Essay on An Inspector Calls
- Pages: 12
- Word count: 2879
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‘An Inspector Calls’ by J. B Priestley is a play about an inspector who tries to make citizens of the community from the upper class realise that they are responsible for the welfare of others in less fortunate circumstances than their own. In this essay I will be answering the question ‘We don’t live alone. We are members of one society. What is Priestley’s main aim in ‘An Inspector Calls? ‘ In ‘An Inspector Calls’ J. B Priestley’s main aim is to make the characters in the play be responsible for their own actions and realise it impacts on others in the society, and he does achieve this; by using many techniques through a particular character called the ‘Inspector’.
J. B Priestley makes the other characters in the play feel guilty of how they treated a girl from the lower class (called Eva Smith) unjustly. At the start of the play the inspector scrutinises Sheila’s actions and exposes the way in which she abuses her power and status, which has a huge impact on the life of a poor helpless woman.
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 just because she made you feel like that? ‘ This quote shows how Sheila Birling used her and her father’s wealth and power to make life miserable for others beneath her in terms of social class, by getting them sacked just because she felt jealous of another girl, who was much prettier than herself. It is almost as if to say that only the upper class are entitled to be beautiful and she wanted to rob that from Eva.
However after the Inspector’s arrival Sheila changes when the Inspector tell Sheila how she had a hand in ruining the life of another person she regrets her actions: ‘It’s the only time I’ve ever done anything like that, and I’ll never, never do it again to anybody. ‘ Straight away from this we can see that Sheila Birling is already starting to feel guilty and is repenting her actions towards society, in particular towards Eva Smith.
But Sheila Birling only managed to feel this guilt because of the way the writer J. B Priestley had fashioned the inspector to give speeches that would make the other characters feel guilty about what they had done. ‘Inspector [harshly]: yes, but you can’t. It’s too late. She’s dead. ‘ this quote clearly shows that J. B Priestley is using short sharp sentences for effect so that Sheila Birling feels the guilt that the Inspector is trying to encourage her to feel. Moreover this quote also shows how the inspector can be intimidating at times when as stage directions J. B Priestley makes the inspector say this line ‘harshly’.
In an inspector calls the writer J. B Priestley uses several techniques to enhance and show the audience of the play of the effects it has on the characters. One method the writer does use is the ‘domino effect’ of the characters’ actions; where the action of one individual character leads to another chain of events. For example when in the play Mr. Birling finds out that the girl who died was a girl who he had sacked from his company-‘she was one of my employees and then I discharged her’ soon after this line of the play the writer also involves Sheila Birling into the scandal to which she replies by saying ‘so I’m really responsible? .
As you can see Mr. Birling acts as a sort of stimulus in the play since he was the first person that the inspector accused of killing Eva Smith/Daisy Renton, after that all the other characters got involved and all the dark sins had spilled out with a lot of guilt and sympathy preached by the Inspector. The inspector’s character is very complex since he is a Police Inspector yet he does more than a police officer should. ‘I’ve had that notion myself from time to time.
In fact, I’ve thought that it would do us all a bit of good if sometimes we tried to put ourselves in the place of these young women counting their pennies in their dingy little back bedrooms. ‘ This tells us that the writer and therefore the Inspector wants us to empathise and put ourselves in the shoes of Eva Smith so that we can feel sorry for her and so that the characters feel guilty upon the pain they imposed upon Eva Smith.
Part of the Inspector’s character is that he also believes in socialism, meaning that he strongly believe that owners companies and industries along with employees like Eva should be treated equally, as humans with feelings. Largely the inspector acts as a replacement of the actual writer of the play since the writer and J. B Priestley share the same views on society and believe in the social message that we all have a responsibility, as associates of one society, we have a duty of c are to the less fortunate such as Eva Smith.
The inspector’s language is very extensive he uses different forms of the English language to create particular effects on dissimilar characters of the play. ‘Don’t stammer and yammer at me again, man. I’m losing all patience with you people. ‘ This quote undoubtedly shows how the Inspector tries to portray his beliefs through this sort of informal and aggressive language in this sentence the Inspector also uses persuasive language to persuade all of the Birling Family including Mr. Gerald Croft that they are all responsible for what happened to Eva Smith/Daisy Renton and that they have a duty of care for the less fortunate.
