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How does Priestley present selfishness and its effects in An Inspector Calls?

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GSCE: English Literature 

Paper 2  Modern Texts and Poetry

Thursday 23 May 2019

01  How does Priestley present selfishness and its effects in An Inspector Calls? 

Write about:

• examples of selfish behaviour in the play

• how Priestley presents selfishness and its effects.

[30 marks]   AO4 [4 marks]

J.B. Priestley set the play ‘An Inspector Calls’ in 1912, uses two prominent juxtaposing themes - selfishness and social responsibility - to an audience in 1945 to criticise the upper and middle classes’ flaws, in particular, those who follow capitalist ideologies, which ultimately leads to promoting socialism to the audience. Through each character’s involvement in Eva Smith’s case, the interrogation of the Birling family highlights traits of selfishness, which then ultimately summarises the upper and middle classes as a whole. 

At the beginning of the play, the stage directions bring this trait just very faintly to the audience. The lighting is described to be “pink and intimate” to “brighter and harder” once the inspector has arrived. Here, the use of a light pink lighting connotes to warmth and happiness, suggesting that the Birlings lives through “rose-tinted glasses” - meaning they live with absolute disregard to the struggles of the lower and working classes - perhaps, to some characters this was intention and done unconsciously, which is as to why the inspector has come to the Birling family. Priestley’s use of lighting is indeed very effective as once the inspector has arrived, the lighting became “brighter and harder” - keeping in mind that it was Mr Birling who ordered Edna, the housemaid, to adjust the lighting to become more interrogative, almost a much clearer red colour which then connotes to danger. As the audience, we can then infer that they live in luxury as well as comfort, and their lies and secrets are about to spill through the inspector’s interrogation, which could ruin this engagement celebration they are having. The lighting is a key part of the play, especially for the first part of it as it does not change or was later mentioned in the stage directions. This is because it sets the atmosphere and tone for the audience so that they will be able to fully understand and engage with the whole of the play.

Moving onto characters, the first, as the audience, we hear from is Arthur Birling, also known as Mr Birling. Within the stage directions, he is positioned to be “at one end” of the table; this shows his power and authority over his family as a man and middle class men of society. He is a “heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech.” Firstly, “heavy-looking” is symbolically for his wealth as he is able to afford a full meal and even invite someone to a celebration, suggesting he is of a middle or upper class member, but it could also imply that he is full of himself which does link to the next phrase “rather portentous”, which is perhaps used to show his arrogance. Then, he is also “rather provincial in his speech” which indicates that he lacks education as of his original social status as a working class member who climbs to higher status due to his business and secures it by marrying Mrs Birling. Selfishness can be seen strongly in the character of Mr Birling, despite someone who had experienced practical hardship and climbed the social ladder. Clearly, Mr Birling has overfilled himself with greed and selfishness as presented before the inspector’s arrival, during the inspector’s interrogation and even after the inspector left. His obsession with the economics and greed for “increasing prosperity” can be seen in Act One whilst the family celebrates the engagement between Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft, who is of a higher social class than the Birlings: he talks a lot about himself and business, especially when it could potentially impress Gerald. For example, “there's a fair chance that I might find my way into the next honours list. Just a knighthood, of course.” which is later repeated, “very good chance of a knighthood” after mentioning the fact the royalty had visited them before. Now, just before the inspector arrives he states his own view on how society should be: “that a man has to make his own way – has to look after himself – and his family too”, criticises socialism “as if we were all mixed up together like bees in a hive – community and all that nonsense” and then reiterating his capitalistic opinion “– that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own – and -” which is interrupted by the “sharp ring of the door bell.” From the first, he seems to have some care towards people other than himself, which is his family; to the audience, it might not mean a lot as it’s only natural for family to look after other members of the family. However, when he begins to criticise socialists in society, this is where the audience begin to see selfishness and lack of compassion from Mr Birling as he does not seem to care about people other than his family. Dislike is developing within the audience as he calls socialism “community and all that nonsense” as though it lacks significance. He reiterated his opinion - this time the audience develops distrust towards Mr Birling as clearly he has no intention to help others - and then gets interrupted by the door bell of the inspector’s arrival. Priestley used the “sharp” noise to exaggerate that Mr Birling is wrong and uses the character of the inspector to challenge his views. After admitting he had “discharged” Eva out of his business, he states that he “can’t accept any responsibility.” The use of the adjective/adverb “any” shows he lacks the ability to feel even the slightest bit compassion towards other people other than his family and the personal pronoun “I” and modal verb “can’t” highlights his absolute refusal to accept the girl’s death as part of his life. He even goes as far to express this situation as “the wretched girl’s suicide”, where the adjective “wretched” and the determiner “the” shows his lack of attention and sympathy towards the girl that has just died - ultimately being heartless. His selfishness is then revealed after Mr Birling had explained why he had fired Eva Smith out of the works: “They wanted the rates raised so that they could average about twenty-five shillings a week. I refused, of course.” This shows that he cares only about the money rather than the welfare of the employees. The last sentence “I refused, of course.” suggests that he expects everyone to agree with him as of the decision he has made but, alternatively, it emphasises his selfishness for choosing money over the lives of others. This is reiterated as he explains “it’s my duty to labour costs down.” - ultimately his job is to earn profit by making the working class work for less earnings. He continues to reject social responsibility throughout the interrogation and even becomes cheerful after finding out that the inspector wasn’t real.

