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An Inspector Calls Assignment

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J. B. Priestly was born in 1894 in Bradford and he died on the 14th of August 1984. Before becoming a writer Priestly joined the British Army on the outbreak of the First World War, he was sent to France where in September 1915 he took part in the Battle of the Loos. Whilst he was in the army Priestly’s first book was published which was called ‘Chapman of rhymes’. After he left the army priestly went to become a student at Trinity Hall, Cambridge and there he gained a valuable experience by writing for the ‘Cambridge Review’.

When he left the university Priestly married and from 1929 to 1947 priestly wrote novels such as- ‘the good companions’, ‘angel pavement’, ‘dangerous corner’, ‘time and the Conways’ and the famous play ‘an inspector calls’ which was written in 1946. An inspector calls is set in 1912 and is about an unsuspecting family of middle- class citizens who play a part in the alleged suicide of Eva Smith In my opinion he wrote this play to change the way people treat each other. It is a fact that Priestly was a moralist and had studied political science.

I think that the way that he wrote this play is to show the consequences of treating people wrongly and at the very end of the play just before the inspector leaves, the Birling’s find out that there is an inspector coming to the house to discuss the death of a young women called Eva Smith, the characters then have a choice- to either change their story in which someone admits to the reason that Eva committed suicide or to keep the same story and repeat and repeat until they learn their lesson.

The two occasions I have chosen to show the effect of the inspectors presence on the audience is at the beginning of the play when the inspector first appears and also at the very end of the play when the inspector miraculously disappears and stuns the other characters.

In these two parts in the play the audience can see a clear change in the characters relationships for example at the beginning of the play the characters appear top be very friendly towards each other but when the inspector arrives there is a very tense atmosphere among the characters in which I think they are wondering who in the room is connected to this young women of who no one can recall. Before the inspector appears the Birling family appear like any other- quiet, happy and friendly.

Mr Birling asks the housekeeper, Edna, to bring out the port so he and his wife can celebrate the betrovel of their daughter Sheila and Gerald Croft. Sheila also seems very immature in my opinion and it is likely that she has the mental age of a twelve or thirteen year old girl and is no where near capable of committing to a relationship. Then Sheila mentions that Gerald was away ‘all last summer’ where we later learn that that is when he had an affair with the girl that they have all wronged.

When the inspector enters the room Mr Birling, Gerald and Eric all seem quite normal, Mr Birling offers him a drink and makes slight conversation on the fact that he’d never seen the inspector at Brumly police station, it is when the Inspector announces that a photograph of a young women named Eva Smith, was found recently in her ‘lodgings’ (the place she was staying), then he shows it to Mr Birling, Gerald then comments on the fact that he is not allowed to see the photograph, which, later, makes the audience wonder whether the photo that the inspector shows Mr Birling is the same as the ones he showed the rest of the family or if they’re all different girls that they have wronged.

Later on in the play, Sheila, whom I before described as immature and childlike becomes sensible and almost becomes the inspectors’ sidekick to work out who is the cause of the young women’s death, it’s as if she wants to catch the murderer as much as the inspector. After the Inspector’s final message Eric seems to gain clear understanding of the principle of the community (note that the Inspector commented that “we often seem to make the greatest impression on the young ones) and reminds his parents that “I’m ashamed of you as well – both of you. He tries to assist Sheila in making the elder family members see the lesson that they have been taught, but to no avail.

Eric finally severs his links with his father’s ideas on community when he savagely criticises Birling’s description of people like the Inspector as “crankso, stating “I didn’t notice you told him [the Inspector] it’s every man for himself. As Birling tries to talk about preventing a scandal, Eric warns him that “you’re starting to pretend than now that nothing’s happened. To sum up, Eric changes from a young man who reluctantly accepts his father’s ideas into one who is able to see that they are totally wrong and is not afraid to criticise them out aloud. Gerald is a character whose opinions are difficult to judge, because unlike the other characters he has a motive for stating ideas that are different to what he actually believes.

Generally, Gerald attempts to do and say what he hopes Mr & Mrs Birling will agree with and he also attempts to please Sheila, though he is not particularly successful. Gerald comes out of his “interview with the Inspector better than any other character, because he did not do anything to Eva/Daisy that harmed her in the way that the other characters. Indeed, had he not been engaged to Sheila his conduct would have been entirely acceptable for a normal relationship? However, the fact that he was means that he is thought of in very low esteem by Sheila and her parents after he tells the details of his affair. When Sheila gives Gerald back the ring in Act 2 he would doubtless have wished to get back in favour with Mr and Mrs Birling.

This state of mind means that he appears to finally come out on the side of Birling and he does whatever he can to be supportive towards them. Privately one feels that Gerald feels the same as Eric and Sheila, but he cannot afford to agree with them if he wishes to get back in favour with their parents, as this is the only way that he can hope to re-start the engagement with Sheila. This is shown in his systematic destruction of the Inspector’s story, in which he is constantly prompting Birling to cast doubt on each part of the tale. He is also not afraid to telephone the infirmary to confirm that there was no dead body there, despite Birling’s reservations about it being rather late to be doing this.

Another example of Gerald’s wish to avoid upsetting Birling further is when he refuses Sheila’s offer to tell him about, as Sheila puts it, “our crimes and idiocies. Consequently Gerald’s conduct is probably biased and hiding his true opinions. In the plot of An Inspector Calls, the characters respond to the message that they are given by the Inspector in different ways. Sheila and Eric fully understand the idea that, as the Inspector says, “We all live as one body. We don’t live alone and unsuccessful try to persuade their parents of the merits of this argument. Birling and Mrs Birling stubbornly cling to their beliefs and Gerald also comes out on their side, although this could be a result of him trying to make the elder Birlings happy with himself.

As well as teaching a moral lesson about community, An Inspector Calls reflects many of the historical, social and cultural attitudes that were prevalent both in the time the play was set (1912) and the time in which it was written (1944). In this way the play is Priestly’s comment on the values of that period. Cultural and social attitudes of the time the play is set in are prevalent in An Inspector Calls. There is a marked difference between the attitudes of the attitudes and values of the older characters in the play and the younger ones. The course of the play centres on Birling’s belief, stated by him in Act 1 in various speeches to the other characters, that “a man has to make his own way in life.

Birling has no time for the notion of “community and comes across as a hard-headed businessman with no time for anyone apart from himself and his family. This is why he is unable to accept responsibility for what happens to Eva Smith/Daisy Renton, and the Inspector – who arrives in the middle of one of Birling’s speeches – can be seen as Priestly’s response to his ideas. Both Birling and Mrs Birling have a certain snobbish streak in them, which is shown several times in the play. At the start of the play Birling is worried that Gerald’s mother feels that he, Gerald, “may have done better for himself socially”, whilst Mrs Birling discriminates against Eva Smith with a dismissive “Girls of that class… ” remark, showing her disdain for her.

Both Birling and his wife also try to use the fact that Birling has a prominent position in public affairs to try to influence the Inspector into relieving the pressure on him, for example when Mrs Birling reminds the Inspector that “my husband was an ex-Lord Mayor, you know”. Mrs Birling also used her social influence to deny charity to Eva Smith. There is also the question of marriage – it is acceptable for the similarly classed Sheila and Gerald to marry but not for Eric and Daisy. Initially, the Birlings all feel very secure and believe that they can do no wrong. The opening stage directions state that they are all “pleased with themselves. Later on, in his speech to Gerald and Eric, Birling states that he is sure he knows what he is right because of his ‘experience’.

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