‘She wanted twenty-five shillings a week instead of twenty-two and six pence. You made her pay a heavy price for that. And now she’ll make you pay a heavier price still. ‘, this quote clearly shows that the inspector is talking about guilt and wants to persuade the characters in the play in feeling guilty about what they had individually done to Eva smith/ Daisy Renton. Moreover the inspector’s language in this quote ‘you see, we have to share something.
If there’s nothing else, we’ll have to share our guilt. ‘, shows that he is trying to encourage the characters in the play to feel guilty about what they have done to Eva smith/Daisy Renton by telling them to ‘share the guilt’ of making Eva Smith’s life miserable. The inspector attributes the guilt of killing Eva Smith onto the characters by using the inclusive personal pronoun in the plural form term ‘we’- which makes it easier for character’s to accept the sin they have committed but makes them feel all the more guilty and makes them repent far more, on the case of Eva Smith.
The way the inspector deposits the guilt on character’s, it acts as a trigger, which follows ‘confession’ from the other character’s in the play, ‘I went to the manager at milwards and I told him that if they didn’t get rid of the girl, I’d never go near that place again’. This evidently shows the authority the inspector has over them all because of his intelligence and his prophet-like behaviour. It also shows how strong and complex his choice of language is, since he persuades the Birling family and Mr. Gerald Croft to feel guilty of their actions.
This shows that even people from working class statuses have more of a higher level of love for one another than people in the upper class who are blinded by social classification and money, -‘for lower costs and higher prices’ this pretty obviously represents the ‘moral’ message that people from a higher class in society stick to instead of sticking to the actual moral message that we are all members of one body and as one society/community we should all be responsible for each other and not be stereotypical about one another either.
The inspector also uses his English, punctuation skills very well so that the characters feel even more culpable for what they had done to Eva Smith. For example, ‘yes, I’m afraid it did. It was the last real steady job she had. When she lost it-for no reason that she could discover- she decided that she might as well try another kind of life. ‘ J. B Priestley’s use of punctuation enables the inspector to use the ‘dash’ effectively so that although he is telling Sheila Birling the story of Eva’s life, he still makes Sheila feel very guilty of what she had committed.
He does this by telling Sheila how Eva smiths life was, and then cleverly, in the middle of his speech he then-using the ‘dash’ (-)-says ‘-for no reason she could ever discover-‘ this creates a great impact upon Sheila because of the brief pause and then the change of tone when this line comes up.
This is because all of the speech the inspector makes is only in one specific tone whereas during this bit (-for no reason that she could ever discover-) his change of tone and pause before the sentence highlights that both J. B Priestley and the inspector want Sheila Birling and the audience to take this extract into account. By taking it into account J. B Priestley and the inspector wants Shelia Birling to feel guilty upon her actions towards Eva Smith, and therefore towards society.
He wants her to realise that it was wrong for her use her power from her social status to make other, less unfortunate peoples live miserable. In addition to his the inspector uses a lot of religious language to in till fear of hell into the characters’ the responsible for Eva Smith’s death. if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. ‘, this tells us that the inspector desperately wants the lower, middle and higher social classes to unite so that at least they feel sorry for each other. He wants it so desperately to happen that he has mixed his belief along with his personal emotions to bring the idea o hell and that if the characters didn’t feel guilty or want to confess their crime or major sin then eventually ‘hell’ would grab hold of them.
This also shows that the inspector believes in religious concepts. Through all the talk of hell, repent and guilt, the inspector acts as a sort of ‘prophet’ in the sense that he wants everyone to repent on their bad acts towards society, but, if they didn’t then they would get punished through hell. The way he acts are also similar to a prophet because in a way he ‘preaches’ to the guilty characters in the play on how they should repent/and or feel guilty, which is a prophet’s way of behaving.
He especially ‘preaches’ to the ‘guilty’ that they should all feel guilty and repent on their acts towards society. ‘She was here alone, friendless, almost penniless, desperate… you’ve had children. You must have known what she was feeling. ‘. This shows that the inspector is acting is acting far more emotional than a usual inspector would by making the characters put themselves in Eva Smith/Daisy Renton shoes and making them realise through their loved ones on how they treated Eva Smith.