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Similar to Mr Birling but even worse, Mrs Birling firmly refuses to accept responsibility throughout the whole interrogation - even from the start. Her hypocrisy and prejudiced attitudes towards the lower classes highlights the selfishness of the upper classes for, again, better social reputation and wealth. Mrs Birling, as revealed, works as the Head of the Women’s Charity Organisation, which connotes her as a caring and kind-hearted middle class woman who would help “women in distress”. However, in reality, she is there to work to gain a good reputation for the family. We are unsure of how many women her business had helped but, with Eva’s situation, clearly she had made an unsupportive decision and therefore very hypocritical of her to do so, receiving more negative attention from the audience. The selfishness comes when Mrs Birling reveals that she “wasn’t satisfied with the girl’s claim” as “She’d impertinently made use of our name”, suggesting that Mrs Birling believed choosing her family’s reputation over this girl’s life and the baby’s potential life was a better way to go. In addition, she made her actions look even worse as she constantly refuses to accept responsibility, stating that she was “perfectly justified in advising her committee not to allow her claim for assistance.” This emphasises her lack of sympathy and remorse over the girl’s death, simply because she used her family name, which seemed to have offended Mrs Birling. Despite being “sorry she should have come to such a horrible end”, Mr Birling states “But I accept no blame for it at all.” So, as the next sentence begins with a negative conjunction “But”, which then becomes a double negative with the “no blame”, it erases her apology and guilt as though she had never meant it from the start. And, the phrase “at all” at the very end completely contradicts her sympathy, emphasising her lack of guilt. Her selfishness continues as she puts the blame on the father of the child, commanding and boldly stating to the inspector to “Go and look for the father of the child. It’s his responsibility.” After the inspector leaves, she does not seem to have learnt her lesson and believes she had been right all along, especially when they found out the inspector was not real. 

After the catalytic event of Mr Birling’s actions, the next character that is revealed to be involved in Eva’s case is Sheila. Before the inspector’s arrival, she does not particularly present the selfishness of the wealthier classes but the materialistic personalities of upper classes that they possess, in particular women - prioritising physical products to be able to express their emotions. Sheila’s engagement ring highlights this key aspect exactly which represents others of similar social status to her during the Edwardian era; her “excited” response over the engagement ring “Oh – it's wonderful! Look – mummy – isn't it a beauty? Oh – darling -” and “Now I really feel engaged” both imply that a physical product is needed for the engagement to be real and for their relationship to be connected - ultimately Sheila is more joyful over the gift than the actual engagement. The ring could also be a symbol of ownership. This personality of hers becomes the reason why Eva was fired out of Milwards. Her selfishness and jealousy led to the girl getting fired again from Milwards. As when she was first told of Eva’s suicide, her first questions were “What was she like? Quite young?” and right after a response from the inspector, “Pretty?” each emphasising her materialistic overview of the situation; in some ways, you can argue that at this point of the play, Sheila, who is unaware this girl died as a result of her actions, only felt sympathetic as Eva was pretty and young, stating it as a “rotten shame.” Due to herself being in a “bad temper” and “furious”, she fired Eva, according to her story, as she was “smiling at miss Francis – as if to say: 'doesn't she look awful' – and I was absolutely furious.” Her jealousy made her act out as she had both money and power due to her social status, which as of this reason as well, she did not understand how her decision had forced Eva into unemployment which led her deeper into a life of constant suffering and poverty - ruining her life, consequently. She explained further that if Eva had been “some miserable plain little creature”, she wouldn’t have fired her, nevertheless even bothered to see significance in her. However, unlike Mr Birling, Sheila changes drastically, learning of social responsibility and even attempts to educate her family of social responsibility after the inspector leaves. 

Gerald and Eric both present selfishness, just like the rest of the family does, also in similar ways. Both forced Eva Smith, or Daisy Renton, to comply to their sexual favours as they had both wealth and power using their social status. Despite being a “wonderful fairy prince” to Eva as he had described himself to be while he was being interrogated, Gerald’s true intentions were to use her and, since she was pretty and desperate, as his mistress. Selfishness is shown here as the relationship between them meant nothing to Gerald in all honesty; he was able to use her and discard her whenever he suited as though she was a disposable material. Selfishness can also be shown in Gerald’s confessions, as from what we know, Daisy was “intensely grateful” and “didn’t blame me [him] at all.” The point is, he isn’t actually talking about Daisy but rather himself; making himself look good and honourable in front of the family and the inspector - public facade - perhaps, to avoid ruining his reputation and the engagement. By the end of the play, Gerald also, like the parents, did not learn the idea of social responsibility as well as the younger generation did. Perhaps, this was because he missed out the Inspector’s final speech but when he comes back from his alone time outside, we find out he was doubting the whole situation all along and gets the family to attempt to forget about the interrogation, which comes to the conclusion that he has ultimately never felt as sorry as the younger generation did - somewhere in between the younger and older generation. Eric’s involvement and selfishness shares similarities and differences with Gerald’s. Just like Gerald, he used and discarded Eva whenever he suited: “I wasn’t in love with her or anything - but I liked her - she was pretty good sport--”. Again, like Gerald, he didn’t really care about her as of the fact that he “wasn’t in love with her” and treated her as though she was disposable material, showing signs of selfishness. However, he “liked her”, in which could be him feeling compassionate towards her. Afterwards, he justifies as to why, “she was a pretty good sport”, which shows that he only valued her as she was obedient because Eric was one) drunk and “in a state when a chap easily turns nasty - and I threatened to make a row.” and two) he was wealthy, which at that time meant more power and authority. It is selfish in this way considering his abuse of power to make Eva comply to only his sexual desires, where consent was not given. Furthermore, he stole money to support her after his own actions, stating that he “insisted on giving her enough money to keep her going”, but, despite showing compassion and sympathy, this solution will not help her mental and emotion state, which shows a lack of care and maturity; he believes money can solve everything. However, unlike Gerald, Eric learns that his actions were indeed selfish and accepts responsibility throughout the okay after he has been interrogated.

