An Inspector Calls Essay, Research Paper
TO answer this question accurately I have decided to split the answer into two halves. The Inspector tries to promote a socialist idea and to make the Birling family see things from a different view or see things in perspective I have decided to take two characters from the play describing them all the way through, showing any differences, influences and how successful the inspector is. Also, showing any change in the way they act and what they say to others around them. The two people I have chosen are; Mr Birling and Sheila Birling. These two, apart from being from the same family, are very different and in some cases the complete opposite. At the beginning of the play Mr Birling acts very self-confident and smug. He believes, strongly, in a capitalist world. You can tell this from his speech on pages nine and ten; ¡§¡K a man has to make his own way¡K¡¨ Birling doesn¡¦t know how his actions affect others. ¡§ ¡KWe were paying the usual rates and if they didn¡¦t like those rates, they could go and work somewhere else. It¡¦s a free country, I told them.¡¨ Eric replies ¡§It isn¡¦t if you can¡¦t go and work somewhere else.¡¨ He is almost self-obsessed and believes that everyone has to look after themselves and no one else. He is arrogant and doesn¡¦t seem to learn. He is difficult to get through to, thick-skinned and egotistical. When he detects that Eric¡¦s mother objects to Eric marrying Sheila he replies with this speech. ¡§¡K there¡¦s a fair chance that I might find my way into the next honours list. Just a knighthood, of course. ¡K Well when she comes back, you might drop a hint to her.¡¨ He loves the sound of his own voice and likes to make speeches. Also, he is snobbish which is very true of Edwardian society.
The Inspector tries to change this by showing him exactly how his capitalist view can affect others. ¡§But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone ¡V but there are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, with what we think and say and do. We don¡¦t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.¡¨ I think what the Inspector was trying to say here would be important for all of us. In fact it I think that the writer is trying to teach the audience, as well as Mr Birling, that everything we do changes other peoples lives in some way. That, everything decision we make somehow affects other people¡¦s feelings and actions. The last part of the speech is where he talks about the war that is about to break out. The writer knows this will happen and uses it as a threat in the play.
As soon as Birling finds out about Eric¡¦s involvement in the whole thing he loses his confidence; ¡§Look Inspector your not trying to tell us ¡V that ¡V my boy – is mixed up in all this?¡¨ Birling is scared mainly for himself and what it would do to his knighthood. Also, of what the whole thing would do to his general public image.
At this point I think that the Inspector is partially successful. I think that Birling understands what the Inspector sets out to do. But as soon as he finds out the Inspector is a fake he reverts straight back to his old, unchanged, self. Sheila says, ¡§¡KYou began to learn something. And now you¡¦ve stopped. You¡¦re ready to go on in the same old way?¡¨
And Birling replies ¡§And you¡¦re not eh?¡¨ This shows that Birling eventually learnt nothing and was ready to continue about his old life thinking of just himself and his family. But then at the end, just as you think Birling is ready to carry on as usual the writer leaves it open for Birling to change again; ¡§That was the police. A girl has just died ¡V on her way to the Infirmary ¡V after swallowing some disinfectant. And a police inspector is on his way here ¡V to ask some ¡V questions. (As they stare guiltily and dumbfounded, the curtain falls.)¡¨ At the start Sheila is very immature and spoilt. I think she had been chaperoned and accompanied all her life. She had not travelled much and she has led a very sheltered life. Although she does have a lot of influence and status because she comes from a wealthy family, She does not know the real story. I don¡¦t think she is aware of what is happening on the streets and behind closed doors. She is naïve and conceited. She is vindictive against Eric, her brother. But at the same time she is mature and she doesn¡¦t tell their parents everything about Eric; ¡§No, that¡¦s not fair, Eric. I could have told her months ago but of course I didn¡¦t. I only told her tonight because I knew everything was coming out¡K¡¨ You can tell that she had a lot of influence because of what she did to that girl who worked at Millwards; the Inspector says ¡§And so you used the power you had, as a daughter of a good customer and also of a man well known in the town, to punish the girl¡K¡¨ Sheila also shows other feelings. She is horrified when she hears about the girls death; ¡§Sorry! It¡¦s just I can¡¦t help thinking about this girl ¡V destroying herself so horribly ¡V and I¡¦ve been so happy tonight. Oh I wish you hadn¡¦t told me¡K¡¨
Sheila is the only one who actually understands what the Inspector was trying to do. She is the only one who actually learns something from the whole experience; ¡§(flaring up) Well he inspected us all right. And don¡¦t let¡¦s start dodging and pretending now. Between us we drove that girl to commit suicide.¡¨ She wants everyone to face up to their fears and their guilt and not try to dodge and forget about what they have done. ¡§¡K But don¡¦t you see, if all that¡¦s come out tonight is true, then it doesn¡¦t much matter who it was who made us confess. And it was true, wasn¡¦t it? You turned the girl out of one job, and I had her turned out of another. Gerald kept her ¡V at a time when he was supposed to be too busy to see me. Eric- well, we know what Eric did. And mother hardened her heart and gave her the final push that finished her. That¡¦s what¡¦s important ¡V and not whether a man is police inspector or not.¡¨ She is very changed, in fact she is a lot more mature. When the others are ready to go back to normal she is about to embark on a new life. I think that her life has completely changed from this one experience ¡V I think she will act a lot less spoilt and she will be more cautious about everything; Gerald says, ¡§Everything¡¦s all right now, Sheila. (Holds up the ring) What about this?¡¨
Sheila replies ¡§ No, not yet¡K¡¨ Sheila rejects the ring because she is more mature and she realises that Gerald did in fact cheat on her and she can see that he just want to continue as if nothing had happened. Now you can see whom the inspector changed and whom he had no effect on. He had a huge effect on Sheila and not so much on Mr Birling. The play promotes a socialist idea through the Inspector very well. The audience ends up believing and understanding exactly what the Inspector is trying to put across. Over all it is a very clever play, making the audience think, not just of themselves but others as well.