What is JB Priestley’s message in An Inspector Calls
‘Inspector Calls’ was written so that we see what effect things like the class system in general had on people like Eva Smith. Exploitation of the working class caused havoc on many lives turning them out of control.
A good place to set the scene would be in an industrial town, which is where it is set. In a little fictitious town called Brumley in the North Midlands. It was a good place to set the scene as the North Midlands in 1912 was heavily industrial as it was the Edwardian Era.
The important message in this story is quite genuine. It tells us that even if you are top class, top status you do not need to look down your nose at others less fortunate than yourself. Instead you should do your best to help them out and make use of your advantages in life. This shows you what is happening in the world and gives you an idea about the issues and problems people have, “One Eva Smith… still left with us”. Act 3 (pg.56)
Money-wise the Birlings and Gerald Croft may have been above Eva Smith but I feel your actions also help prove your level in society!!! They all could have helped Eva Smith regain a grip of her life and sort things out.
The personality of each character in this play was something new to me. Each character was different characteristically, but alike also because their actions towards Eva Smith showed they heartless. In the beginning of the play they were a ‘loving family’, but towards the end they had broken apart and were at each others throats.
Mr Birling was portrayed as a hard-headed ex-magistrate and major, waiting to be knighted. He thought this made him especially special, as if to say, he could never do anything wrong, and if he did he could get away with it!!! He was very ignorant and had a bad attitude towards people, especially his own son Eric. “Just let me…of business”. Act 1 (pg.6) Priestley uses these characteristics to symbolise how Birling could be cold hearted enough to do what he did to Eva Smith.
Then there is Mrs Birling, who just like her husband had a very high social status. She was also very ignorant and turned a blind eye on important issues and people like Eva Smith at the time said to be Mrs Birling. I think Priestley used Mrs Birling’s actions to show slight anger when it was not necessary. All Eva Smith did was go to Mrs Birling’s association asking for a grant. She had a good case also but Mrs Birling did not care for that. She just assumed ‘liar’.
Sheila was the only one who admitted to what she haad done wrong and felt waves of guilt. The Inspector used his strengths to break each one of them down and them confess. But with Sheila it was not really necessary as she was very open. The most dramatic thing with Sheila was when they discovered that Gerald knew Eva Smith. She stayed rather calm, knowing that this would end in a disaster.
The man Sheila Birling had just got engaged to was Gerald Croft son of Sir George and Lady Croft. He was very wealthy. His parents were owners of Croft Ltd. and this is one of the only reasons Mr Birling agreed to the marriae so that maybe one day the two companies could join together. “though Croft…higher prices”. Act 1 (pg.4) He took advantage of Daisy Renton. He compromised with her saying that he would help her in return for her becoming his mistress. He used her like a toy and threw her out once he was bored and finished with her.
Eric Birling held the last straw for Eva Smith/Daisy Renton. He was very immature for his age and was an alcoholic so he did not know how to handle himself sensibly. When he met Eva Smith he was obviously drunk as he forced himself onto her. They carried on seeing each other. Eric stole some money from his dad when he found out Eva was pregnant. He tried giving her the money but she would not take it as she knew it was stolen. “now he’s…the office”. Act 3 (pg.54) Eric’s character is seen as an immature, liar. Everyone felt very ashamed of him after finding these shocking things out.
The Inspector was very ‘weird’ and did not act like an Inspector should. It was almost like he were not real. His name GOOLE helps us see this. This name is synonymous with GHOUL meaning ghost, evil spirit. Priestley used this character to make the Birling family think about what they did and therefore their conscience was kicking in. he was a dramatic character as a whole because he knew things that nobody else should have known. He did not bring any proof of this diary he had supposedly read but instead he bought a picture or shall I say pictures as we can not prove how many he had.
The play was very tense as we know things which would happen but we waited to see reactions of the characters.
There is quite a bit of irony, like where Birling speaks about the Titanic being unsinkable, even though this play was written after the Titanic had already sunk so everyone knew something was wrong. “A friend of…unsinkable”. Act 1 (pg.7) He also does it where he talks about there not being any wars when 2 years later in 1914 WWI happens. “Silly little…behindhand naturally”. Act 1 (pg.7)
This play made me think how people were being treated back in 1912. They had no shame treating people like they were no one just because they did not have everything they wanted or needed. I think teenagers would maybe think and feel how Sheila did at the end of the play. The young seem to be more easily changed than the elders.
I do not think Eva Smith had to commit suicide. The other obvious options were to carry on with prostitution which I do not think she would have done as that could have harmed herself or the baby. She could have gone to a workhouse but that is not a good option at all. It was a horrible prison like place, which would not have made sense her staying there. It may have been better than begging on the streets though. Just because one organisation turned her down it did not mean she could not plead her case with others. That may have worked, otherwise she could have tried looking for another job, which she would have found rather hard.
Times really have changed since the World War II giving us better health care with the NHS. Somebody finally opened their eyes to see what was happening around them. It was a very good change that was made. Everybody seems to try their hardest to help others and those who are needy. Nowadays Eva Smith could have survived all this. It is definitely not as hard to find a job and there are hostels for homeless people around. Once the baby was born she could have claimed money and survived on that or somebody most probably would have given her some things whether it was money or clothes etc. This would have been done instead of people ignoring her and treating her as if she was nothing.
As a conclusion I think JB Priestley did exceptionally well at getting his point across. It may not have been so obvious at first but with a bit of thought you would understand it. We as a European country are doing well socially and things are getting easier but for 3rd World countries they may be going through whatever Eva Smith went through in 1912. So they are behind but I believe that whether they sort things out with the help of other countries or on their own things will get much better in time.
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