Overall, most characters, before, during and after their part of the interrogation, showed signs of selfishness, especially in their involvement in Eva’s suicide case. The older generation and younger generation seem to have separate thoughts after: the older generation (Mr and Mrs Birling, and Gerald) does not learn of social responsibility and refuses to accept the blame for their part in Eva’s case; the younger generation (Sheila and Eric) quickly learns of social responsibility and accepts the fact they are to blame for Eva’s suicide along with the older generation.

How does Priestley present selfishness and its effects in An Inspector Calls?

Document Details

  • Author Type Student
  • Word Count 2580
  • Page Count 4
  • Subject English
  • Type of work Exam preparation

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how is selfishness presented in an inspector calls essay

An Inspector Calls Essays

One of the best things you can do to revise for any english exam is to read examples of essays. below you'll find a range of essays which you can read at your leisure., though there are always benefits in reading essays, becoming use to "active reading" is also important. to do this, use one of these strategies to help:, print the essay off and highlight key phrases or pieces of analysis that you like, keep some notes on the ways the essays use key vocabulary, cherry-picking the best phrases for use yourself, note down the structures of the essays but making a note of the focus of each paragraph, remember that there are hundreds of ways to write a successful essay, as the examples below will highlight. but they all manage to link the big ideas of the play with the language and structure; they all write about priestley's intentions and the audience's responses; they all recognise that this play is written to make a political point, not just to entertain the audience., a) how does priestley explore responsibility in an inspector calls , in the play, priestly wanted the audience to take responsibility for each other, to see that society was "one body." he wanted the audience in 1945 to recognise that although there had been positive changes since 1912, he didn't want them to regress and, in fact, wanted them to demand even more social reform., firstly , priestley uses the inspector to demonstrate to his audience that morality is a much more admirable quality in a person than mr birling's selfish manner. in act 3 mr birling offers "thousands" to help eva, though the inspector tells him that he is “offering money at the wrong time.” this shows that the inspector has the moral high ground and, although from a lower class, is holding all the power over the birling's treasured reputation. to the audience it would be obvious that birling should have given the money earlier, that it was inevitable that eva would end up costing him. it is also revealing that birling wouldn't give eva smith a small pay rise as it would have meant he couldn't "lower prices" but when it came to saving his status he was prepared to “give thousands.” by this stage, mr birling seems quite flustered and somewhat embarrassed as although in the outside world his authority is growing in his own home he can't control a man of “that class.” from a psychoanalytic perspective you could argue that this reflects birlings upbringing and the values that he was taught to respect as a younger man when he worked had and was kept poor in a way that taught him the value of hard work. in this way, mr birling feels that all the people who have money deserve it while the people who don't have money clearly don't deserve it. also, it is from his background that birling being taught to prioritise materialistic things could be the root of his difficult relationship with eric; he comes across as very cold and unforgiving which possibly reflected onto his son. this could easily be a subconscious cause of eric's addiction (looking for escape and comfort in the absence of his father's approval) and be linked to why eva viewed him to be more juvenile than gerald. the need for superficial things in his life like power and wealth is portrayed in the play as quite harmful and only something which will hold a person back, the inspector seems to be free from all these hindering social constructs and is definitely a much more favourable character because of this., in spite of their strong differences in beliefs, both mr birling and the inspector are very self-assured characters who are equally set in their ways . this is not mirrored in the younger characters like eric or sheila. priestly emphasizes a message directed towards the younger generations that they are the hope for change. throughout the play birling refuses to accept the need for reform or responsibility , he represents the stereotypical man of his age and class that priestley uses to contradict sheila's growing outward-looking empathy. when she promises the inspector that she will “never never do it again to anybody” she is acknowledging her privileges and shows that she understands how people must take responsibility for each other. i would say that her materialistic upbringing and the damage that has done makes her incredibly naive and impacts hugely on her opinion of others' worth. when talking about eva smith in act 1 one of the first things she asked was “is she pretty” from this line alone it is clear to the audience where her priorities lie and what kinds of values were instilled in her from a young age probably by her shallow mother. priestly highlights that it's the duty of the young to bring about reform and for this to happen they firstly need to realise the older generations won't do it for them. he also stresses that it's not ok for people like the birlings to take credit for their achievements but never accept responsibility for the consequences of their profit., priestley uses the contrast between age groups and class to explore universal divides caused by pride, reputation and lack of accountability, things that mr and mrs birling value highly but sheila is willing to let go of by accepting her mistakes and returning gerald's engagement ring (also rejecting her father's business interest in gerald.).

Examiners commentary:

The simple, clear first paragraph is fine.

The second paragraph, however, contains some interesting points that could be related to the question but which aren't. As a result, a lot of what's good in this paragraph is lost. This could have been easily fixed if the student had remembered to continually link their points back to the question.

The third paragraph is an improvement in that it does mention responsibility more often and has some interesting observations about the generation gap.

The third paragraph feels unfinished and unclear - it sounds like it's saying that Mr and Mrs Birling value accountability highly, or that the view a "lack of accountability" highly, neither of which are true.

AO1: Lots of AO1, though it isn't connected to the question often enough

AO2: Not enough AO2 at all - hardly any specific language analysis

AO3: Nothing of note outside of the first paragraph

Grade: This is a difficult essay to grade. There are lots of interesting points, especially about how our upbringings affect our outlook, but they're not always linked to the question which means they won't score as well as they should. Also, a complete lack of AO2 causes real problems. This is probably a G5 though with a few minor changes it could easily be pushed up two grades.

B) How does Priestley explore responsibility in An Inspector Calls ?