A normal inspector would not do this, they would just make a brief enquiry and close the case, but, Inspector Goole is more like a prophet/guardian by making the readers of the play feel sorry for Eva Smith and also by making the characters in the play feel sorry for her. Moreover, the inspector preaches a form of love, which is similar to Orthodox religious concepts of love, which is similar to orthodox religious concepts of ‘charity’, through the last quote. Meaning that he wants people to love other people as a form of charity.
This also tells you a lot about the Inspector’s character and how soft hearted he is in terms of love. Also, throughout the play the Inspector’s character clearly reflects that he is a very intelligent and intellectual person, since he sort of has two different responsibilities; one as a police inspector here to make ‘random’ enquires at a ‘random’ place and the other as a prophet/guardian coming to make the people responsible for Eva Smith’s death repent on it and feel guilty about their actions towards society!
You’re not even sorry now, when you know what happened to the girl? ‘ this quote undoubtedly shows how the Inspector wants the Birling family and Mr. Gerald Croft to repent on the behaviour, but therefore is acting out of sorts of how an inspector should behave by acting more socially superior to the Birling’s and he takes advantage of the fact that he is an inspector and asks everyone involved in the scandal effective sentences making the characters wonder on their behaviour which leads them to feeling guilty on hoe they have acted towards society.
Moreover the inspector uses ‘the rule of three’ and other methods to make the characters in the play, who know they are responsible for Eva smiths death, feel even more guilty about what they had done to Eva smith and also makes the characters who have not yet realised they are accountable for Eva’s death, still feel sorry for her and empathise with her. The inspector does this because he wants all the characters in the play to feel guilty beforehand- meaning that he wants them to feel guilty and sorry for Eva Smith before they have found out that they also had a hand in destroying her life completely!
A pretty, lively sort of girl, who never did anybody no harm. But she died in misery and agony-hating life-‘; this quote clearly shows that the inspector is using the rule of three in the first sentence but, throughout the rest of the extract, including the first sentence he describes how Eva smith was before the incident and then how Eva was during the incident of her death-which makes a big contrast and seems as is the inspector is using emotional blackmail to make the characters all feel sorry for Eva and deeply empathise for her.
This method worked since all of the characters do result in spilling the truth of their actions towards society-for each character the inspector uses several quotations like this one to stimulate the guilt in each and every individual in the play. But in some cases the inspectors preaches don’t always make the truth come out. For example on the case of Mrs. Birling the inspector made the truth come out another way.
He in a way tricks Mrs. Birling by pressurising her and trying to make her feel guilty of what happened to Eva smith, but then Mrs. Birling responds to this by saying by shifting the blame onto Eva’s husband who is really her son. Mrs. Birling is unaware of this fact and continues to encourage the inspector to punish Eva’s husband severely: ‘and he ought to be dealt with very severely’ this quote undoubtedly shows how Mrs. Birling is very strict on the matter of public crime and deception- but her eagerness in the matter shows that that she is not that keen on punishing the person, but is just doing it to get rid of the inspector (i. e. trouble) and so that she can vent her anger out on somebody for the inspector enquiring in business that she and her husband, Mr. Birling, want to cover up.
Leading from this it also shows how Mr. and Mrs. Birling know that they are socially superior to others from the same society and treat less unfortunate people like they are not significant in this world and should just be thrown aside for those from the upper class of society. After this scene though there is an almost humorous scene when Mr. Birling discovers that the husband who she is ordering to get punished ‘severely’ is her son.
‘But I didn’t know it was you’ the italics used in the word ‘you’ very clearly emphasises how Mrs. Birling would’ve changed her verdict on Eva Smiths husband if she had known it was her son. This evidently shows how Mrs. Birling is truly doesn’t believe that all humans should be treated equally- she believes that no matter how inhumane people from the upper class may be, they should still be treated with respect and honour and people from the lower class of society should be treated like dirt. This quote also supports the idea that Mrs. Birling is a capitalist since she doesn’t consider everybody from the same society to be the same.
Mr. Birling also shares the same views as Mrs. Birling and throughout the play he is too focused on covering up the ‘scandal’ of Eva Smith instead of concentrating on the moral and social message that everyone should e treated equally. ‘I must say, Sybil, that when this comes out at the inquest, it isn’t going to do us much good. The press might easily take it up-‘this shows that even though Mr. Birling has been through so much in this play he is still acting old fashioned by being a capitalist and believing in capitalist ideas instead of focusing on the message which the inspector is trying to project.