothing of his family’s affairs, Sheila says of the

Inspector "We hardly ever told him anything he didn’t know". At the end of Act Three,

Birling seems not to have taken any of the lessons of the evening to heart. The

demise of Eva Smith and the part each member of his family played in her death

have not shaken his belief that "a man has to mind his own business and

look after himself and his own?" and that "there’s every excuse for

what? (he and Mrs Birling)? did" In fact, he is more concerned with his

own reputation than with Eva. "?who here will suffer?more than I

will?" He says things that should have been said to him, "you don’t

realise yet all you’ve done…you don’t seem to care about anything", yet

when he says these things, he is of course talking not about Eva Smith, but

about his own reputation and an upcoming public scandal. The attitudes of Mr

and Mrs Birling, and to an extent Gerald, and their willingness to explain away

the? events of the evening to hoaxes and

artfully crafted deception, all go towards the final plot twist – the inspector

is returning to teach the Birlings their lesson again. This ties in with the

idea that if you don’t learn the lesson the first time, you will be taught it

again, through "fire and blood and anguish".The message of the play was

particularly effective to the audiences of 1946. Priestley knew that the

message of his play would reach the war-weary audiences of the era more

effectively than it would reach the audiences of a different time. The

"fire and blood and anguish" reference to the First and Second World

Wars would be very influential to the audience. The setting of the play in 1912

allowed for predictions to be made by both Birling and Inspector Goole. The

intended effect of the predictions was to make the audience see a glimpse of

the kind of person the predictive character is. In the case of Birling, the

audience would see him as a character whose opinion is not to be trusted,

whereas the predictions made by the Inspector chill the audience and make them

see that the lesson he speaks of has been re-taught through fire and blood and

anguish twice already. The audiences had experienced the horrors of war and

were not eager to experience them again, so they may think that if they

followed JB Priestley’s message, they would prevent yet another world war. The play was set in 1912,

and being set at this time, there was not only the opportunity for predictions,

but also for a more drastic look at the relationship between the rich and the

poor. The class gap of 1912 was much larger than that of 1946, and so was more

noticeable to the audiences. With the upper class, we have mentalities like

that of Sybil Birling, who would seem to think that all members of the lower

classes are beneath her and her family. She say to Birling "Arthur, you’re

not supposed to say such things," when he compliments the cook (the cook

being a member of the lower classes). This shows that she believes that the

lower classes are there to serve, not to be thanked or complimented. This is a

strange viewpoint for a "prominent member of the Brumley Women’s Charity

Organisation". With the lower classes however, we have Eva Smith, a young woman

who is shown as the innocent victim of the thoughtless actions of the Birlings.

This contrast is one of many in the play, set up to show one side to be better

than the other. The Inspector against Birling, Eva Smith against Sybil Birling,

Sheila and Eric at the end of the play against Arthur and Sybil, they all show

examples of what Priestley viewed as the Right way against the Wrong way. The

way the latter parties in each contrast I have mentioned act in a way such as

to cause the audience to see them as in the wrong, making the other party

correct. The other parties have views similar to Priestley, so Priestley was

trying to get his message of community and socialism across to the audience

through the actions of the characters.Another of Priestley’s

messages seems to be that there is hope for the future. On seeing how they have

affected Eva Smith, both Sheila and Eric act remorsefully. The character of

Sheila is fairly caring at the beginning of the play, but as events unravel,

and Sheila realises her guilt, her character develops from a fairly naÏve young

girlish character to a more mature, understanding character. This change is so

dramatic that to compare the Sheila who at the end of the play has taken to

heart the Inspectors lessons ("I remember what he said, how he looked, and

what he made me feel. Fire and blood and anguish."), with the Sheila who

had a young girl fired from her job because of her own personal paranoia and

who acted so differently earlier, you would think they were different people.