Priestley presents a strong message about responsibility throughout the play. he wants us all to take more responsibility for each other., firstly, he uses the character of mr birling to convey the ignorance of those who refuse to take responsibility. we can see this when mr birling says, “community and all that nonsense”. the use of the noun “nonsense” shows the audience that mr birling is mocking socialists and those who believe society should be a community. you can almost hear his sarcastic tone as if ‘community’ is an absurd idea. the word “all” also highlights his belief that anything to do with community, such as helping others and being responsible for one another, is ridiculous. this links to when he says, “a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own.” the repetition of the pronoun “his” emphasises that he only takes care of his possessions and doesn’t think twice about others. also, it exposes to the audience his sense of higher class entitlement linked to his lack of responsibility for things that are not directly his fault. the audience of 1945 would have been shocked because by this time, after the labour movement and war, people were becoming more open-minded about mixing social classes and community responsibility. this links to priestley’s message because he was a socialist and believed people should have equal rights., in contrast to mr birling, priestley uses the character of sheila to present those who are willing to take responsibility. we see this in the line, “i’ll never, never do it again to anyone”. the repetition of “never, never” reveals that sheila feels guilty and deeply regrets her actions. it also tells the audience that she is open-minded about changing how she behaves, regardless of her social class. the use of the noun “anyone” reveals that she doesn’t care if the person is upper class or lower class. she doesn’t want to put anyone in that position again and has taken full responsibility. if this play had been shown in 1912, the audience may have been more likely to agree with the birling’s ideas and would have thought sheila may be acting foolishly. however, the audience of 1945 would have been more sympathetic towards sheila because at this time, society was shifting towards the creation of the nhs, the introduction of education for all and the building of social housing. this reflected how society was coming together more and caring more for the poor instead of brushing them aside., similarly, the character of inspector goole is the main voice of responsibility in the play and is the voice of priestley himself as he is trying to show the birling family that being upper class doesn’t make them any less responsible for the community than the next person. this sense of responsibility is also reflected in the stage directions when the light goes from “pink and intimate” and “brighter and harder”, when the inspector enters. immediately, this tells us that the i nspector has a presence on the stage and that he has come to say something important. perhaps it is about bri nging light to the things that the upper classes like to hide in the shadows, or the harsh lighting works almost like he is interrogating the family. the spotlight is now on them and what they have done., additionally, priestley conveys a message of responsibility through the inspector when he says, “we are members of one body.” the noun “members” highlights that we are all joined together and if one member falls, then it brings everything down. furthermore, it links to the idea that community is like a family who should take care of each other no matter what. it could also have religious connotations because in the last supper jesus said, “this is my body that will be given up for you, take this in memory of me.” here, jesus said that people should eat the bread because it would bring everyone together and he always believed that people should be equal. in 1912, people were very divided and the poor would rarely move up to the higher classes. priestley was aiming to ensure that the shifts in society happening in 1945 were strengthened and that everyone felt that responsibility for others was important..

Really clear structure, with a clear target for each paragraph

Doesn't make a wide range of points but has a quote to backup each point and explores the quote in depth

Each section ends with something about the context

Though each point is presented with a quote attached, this could have been improved with some other references from the play even if those quotes or references weren't analysed in depth

AO1: Not much AO1 really, no real refernces to key moments of plot

AO2: Lots of great AO2 - quotes analysed in depth

AO3: Good AO3, all key points linked to context

Grade: A really neat, clear and well organised essay. A lack of AO1 is a problem, as is the fact that although each paragraph was linked to an idea connected to responsibility the link isn't always made clear. However, there's loads of AO2 and AO3 so it would be a comfortable G7. With a couple of sentences added to each paragraph which referenced a few key moments of plot it would go up to a G8.

C) How does Priestley explore responsibility in An Inspector Calls ?

