An Inspector Calls Essay, Research Paper
On the impressionability of youth
In the play, “An inspector calls”, by J.B Priestly a main theme is the impressionability of the young. I felt that this theme merited more investigation.
The inspector says in act 2 that young people are “more impressionable.”. The best example of this is Sheila Birling. She is the eldest of the two Birling children. Sheila s views on morality and responsibility redefined by the end of the play because of the inspector and the death of an abandoned girl.
At the beginning of the play the Birlings (Mr, Mrs and Eric Brling as well as Sheila s fiancee, Gerald Croft) were gathered round the dinning table celebrating the engagement. At this stage Sheila was just an excitable girl saying things like “I jolly well thinl not”, “Chump! I can t drink”. She waffles on like a school girl.
She is extremely shaken when the inspector arrives and informs her of the girls death “Oh-how horrible!” she says genuinely. Later in act one When it is revealed to Sheila that she is responsible for the sacking of the girl, she is greatly upset. She gives a “sob, and then runs from the room”. When she returns she says with reference to her part in the events, that “it didn t seem terrible at the time.” This shows that she didn t appreciate the magnitude of her actions at the time, she was selfish. Its shows a trait common to all Birlings at the start of the play – lack of social responsibility, Sheila didn t think about the possible repercussions that would emerge for who cannot afford to be sacked. However, when she realised that her actions made her partly responsible for the girls death she felt truly sorry “I ll never, never do it again”. Sheila lernt her lesson, that one incident made a massive impression on her life. To the extent that it greatly contributed to her giving back her engagement ring. This is the main symbol of how she had changed – the rejection of not only a husband but a passed way of thinking. She said that she gave back the ring to Gerald because they weren t “the same people who sat down to dinner.”
In act two, when her mother first enters and starts talking, Sheila attempts to warn her of being to cocky with the inspector and tells her not to “build up a wall between us and that girl the inspector will just break it down.” She shows that she has studied how the inspector works and how class, in this situation, is not importance to him.
Sheila by the beginning of act three has realised that there is a lot to learn and she is determined to put it in to practice. She wants everyone to learn from it and knows her parents haven t, “You don t seem to have learnt anything.” She also realises that although the inspector may not have been a real inspector it makes no difference what so ever, she says “don t you see it, if all that has come out tonight is true it doesn t much matter who made us confess.” Sheila is absolutely correct. She is hoping to learn from her actions in the past so as to improve them in the future. Whereas he less “impressionable” parents were busy trying to stop a “public scandal” as Mr Birling calls it. This tells us that they are obsessed with to themselves because rather than think what had happened to the girl because of them and what could happened to all the other “millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths” as the inspector put it, if they don t change their ways they just think about how to save themselves.
When its reveled that no girls has died near the end of the play, Sheila is still upset and says “Everything we said had happened really it had. If it didn t end tragically, then that s luck for us.” She has pointed out that although no one had actually died, they could have and that s the crucial thing. However her less impressionable parents didn t see it that way . Sheila then asked her mother a rhetorical question “So nothing really happened . We can go on behaving just as we did” Her mother replied, “why shouldn t we?” Sheila had realised that their actions of old had to stop but her parents hadn t learnt a thing because maybe they were not as young and impressionable as she was, but old and enamoured with their own twisted wisdom.
In my opinion Mr and Mrs Birling were totally wrong, Sheila had seen this. If I drove home drunk and didn t hit anyone dose that make it okay? No, because there would have been high chance I could have, I just would have been lucky not to, Just like the Birlings.
Sheila at the start of the play wasn t aware of her social and moral responsibilities to the less well off. She said that getting the girl sack “didn t seem anything terrible at the time.” Later in the play she couldn t bare to talk about it “Don t please I can t stop thinking about it.” She had learnt not to misuse he power. She was also impressed by the inspector, as at the end of act three she said “I remember what he said, how he looked, and what he made me feel, fire blood and anguish.” Near the end of the play she relised that it made no difference if the girl had died, or not. All that matter was that they changed there ways, so as not to risk hurting any Eva Smiths.
I wouldn t describe the youth in the play as impressionable; I would describe the old as stubborn and blinded by selfishness instead “I was almost certain for a knighthood.” Said Mr Birling in act three, he was so obsessed with his Knighthood that he couldn t see what was really happening all around him.Whe the inspector said that the young were “more impressionable” I think he meant that they were open to new ideas, able to change their views, unlike their parents. In that there is hope for the youth like Sheila Birling.