What Particular Moral Messages are to be found in An Inspector Calls
- Pages: 8
- Word count: 1818
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Priestley wrote an Inspector Calls in 1945 – just before the end of WW2. However, The play itself is set in 1912 – just before the start of WW1, and in Edwardian England. Priestley was a socialist writer who had left wing political views with very strong beliefs; he enjoyed using types of theatre to get his messages across. When the platy was set, there was a lot of historical events going on at the time; Titanic, Captain Scott falling to reach S Pole, Suffragette movement campaigning for women’s rights, worker striking for better pay and conditions, Russia unrest, no NHS/DHSS, and no help from state for poor.
All of these are mentioned in the play at some point – either briefly or to get messages across. In Edwardian times – when the play was set – class was deemed as being very important. You were expected to know your class and stick to it. The Birling’s were wealthy middle-class landowners; they were well respected and had hopes of climbing the social ladder. Mr. Birling had hopes of a knighthood, putting him in high up in the social status, and he was the owner of a factory he had a lot of power.
This was shown when he got rid of Eva Smith. Although we only see him speak of the event, you can tell from the way he speaks about it – “they suddenly decided to ask for more money… I refused, of course”, and then after questioned why, he replied, “I don’t see that it’s any concern of yours how I choose to run my business. ” Here, he shows his stubbornness; as he sacked her, it must’ve been the right decision. Not only this, but it’s showing how he doesn’t care about his workers plight, and those lower down the class system.
In the play, this is an issue with all the higher-class people; how they think they are always right and can’t look beyond what they want to. In An Inspector Calls, Mr. Birling is a prime example of this stereotypical character of the time. In Mr. Birling’s big speech before the Inspector arrives, there are many moral issues raised: First of all, the issue of whether the marriage is for love, money, respect or business – “Your engagement to Sheila means a tremendous lot to me… your father and I have been friendly rivals in business for some time now… and now you’ve brought us together.
While Mr B does mention that they will make each other very happy he mentions his business a lot, and this shows how he wants the wedding for two reasons, as he wants to climb the social ladder to the top. This is mentioned a number of times at different sections of the play. Mr B refers to business later on in his speech, with the prosperity of the country brought up in the speech suggesting the marriage is for money, and when it turns out Gerald has been keeping a mistress, he still wants the marriage to go ahead making excuses for Gerald; this shows that all Mr. Birling wanted from the marriage was money, respect and prosperity for himself.
A number of other issues that were around at the time the play was set (1912) are raised; these issues are raised by Priestley are because of his strong political views, and it is clear what he thought on the situations. Mr B says that War will not happen because there’s “Everything to lose, nothing to gain by war. And “The Germans had too much to drink and began talking nonsense”, this was particularly important, as Priestley wrote the play in 1945 just before the end of WW2.
He also mentions that the country is progressing and how the future looks good – “There’ll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere”, “In 20 or 30 years time… we’ll have forgotten all these capital versus labour agitations. ” However Priestley, writing just before WW2 ended, knew that in 20/30yrs time WW2 would be beginning, and that peace and prosperity still weren’t close.
Priestley also brought up society, and looking after number one; during the time this was an important issue with the class system and manners – Birling comments “As if we were all mixed up like bees in a hive”, “A man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own”, and “A man has to make his own way. ” From these comments, it is rather clear of Priestley’s opinions about this. Birling is very optimistic about the future of the country; many other events happening in 1912 are brought up – The Titanic, Motorcars, and Travel.
The fact that he said the Titanic was “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable” was ironic, and showed how optimistic and shortsighted Birling could be. Cars and aeroplanes are also mentioned showing confidence on Birling’s part, “In a year or two we’ll have aeroplanes that can go anywhere. And look at the way the auto-mobile’s making headway. ” When it comes to Sheila, perhaps the most important character in the play after the Inspector, there is a huge change in attitude from the beginning to the end. The can be epitomized by the way she refers to her mum as “Mummy” at the beginning, and “Mother” at the end of the play.