Priestley explores ideas about responsibility through the way the birlings behave towards eva smith. arthur birling explains the family’s capitalist philosophy when he says ‘a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own’ which suggests that he feels that he only has responsibility for his own family and himself . this is reinforced by the way the birlings treat eva smith. first of all, arthur fires her from his factory to make an example of her because she asks for higher wages and dares to take responsibility for others by speaking up on their behalf. it is revealed that arthur’s prime motive is to keep wages down so that he could make more profits. priestley reinforces this through arthur’s constant repetition of ‘hard headed man of business’, to remind the audience that he is representative of capitalism and the damage it causes. the word ‘business’ is later used by birling to refer to the death of eva smith as he states how her death is ‘horrid business’ which emphasises the message that birling only sees people’s lives in terms of profit. priestley is showing the audience that a blind belief that generating profits and prosperity for the good of everyone is fundamentally wrong as it causes innocent people to suffer tragic consequences., although all the birlings are responsible for eva’s mistreatment and death in some way, they react differently when they find this out from the inspector. mr and mrs birling do not change and are only concerned about their reputation - the possible ‘scandal’ or arthur’s ‘knighthood’. however, priestley’s intention is give the audience a message of hope as sheila and eric do recognise that they have behaved badly by the end of the play and therefore he is suggesting that it is the younger generation that have the responsibility for adopting more socialist principles. through the younger birlings’ attitudes, priestley suggests that socialism is the modern way and that it is young people who will change society for the better., this change of views in the younger generation is also shown through the play’s structure as eric dramatically exits the stage at a crucial point suggesting he is struggling to contain his guilt over his mistreatment of eva smith. likewise, sheila is struggling with her guilt and tries to show that she has changed by directing others to realise their own responsibility in eva smith’s suicide. for example, sheila warns her mother not to ‘build up a wall’ this metaphor describes the separation of the social classes as mrs birling believes she is superior to the lower classes. the irony is that the opposite is true as priestley reveals how mrs birling’s behaviour is morally wrong – she punished a pregnant girl by refusing her charity when she needed it the most just because the girl used her name and in doing so angered mrs birling., through using the form of a morality play, priestley is able to identify what each family member’s sins and how it was these sins that they demonstrated and caused their mistreatment of eva smith. for instance, eric’s lust for eva smith meant that he forced himself upon eva and then his sloth – his inability to earn his own money meant he stole money from his father instead of facing up to his responsibility and earning money himself. by the end of the play, priestley shows that eric fully accepts his responsibility and describes how he cannot even remember his assault of eva as being a ‘hellish thing’. the use of this metaphor implies he is being tortured by his own guilt and knows he has been committed to hell due to his sins., priestley constructs the inspector’s role as that of a priest as he extracts all the confessions from the birlings and attempts to force them to accept their responsibilities through asking questions which challenge their capitalist way of life and challenges their edwardian values of social class and hierarchy. in addition, the inspector’s language has religious tones to it as he warns the birlings and gerald croft that if they do not stop exploiting the poor, they will learn their lesson with ‘fire, blood and anguish’. there is an inference that they will be punished in hell for not caring about the way those less fortunate are treated. through the inspector’s voice, the audience hear the socialist message that the birlings are being taught and we left knowing that this is a warning to us all – we need to accept responsibility and take better care of others around us., how does sheila change during an inspector calls, - summary paragraph, - stage directions, - confrontation with the inspector – she takes responsibility, - standing up to her parents, - the young are more impressionable, - ending – grown up, throughout inspector calls, sheila is the character who changes the most. at the beginning of the play she is a young, naïve girl who is happy to be told what to think and do; by the end she is the only character who really takes responsibility for the death of eva and is happy to tell her parents that she thinks they are wrong., the stage directions describe her as being “very pleased with life” a phrase which reflects her luxurious upbringing. she’s also described as being “excited” an adjective that suggests she is looking forward to her life. in both these respects she could be viewed as being ignorant to the reality of what her luxury costs others, or how difficult the times ahead will be., sheila refers to her parents as “mummy” and “daddy,” nouns that are associated with young children and not young adults; she is also told off by her mother for squabbling with her brother, a fact that reinforces our vision of her as being infantilised by her parents. sheila is then given a ring by her fiancé gerald. “is it the one you wanted me to have” she asks him, a phrase that suggests she wasn’t really interested in what she wanted but only what gerald wanted her to have. throughout the opening she is presented as a child, with no real desires or wishes of her own. in many respects, she is the traditional rich young woman – without a real mind of her own by virtue of her gender., when the inspector arrives, he explains how her spoilt behaviour in a shop led to eva being sacked. “then i’m really responsible,” she accepts, quickly recognising her role in the girl’s downfall. also, she observes that the inspector is getting ready to speak to gerald next and pushes this through, asking direct questions to gerald and working out the reasons why he wasn’t where he said he was the summer before. in both these cases, she is showing independent thought – by accepting responsibility even when others don’t and by pushing gerald against his wishes., during their time with the inspector, her parents and gerald repeatedly try to send sheila out of the room to protect her from his news – her mother argues that she is “looking tired,” something that we would only really say to a very small child. sheila repeatedly refuses, arguing that she will stay until “i know why that girl killed herself.” here, she clearly shows herself standing up to her parents, sticking to her desire to discover the truth of the situation., at one point arthur argues that the inspector is making “quite an impression” on sheila, suggesting that she’s coming around to the inspector’s way of thinking. “we often do on the young ones,” the inspector replies, suggesting that his socialist values are more affective on younger people. this reflects a view of priestley’s which was that socialism and left wing values are more impactful on younger people, a fact that’s often reflected in even modern opinion polls where right wing conservatives tend to be older. this is also shown in how, by the end of the play, mr and mrs birling remain unchanged by the arrival of the inspector, while their children change – even gerald admits that the events “affected him,” before he reverts back to his old ways., even after the inspector leaves, sheila continues to push his ideas trying to make sure that her family don’t forget him. she claims they are beginning to “pretend” that nothing has happened, clearly accepting that things won’t be the same again. her use of the verb is interesting as well, as games of “pretend” are really childish things. it seems