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An Inspector Calls is often spoken as a play with a message

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  • Category: Play

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In this essay, I’m going to try and answer the question above and discuss how JB Priestly expresses this opinion. An Inspector Calls is a play about a young girl named Eva Smith who faces many trials and tribulations caused by the Burling family which eventually leads to her committing suicide. When an Inspector comes to interrogate the family, we then learn one by one what each member of the Burling family has done and how it has affected Eva’s life.

JB Priestly wrote the play An Inspector Calls in 1945 just before the end of world war two. However, the play is set in 1912; before the start of world war one. The play is set in Brumley, England when people were trying to rebuild England as the war was coming to an end. The audience of this play during the late forties would’ve disliked the remarks Arthur Birling made about both world wars and the Titanic as they would’ve most likely lost some family members or acquaintances during this time. “You will hear some people say war is inevitable, I say to that- fiddlesticks”. He also says “Titanic, unsinkable!” Priestly is trying to suggest that those who were regarded as upper class were ignorant. Also, he may imply that Mr Birling is a man who can talk but not much sense comes out. This quote is an example of dramatic irony used to mock Mr Birling’s views on capitalism.

The message of the play is “we are all responsible for each other and must think before we act.” In addition we are all responsible for our own actions. Priestly shows this via the Inspector and how he interrogates each family member to make them feel guilty. However, it is evident that Sheila and Eric feel remorse for their actions whereas the elder Birling’s feel as though their actions were perfectly acceptable. This may imply that the inspector has completed his job as the younger characters feel guilty about their actions, they may teach the next generation this message of responsibility in which, the society of future generations will have fewer characters like Arthur Birling.

Mr Birling is portrayed as a greedy and selfish man. He is pleased about the engagement of Sheila and Gerald Croft as he sees this as a business opportunity. “Crofts and Birling’s are no longer competing but are working together for lower costs and higher prices.” In front of his family, Mr Birling acts like a powerful man because of his business but in comparison to Mr Croft business Croft’s limited, his business is very little. That’s why he wants both businesses to merge together so he can maximise profits. This also suggests that Mr Birling only cares about money he makes rather than the people who provide this for him. “Just because the miners came out on strike last month, there’s a lot of wild talk about possible labour trouble in the future.” This may imply that Mr Birling does not care about the conditions they work in or the payment they receive.

When the Inspector arrives, he uses a graphic description of how Eva dies to shock the characters and the audience. “She was in great agony” Priestly uses this technique to cause suspicion. The Inspector uses this same technique on Sheila to make her feel guilty about Eva’s death and her actions that led to Eva’s death.

A dramatic device used in AIC is the light change. When the Inspector arrives, the light changes and becomes brighter. This could suggest that all their secrets are getting revealed as the room is brighter. The brightness could also refer to the Inspectors political views as the room got brighter, this could suggest that his views are of a higher status because off his social state to society.

Another dramatic device that is used in AIC is the photograph of Eva Smith. Other than the Inspector, nobody looks at no more than one photo. Priestley has control over the audience as they never view the photo. With this photo, the Inspector has power over the emotions of the characters.

The Inspector tells Sheila that “a customer complained about her – and she had to go,” Although, shortly after mentioning this, the audience realise that the customer was Sheila. Sheila tells us that she had Eva fired for laughing at her. As Sheila is an important customer at Milwards, the department store where Eva worked, the company had no other choice but to fire Eva. To an extent, Sheila was jealous of Eva. However, the audience feel sympathy for Sheila as she regrets her actions in comparison to Mr Birling who believe his actions were correct.

Sheila’s actions are a good example of a hidden message in this play which is those with power can often abuse it. Because the Birling’s and Gerald are of a higher class than Eva, they automatically have more power then Eva which means that their opinions are more important than Eva’s. As Sheila’s is an extremely valuable customer, she has an input into some of the decisions made at Milwards. She uses this power to then get Eva fired. All the characters display this message throughout the play in one way or another.

When the Inspector said the name Daisy Renton, immediately, Gerald gave an expression that indicated he knew something. When the Inspector started questioning Gerald, Gerald told him that he met Daisy in the Palace music hall. Unlike the other characters, Gerald looked after Eva and gave her shelter and money. Though he told the Inspector that, “I didn’t feel about her as she felt about me,” which suggests it was unrequited love. Unlike all the other characters in the play, Gerald made Eva happy which all the characters failed to do, until he broke up with her.

Mrs Birling also affected Eva’s life. The Inspector also squeezes out information from Mrs Birling. Mrs Birling refused Eva’s claim for money as she had stated that her name was Mrs Birling. This made Mr Birling furious. “I didn’t like her manner. She’d impertinently used our name, though she pretended afterwards it just happened to be the first she thought of.” She then quickly adds “She only had herself to blame”. The audience now believe that Mrs Birling is more selfish than Mr Birling. Her attitude finally reveals to the audience her true sinister behaviour. She later on goes on to talk about how the father should be blamed, “He should be made an example of. If the girl’s death is due to anybody, then it’s due to him.” without knowing that the father is Eric.

How Priestly set up Eric’s entrance and his involvement was dramatic as Mrs Birling is ranting on about how the father is to blame for her death until she realised it was Eric, she was quick to stop talking. Eric met Eva in a Bar. He admitted to being the father. He offered her money but she kindly declined as she had a suspicion that the money was stolen. When the Inspector asked how he got the money, he admits to stealing. But as soon as he finds out what his mother has done, he is quick to blame his mother “you killed her – and the child she’d have had too – my child – your own grandchild – you killed them both – damn you.” Unlike his mother, he feels remorse for his actions.

The Inspector’s message is “we are all 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.” The imagery used; fire, blood and anguish all suggest that if the Birling’s don’t learn that we are all responsible for one another, then they will go to hell. The imagery used is extremely powerful as the inspector wants his final statement to the Birling’s to be threatening as he wants to show both his authority and to enlighten them that what they do affects everybody around them. Priestley’s language contains many biblical references which may suggest that his views are holy and sacred.

The message of the play “we are all responsible for each other” is clear throughout the play. Priestly makes us aware of how our actions have consequences. In all of Eva’s relationships she is the one without power due to her class. The only control she ever gains throughout the whole book is when she kills herself.

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