This is similar to a comparison made between the drunken , playful Eric of Act

1 with the sober serious Eric at the end of Act 3 who has learned that his own

mother played a major role in driving the woman bearing his child to suicide. The results of the

Inspectors visit as regards the younger generation are total metamorphoses of

character. The older generation however don’t see that they have done anything

wrong. Mr and Mrs Birling are all too happy to dismiss the evenings events as

false once the chance appears that the Inspector may not have been a police

Inspector. Their characters stay the same virtually from beginning to end, with

only the short amount of time between Eric’s part in the saga becoming known

and the Inspector showing any waver in their determination that they were

right. The senior Birlings are the examples of the people who will be taught

through "Fire and blood and anguish". This is very different to the

younger generation. "You seem to have made a great impression on this

child Inspector" comments Birling, and is answered with the statement

"We often do on the young ones. They’re more impressionable." This

implies that Priestley is trying to say that there is potential for change in

the "young ones" which is not as evident in the older generation.Priestley’s aims are made

clear by the Inspector largely. As his interactions with the characters go,

Inspector Goole is mysterious. He has a way of making the characters confess to

him, and to themselves, their role in Eva Smiths demise. He links the separate

accounts together to form an approximate biography of Eva Smith from when she

left the employment of Mr Birling up until she commits suicide. Inspector Goole

has another use though – he acts as a social conscience of sorts. He acts as

the voice of Priestley in the play , or the voice of Priestley’s socialist

views. "We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are

responsible for each other." He points out that "we have to share

something. If nothing else, we’ll have to share our guilt," and that

"Public men Mr Birling, have responsibilities as well as privileges"

to which Birling replies "?you weren’t asked here to talk to me about my

responsibilities." Contrary to what Arthur Birling believes, it is a very

likely that the Inspector was sent to the Birlings to teach them about

responsibility. The character of Inspector

Goole is mysterious. This air of mystery is intentional. He is mysterious

because of his character. The name Inspector Goole is an obvious pun (Inspector

À spectre, Goole À ghoul). We as an audience never find out who

this Inspector is. There are many possibilities – he could be the ghost of Eva

Smith avenging her death; he could be some form of cosmic balance, keeping

people considerate; he could be amass hallucination brought on by too much

champagne of something in the food. He could be anybody or anything. Priestley

left the character as a mystery so as to have a larger impact on the audience,

making them think more about the play, and helping them think more about the

messages the play brings. Through the Inspector, the audiences are educated in

their social understandings and behaviour, seeing the examples of the Birlings

and hearing Inspector Goole’s prediction. The ending, as I have

already pointed out, symbolises the fact that if you do not learn your lesson

the first time, you will be taught it again and again. It symbolises that you

can’t run from your conscience, as the Birlings will find out. Priestley uses

the dramatic twist of the Inspector returning at the end of the play to

emphasis this point, and makes it more effective by placing it just as the

characters are beginning to relax. It serves to ‘prick’ the consciences of both

the characters and the audience. At the end of reading the

play, I was left feeling as if I would like to think I had learned from the

example of the Birlings and the message it contained. As it is a play though, I

would have liked to see it acted out. The ending is well crafted, leaving an

open ending to add to the dramatic effect, but looking at it differently, there

is not really another way to have ended the play after that plot twist other

than an open ending where it was without ruining the play itself. I think the

majority of people who have seen this play would have liked to think of

themselves as an Eric or a Sheila.The aims of Priestley when

he wrote this play, I believe, was to make us think, to make us question our

own characters and beliefs. He wasted to show us that we can change, and we can

decide which views we side with. He wanted us to ask ourselves if we wanted to

be a Sheila or a Sybil, an Eric or an Arthur. Or, were we in-between like

Gerald. Priestley wanted the audience to learn from the mistakes of the

Birlings. I think that Priestley wanted to make a difference; not a world

changing difference, but a small difference in the way people think. Then, if

you think of every person who coming out of the play gave some money to a

beggar in the street, you would see that?

Priestley did make a difference. It would have changed peoples views on

society, however small those changes would be, and so Priestley achieved his

aims in writing the play.


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