that the girl who was once infantilised is now accusing her parents of playing make-believe. she also argues that her parents “don’t seem to have learnt anything,” behaving almost like a school mistress arguing that a lesson has been missed. she also says, in response to a speech from eric in which he accepts responsibility, that he makes her feel a little less “ashamed” of them, a word which really shows just how powerfully sheila sees her parents’ remorseless behaviour., her frustration is clear throughout the ending, where she says her parents’ behaviour “scares” her. this clearly references the inspectors closing words about “fire and blood and anguish” which referenced the years of war that would follow the period between the play being written and being performed. the audience at this point would doubtless be agreeing with sheila regarding her fear. her parents continue to ignore her desire to grow up, infantilising her again by suggesting that she’s just “tired” and “hysterical,” though they can’t ignore her final words when she refuses gerald’s ring again which clearly shows that she has grown up enough to express herself completely, how does priestley present mrs birling as an unlikeable character (high level response), priestley presents mrs birling as an unlikable character as she doesn’t change throughout the play. in acts 1 and 2 she doesn’t say much about the tragic death of eva at all, showing her lack of remorse., on the other hand, characters like sheila do realise the horror of the suicide. in act 2, gerald says “sorry, i’ve just realised a girl has died”. this is ironic [sic] as he had found out in act 1, but it had only sunken in in act 2. the word “sorry” shows he feels embarrassed about his emotional side, as many men of the time (1912) did., sheila also changes throughout, creating a stark contrast to her mother. in act 1 she refers to her mother as “mummy” like when she says “mummy, isn’t it a beauty” this shows she was dependant on her and worried about material things. she later says, “but these girls aren’t cheap labour, they’re people” to mr birling, showing his daughter isn’t afraid to voice her opinion but her mother is. in act 2, sheila says, “we really must stop these silly pretences”. the inclusive pronoun “we” not only presents sheila as the family member doing the right thing and trying to influence others, as her mother should, but also involves the audience, trying to give them a message. the noun “pretences” is significant as it was mrs birling who pretended not to remember eva smith., when she was shown the photo it was evident that mrs birling didn’t change throughout as at the end of the play in act 3 gerald suggests that “he’s been had”, and the birlings are keen to accept it, whilst sheila and gerald remain guilt-stricken. the audience of the time, in 1945, would have just experienced the war and realised everyone must start taking care of one another. they may have not been so quick to change, as, at the time, only rich, most-likely capitalist, people would have gone to the theatre to see the play, whereas a modern audience is more diverse and open., priestley also presents mrs birling as an unlikable character as she is dismissive towards many different groups. for example, she says “a girl of that class” when her part in the suicide is revealed. the noun “girls” shows mrs birling’s views that working class girls are undeserving of names. this derogatory comment would have infuriated an audience of 1945 as the working class were extremely beneficial during the war, though the class divide was massive in 1912. she is even misogynist, like mr birling, who says “clothes mean something different to women”. she says “sheila and i had better go to the drawing room”, which shows her views on women’s place in society, due to gender roles. she also says men have to spend a lot of time working away, but sheila challenges it and says she won’t get used to it. it is obvious priestley has used the younger generations as a symbol for more open-minded people as eric also challenges mr birling on war. mr birling says the titanic is “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”. the repetition and qualifiers enhance the dramatic irony as he was wrong about both of these things. it is almost as though priestley is mocking people like mr birling., mrs birling also has capitalist views which don’t change throughout the play. she believes in a social hierarchy as seen in the stage directions before the play begin, where the characters are placed around a rectangular table which gives power to those at the top and bottom, and when she says, “be quiet and let your father think of what we should do next”. the imperative verb “be” shows how she is even being rude towards her own children., this contrast with shelia’s feminism, which was popular due to the suffragette movement in 1912, significant after 1945 as many women helped the war effort and important to a modern audience who have achieved so much. mrs birling uses her powers for bad as she “influenced” the committee to refuse eva help., priestley uses the play as an allegory for his socialist views. by inducing a sense of hatred towards mrs birling he allows the audience to see the flaws in a capitalist mind-set. priestley, having served in the war himself, developed strong socialist views. this is reflected in the inspector, who is a mouthpiece for priestley as he uses the metaphor, “we are all part of one body” to imply everyone should look after one another. priestley had a popular radio programme which was cancelled for being too “left wing” by the bbc. as time progresses, the audience becomes more socialist and the play is more effective., priestley presents mrs birling as having double standard. this can be seen in the quotation, “i’m sorry eric… didn’t know”, after finding out it was her son she was talking about when she said he should take full responsibility for eva’s pregnancy., despite stage directions calling for pink, intimate lighting at the beginning, mrs birling never seems to be intimate with her children. when the inspector asks if eric drinks, she says “of course not, he’s only a boy”, which shows she is either lying or not close with her family. however, sheila says he’s been “steadily drinking for two years”, showing she is either trying to get him into trouble or is keen to get him help. either way, she is closer with him than his own mother. the siblings also exchange comments when she calls him “squiffy”. the colloquialism has mrs birling unaware of the changes and reluctant to change her mind-set. this also foreshadows the importance of alcohol in the play as it was the cause of eric’s behaviour., how does priestley present the views of the inspector in an inspector calls (high level response), inspector goole is presented as an omnipotent, powerful figure throughout the whole play; his presence immediately has the power to change the light and cheerful atmosphere of the birlings' dinner party. the lighting changes from "pink and intimate" to "brighter and harder" once the inspector arrives. here, priestley's use of the adjectives "pink and intimate" suggests a warm and happy atmosphere whereas the adjective "harder" opposes this. priestley uses the inspector as a dramatic device. not only could it be argued that the inspector is an immensely powerful figure but also that priestley uses the stage directions that inspector goole's arrival to act as a symbol for how he wants society to improve. the lighting before the inspector arrives suggests that the birling family – who are a stereotypical portrayal of a middle class family – were happy whilst they were ignorant to the working class. the lighting change tells us how priestley wants society to change; he wants society to stop being ignorant to the working class., furthermore, j. b. priestley uses the inspector to convey that he wants society to change and become more empathetic towards the working class instead of perceiving them as being disposable. when the inspector arrives, he tells the birling family about eva smith’s suicide in which she drank a lot of strong disinfectant that “burnt her inside out”. priestley’s language persuades the