Her character could actually be part of a moral message to do with the suffragettes campaigning for Women’s rights at the time, as Sheila gradually gets mentally stronger throughout the play. This is in comparison to Birling, who turns out to be one of the weaker characters mentally. However, Sheila was the one that got Eva fired from her comfortable job, and started the downfall in her life; this was all because she was using her family upper-class status to get rid of her. This is showing in the play again, how big a gap there was in the classes in 1912.
Yet, with Sheila maturing throughout the play, it is a message about how Women have become equal with, if not superior in some cases, as time has gone on. The inspector is the main character in the play, but it is unknown whether he is real, or a figment of the imagination. Although he is real in body, he could well be a representation of the truth for the family, as they were too proud and arrogant to realise what they’d done. Priestley could well have put the Inspector representing himself and his views. There were a number of dramatic points in the play involving the Inspector.
His questions were of different lengths and were infrequent – this was showing his mood, giving the meaning to his character. There was also a lack of physical description, meaning he was more mysterious, leaving his appearance to our imagination. Not only this, but he doesn’t show everyone the photo at the same time; this could mean that it was in fact a cover-up. This builds up dramatic tension within the play as you aren’t sure whether he’s is real anyway. There were a number of clues showing that he wasn’t a real Officer, and a number of these were to do with the class systems at the time.
In 1912, police officers would more often than not turn a blind eye to crime committed by the upper class or those on the board, or at least treat them with more respect; however Goole didn’t do this and got rather emotional about the whole situation, “Her position now is that she lies with a burnt-out inside on a slab. (As Birling tries to protest, turns on him. ) Don’t stammer and yammer at me again, man. I’m losing all patience with you people. What did she say? ” This isn’t the only time he gets worked up. He doesn’t treat Birling or Mrs. Birling with respect either later in the play, Sheila: (urgently, cutting in) you mustn’t try to build up a kind of wall between us and that girl.
If you do then the Inspector will just break it down. And it’ll be worse when he does. Mrs B: I don’t understand you. (To Inspector. ) Do you? Inspector: Yes. And she’s right. Mrs B: (haughtily) I beg your pardon! Inspector: (very plainly) I said Yes-I do understand her. And she’s right. Mrs B: That, I consider to be a trifle impertinent, Inspector. Not only that, but his exit – when he gives his final speech, it has nothing to do with criminal law, but which is a lecture on social responsibility and the perils of ignoring it.
This could in fact be a reference not only to the family’s worst traits, but also to the two wars that may have be avoided if these attitudes had not been around. This is all rather informal for a real Inspector, and his exit sums that all up. The other characters in the play are not main characters, however they all show different moral meanings. Gerald, the son of an upper-class couple was keeping a mistress; this was not frowned upon, and he openly admitted after a little bit of persuasion.
This event showed how the upper class had the freedom to do pretty much what they liked and they could get away with it. This is also the case with Mrs. Birling, however it is in a different sense. As she is upper class, she feels she has the right to just turn away the lower class, even though she was part of “the Brumley Women’s Charity Organization. ” She also refused to believe her story, “That’s the story she finally told, after I’d refused to believe her original story”, and when questioned whether it might have been true, she was too proud to admit she may’ve been wrong, “Possibly.
But it sounded ridiculous to me. ” With Eva then dying after failing to receive help, this could be a message that if more upper class helped lower class, then there might not have been such a gap between the classes, and not so much poverty. The final character to appear was Eric. Eric was very ill disciplined when it came to his behaviour, yet he was also caring for her. Rather than being intentionally bad, it was more a case of one bad thing lead to another, with the sex and stolen money.
Generally, pre-marital sex was frowned upon in those days, and I think this was in the play to compare the reaction received by Eric, and by Gerald. Eric is the black sheep of the family, and when Mrs B says whoever did the actions of Eric would be “entirely responsible”, and then it was interesting to see how the ‘upper class’ family reacted to this. Whether they would protect their family, or their pride. When they chose their pride, it was an important message by Priestley demonstrating how it all worked back in 1912 in terms of classes.