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Social and political themes of An Inspector Calls

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  • Pages: 7
  • Word count: 1634
  • Category: Politics

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J. B Preistley wrote “An Inspector Calls” in 1945 only a week after the Second World War had ended. He used his own unique style of writing ability by setting the play in 1912 as if he is looking upon it with hindsight. You know this as often in the book they talk about events from that period of time like the Titanic. I think the idea of this was not simply a new way of setting out work but to look back and see how people lived before the war had began, perhaps even remind people of how they lived before and how they have changed.

For example showing Daisy Renton’s biggest problem as finding a job where as now many are in the same situation of trying to stay alive. Although this was unique it had some obvious disadvantages as people may reflect and ‘punish’ themselves for things that they could have done to prevent war or at least lesser the effects. Social and political aspects played a key role in this book showing governing bodies, working, middle class and upper class with many working and fighting to try and improve their social status in the society as Mr Birling wishes to do.

At the time, it was important what class or status you were, to receive the chance to be treated properly it did not matter how clever you were, how educated it was only how you were born. Mr Birling felt he was of a high class. And why shouldn’t he? He had a very successful business, one of the best in town, a wife, children he had many things going for him. This you could say gave him a fake sort of shield as when the the inspector calls he says ‘What kind of inspector? ‘ and ‘Does he want to see me? ‘ he feels just because he is wealthy and lives in ‘a fairly large suburban house’ nothing can touch him.

Despite all this by many he was still seen as a lower class male as that was how he was born. He is not a very well educated man but succeeded in business. His wife who is of a higher class probably wouldn’t have married him without his wealth. Birling has done well for himself as he has brought up the social class of his children, you could say that he has married above himself. His daughter Sheila is thought to be of a higher natural class and is just about to get married to a very wealthy man Gerald Croft.

Birling respected this man because his father also owned a business that was the leading rival to his own. He saw the marriage not only as his daughter’s happiness but as a way of merging to obtain better business opportunities. “Perhaps we may look forward to the time when Crofts and Birling’s are no longer competing but are working together. ” Birling had this thought in his mind all the time and was keen to not to upset the man incase of any disputes and therefore rejecting the business opportunities. Birling was also waiting to receive a knighthood for his work throughout his community.

He was very exited by this as any man would be but perhaps took it a step too far by not wanting anyone associated with him getting a bad name incase it ruined his knighthood opportunities. Birling may have thought this an ideal way for people to finally recognise him as an upper class man instead of a ‘pauper’ whose done well for himself. Another thing he does is when the inspector is questioning his family he keeps saying ‘I don’t have to stand for this I was mayor here two seasons ago’ he seems to believe that because of this he is above the law.

This shows his given class, as an upper class man knows a title gives you social privileges but does not make you above the law. He also reflects his social status to the audience by items indicated throughout his dinner party. He only seems to drinks port which is renowned for a wealthy man’s drink, it is the sort of drink that Gerald’s father would drink along with many other highly educated men “Finchley told me it’s exactly the same port your father gets from him. ” He tries to impress Gerald, any thing that your father can afford so can I.

Priestley uses the play to insert a social and political moral. He does this in three ways. These are through the characters, the setting and dramatic devices. Priestley uses characters a lot to get the social and political themes across to the audience. For example there slave Edna is treated as something that they would step on before entering the house, they show no manurs towards her for example ‘We want coffee’. They also do not take the time to even say ‘Please’ or ‘Thank You’ this shows there lif views on how they are better than other people based purely on class.

The Birling family made Daisy Renton’s life a misery and what is worse is that every single one of them was involved. Mr Birling had fired her from his factory for protesting for a decent wage, this is how the whole saga began and perhaps he is the most to blame. Then along came Sheila, Daisy finally found another job she liked however when Sheila was trying on a dress Daisy apparently smirked, Sheila demanded the girl be fired or she will never shop here again and she is a valued customer.

The inspector said that Gerald also knew her and when he tried to deny it Sheila said ‘ It’s no use Gerald your wasting your time’ its as though she’s conceded ‘defeat’. However the inspector thinks he was the one out of all of them who actually cared for her, Eric Birling, the son of Arthur Birling, was ‘seeing’ her but she felt she could not cope when she was pregnant and found out that he had been stealing money from the factory along with drinking. When she could not cope she rang the women’s society and asked for help where Mrs Birling was the leader.

She turned down her request at the girls nervous reaction of saying her name was Mrs Birling. To the inspector Mrs Birling was very quick to shift the blame towards the father this is until she found out her own son was indeed the father of the child ‘look for the father of the child, its his responsibility’ however when she finds out her son is the father she says ‘and this is the time you choose to tell me’. She seems to care more about what the inspector hearing this than what they have done to the poor girl.

After Mrs Birlings rejection it was the last straw and is when Daisy Renton decided to kill herself by drinking disinfectant. I think her drinking this is not just a way of killing herself but a way of cleaning her sins and even protecting what was left of her emotions similar to that of when she changed her name. The Birling family always had a focus in life to constantly climb the social scale, and be of the highest class, this is what Birling desired.

He thought Eva was going to ruin his chances of everything he had worked for and during the interview with the Inspector became very agitated often saying ‘What has this got to do with us’. This sort of behaviour is where Priestley has made the combination of the political theme with the social theme. People with a higher class feel they are the ones running the country and telling the working class what they can and can’t do. I seem to think Priestley has invented the Birling family as the head of the government in order to show that someone as insignificant as Eva Smith can knock down even the best of us.

This is a key element in the book. Priestley does not make this issue clear and tries to hide it within his writing. Priestley also uses setting to get across a social message. He sets the play in Birling’s living room, there is no change of scene and even when people leave the centre of attention is still the living room. The room is where the family feel most at home I think this an important fact because once the inspector enters their ‘shell’ breaks and they become as vulnerable as the rest of us.

Lighting plays a role in the book as before the inspector enters “lighting should be pink and intimate until the inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder” It is almost as if the inspector is a personified shadow leaving darkness where he goes, he cannot be intimidated or hurt by any threats of Birling using his power. I think that there are two dramatic devices in this play, for instance the door. This is a key device as whenever a character enters or leaves ‘the door slams’. Every time the door is used a significant event is about to occur.

The door is where the story began with the inspector entering and it is also where he leaves after his final statement leaving the Birling’s in a state of disbelief. The other is the telephone; this plays more of a role towards the end. When they think all is well ‘the telephone rings’ and issues the information ‘ that was the infirmary. A girl has just died from swallowing disinfectant, an inspector is on his way. ‘ This has the biggest effect on them. Just when they think they are safe the information sends them into a state of insecurity. It is as if they had seen what was to come.

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