audience to feel immense sympathy not only for eva smith but also for all of the working class; it could be argued that eva smith’s suffering and suicide is used as a metaphor to highlight the continuous struggled faced by the working class, throwing into relief the issues within society and how these problems are ignored by the wealthier classes. priestley’s gory imagery alternately makes the audience feel guilty because they may realise how ignorant they have been to ignore the struggles of the working class and persuade them to change by being more empathetic., priestley suggests that a pressing issue with the twentieth century society is that people are reluctant to take responsibility for their actions. this view is encapsulated through the use of the elder members of the birling family, arthur birling and his wife mrs birling – who do not take responsibility for their actions towards eva smith. however, priestley uses the inspector to try to change this. the inspector states that if we share nothing else, “we have to share our guilt”. here priestley uses the personal pronoun “we” to give society a sense of unity, implying everyone must do the same and follow the inspector’s teachings. ‘an inspector calls’ was set in 1912, a time in which society was divided by not only gender but by social class. priestley wants the middle and upper classes to transform from abusing their power to dominate and exploit the working class to instead being more responsible for their actions and treating people more sympathetically ., priestley uses the inspector to convey the consequences of what will happen if members of society do not change. he states that we will be “taught” in “fire and blood and anguish”. priestley’s use of a triplet of nouns act as metaphors for the two world wars. the entire play is used as a motif for the wars; if society proceeds to not improve the way in which members of society treat each other, the world wars will repeat in an endless cycle until we learn. here, the inspector is presented as an omnipotent being. ‘an inspector calls’ was written and first performed at the end of the second world war therefore the contemporary audience will have experienced the perpetual suffering that comes with them. priestley uses the inspector to make the audience fearful as they are persuaded to think that the inspector is a god-like character imposing judgement on society. this will persuade all audiences to change their actions and embrace socialist ideologies of caring for other members of society which is what priestley intended them to do., priestley wants the middle and upper classes to stop being selfish and exploiting the poor for their own financial gain, but instead be more generous and empathetic towards other members of the working class. the inspector is almost an impartial figure in the play because he does not fit into the distinct levels of society. this gives the audience the impression that the inspector is an unbiased figure; they will be persuaded to listen to him and change their views., compare priestley’s presentation of eva smith and shelia birling., in the play ‘an inspector calls’ we see a family called the birlings that consist of many different characters, personalities and beliefs. we only begin to see these different aspects when the family begin to learn how each one of them was involved in causing the chain of events which led a girl, eva smith to commit suicide. there are two characters in particular who are very different in the way that they live their lives and their own outlook on life. these two characters are eva smith and shelia birling., shelia is the daughter of sybil and arthur birling. they are a well-known family in brumley and are in the public eye constantly because of the position her father holds within the town as he is on the bench and the owner of the big birling and company and is due to marry gerald croft whose parents are very well-known also., eva smith is almost the opposite of the social scale to shelia. she has no friends or family to rely on and is quite an independent woman. she struggles to get by and is unable to cope with the strains that she is forced to be under at her age., at the beginning of the play we see shelia at the table with her family and how she is influenced by her family’s thoughts. she was quite childish and used petty excuses for her actions ‘i told him that if they didn’t get rid of that girl, i’d never go near the place again’. this shows that shelia had the same approach about how to treat others of the lower class as her father, which is not a good quality that shelia and arthur birling share., when we first hear of eva smith in the play we learn about the time that she experienced while working at birling and company. she was outspoken, resilient and gutsy as she led a group of workers on strike in an attempt to get higher wages ‘she’d had a lot to say-far too much- so she had to go’., there we see the huge difference in the lives that each of them live, but it is the way that shelia changes as the play goes on and learns more about eva smith’s life., once shelia knows more about the family’s effect on eva’s life she becomes more defiant, and mature. she begins to stand up to her parents who still look down on eva. she realises that there is no need to treat a person the way that the birling family did, no matter whether it was the same girl or not ‘everything we said had happened really hadn’t happened. if it didn’t end tragically, then that’s lucky for us. but it might have done.’ she has a more compassionate approach to eva and her life as she learns about the suffering that this girl the same age as herself had to go through., priestly shows the importance of caring for others within your community by showing that if the birling’s had looked after eva smith and treated her with any respect then maybe it would have prevented her suicide, because she would have been in a lot happier state of mind. this also takes place near to every one of us. if you treat one person unacceptably then you never know what effect that may have on them and others around them, if you do your bit to treat every person with decency that you meet then you will have no regrets with what you have done., priestly also shows through shelia that she was the next generation, with the new ideas of how people of another class should be treated and how the other birling’s are still living in the old, traditional frame of mind, which is harsh and uncaring to others. whereas shelia would be a middle aged woman when priestly wrote the book, he wanted to show the difference of views between the younger and older generations of 1912., shelia birling and eva smith are very different characters, but it is the effect that they can have on each other’s lives which highlights priestley’s views about community., to what extent could you argue that mr birling is the most important character in an inspector calls , as the ‘head of the household’ mr birling is, arguably, the central character to an inspector calls. throughout the beginning of the play he displays the kind of arrogance that priestley expected to see from a selfish capitalist; throughout the exchange, he is completely unapologetic about the death of eva; and after the inspector leaves, he tries his hardest to get out of trouble. also, if you argued that an inspector calls is really a morality play, then you could see mr birling as representing the deadly sins of greed and pride, both things that priestly attacked capitalists for., at the beginning of the play, mr birling is described as “heavy looking” which immediately reminds us of a large, well fed, rich man, enjoying the luxuries of life. his “easy manners” but “provincial speech” remind us that although he is now rich (as symbolised by his knowledge of manners) he is from working class roots (provincial means from the country, or of a lower class.) mr birling is one of those men who had made money during the industrial revolution and, priestley argues, was then exploiting the working classes for his own profit., during the opening exchanges over dinner, birling shows off to gerald croft – his daughter’s new fiancé – by mentioning some rather expensive port he bought, and then gives a long and stuffy speech about how lucky his children are to be born into a time of such good fortune. throughout the speech priestley uses a lot of dramatic irony as he mentions birling’s belief that there would be no labour issues (despite the fact that the russian revolution was just five years away;) there would be no war in germany (despite two being on the horizon,) and – in a moment of comedy – that the titanic was “unsinkable.” throughout this speech, audience members are reminded of how little we know about the future, and how important it is that we prepare for the unexpected. birling is shown to be arrogant, small minded, and selfish; all features that a socialist like priestley would expect to see in a capitalist like birling., priestly times the inspector’s arrival so that he cuts birling off during one of his selfish rants: “a man has to mind his own business and look after himself,” he is saying as the doorbell rings. his initial response to the inspector is immediately defensive: he delivers a short speech detailing the members of the local police force that he knows, and the fact that he used to be mayor. the inspector seems uninterested though. throughout their exchange birling makes it clear that he feels no responsibility saying a number of times that he had nothing to do with this “wretched” girl’s death. the use of this adjective is interesting as “wretched” can mean poor or downtrodden, but it can also mean disliked and disgusting; birling, we have to assume, feels both are true. at one point he argues, perfectly summarising priestley’s feelings about the attitude of people like birling: “i can't accept any responsibility. if we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward.”, during the remainder of the play, mr birling continues to reveal himself as being selfish and without regret. he is continually worried about the threat to his dreamt of knighthood and, when the chance arises, is even happy to direct all the blame at his young son, eric. he also tries to bribe the inspector, offering him “thousands” now it has all gone wrong, despite the fact that he wouldn’t pay her even a few shillings more at the time. throughout act 3, it is mr birling who leads the campaign to recognise the inspector as being a fraud and he is the most relieved when it turns out that there is no dead girl. however, unlike sheila, he isn’t relieved that no-one had died but is simply pleased to have saved his own hide., however, as the main character in the play mr birling receives both the opening and closing lines. in the end, it is him who is stuck, holding the phone and revealing that there is and “inspector on the way,” and in many ways it is him that the audience will be most pleased to see get his just deserts., what is the role of the inspector in an inspector calls , an inspector calls is a parable that was set during the belle époque (meaning the beautiful period) which lasted from 1870-1914. in the play, a family have their dinner party interrupted by an inspector who comes to visit. though this is a morality play in the traditional sense, its moral compass is very much set by the author’s belief in socialism ., the inspector arrives at a critical point. mr birling, the patriarch of his family, is delivering a lecture to his son and future son-in-law, about how “men must look after themselves…” in this way he is exposing his deep selfishness – one that priestly believed was at the heart of all capitalists. at this point there is a “sharp ring on the doorbell,” the adverb perhaps foreshadowing how the inspectors arrival will cut through the birlings’ veneer of respectability ., almost as soon as he arrives, mr birling reminds him of his own social standing – that he used to be mayor and has played golf with the chief inspector. the fact that mr birling is threatening the inspector is barely concealed , though the inspector brushes it aside. as a morality play, all the characters in an inspector calls represent something else - an ideal or social group or class. here, the birlings represent the wealthy and privileged elite while the inspector represents the newly educated middle classes, who would rise up and form a bridge between the elite and the working classes below them. the inspector, as becomes clear, is here to ensure that the birlings do not get away with how they treated eva smith., the inspector is described as giving an “impression of massiveness.” this is interesting as it makes it clear that he isn’t massive but should give that “impression.” as a direction this is a bit of a nightmare for a casting agent . he shouldn’t be big, but should have a gravitas that makes him seem huge. fortunately, however, priestley has written a part that gives every opportunity for moral superiority for an actor., also, from the moment he arrives the stage directions call for the lighting to change from “pink and intimate” – perhaps reflecting the rose - tinted spectacles through which the birlings view the world – and to something more “harsh.” perhaps this change is designed to highlight how the inspector’s arrival puts the birlings behaviour in the spotlight or exposes the lies they kept hidden in the shadows ., the first to fall to his inspection is mr birling, who sacked eva after she arranged for a strike amongst his workers while they demanded more pay. though birling admitted that she was a good worker, he clearly saw his profits threatened by her behaviour and made an example of her. mr birling’s children, however, do not share his selfishness and, as his son points out, “why shouldn’t they try for higher wages we try for bigger profits.” in many ways this quote exposes the selfish, unreasonable nature of capitalists : that they see their own right to desire more profits as god given , while those who resist are “troublemakers” and “cranks.”, after mr birling, the inspector turns to sheila, who had eva sacked from her job in a local department store. it is clear from the story – which sheila tells – that she was jealous of eva’s good looks. it is also clear, however, that sheila deeply regrets her actions. not long after this, mrs birling comments that sheila’s feelings have been changed and claims that the inspector has made an “impression” on her. this is a telling word – an “impression” is something that is the result of pressure, as though she’s been bullied into seeing things differently; but it is also something that often disappears over time. mrs birling’s feelings are clear: that the inspector’s ideas have affected sheila, but only fleetingly . the inspector replies dryly , acknowledging that he will often have an effect on the young. in many ways this reflects the old adage that young people are more socialist by nature, gradually turning to the more self-centred right as they grow. this is certainly the point that is being made by priestley, as the inspector affects the younger generation far more than their elders., after sheila, he turns to gerald who, again, reveals his own role in the death of eva. by this stage she is known as daisy renton – a name that perhaps reflects the fact her position: daisies are simple flowers that call to mind the innocence of daisy chains; while the appearance of “rent” in her name reminds us of what she did to her body in order to survive., the play continues to get darker as the inspector turns to mrs birling. under pressure she tells the inspector, and the audience, about how she turned away a young pregnant woman and that if the inspector was doing his job properly he should be chasing down the father. at this point, the audience know that she is talking about eric and are tensely waiting for the big reveal. in many respects it is also at this point that the audience is forced to reflect on the nature of this play: up until this moment, the action seems relatively realistic and, although the focus has been on only one character at any time, the focus has shifted around the room without any seeming construction . this time, however, the structure is too neat to be believed; it’s too well constructed to maintain the illusion of realism , and we know that we are watching a parable in which the inspector has an almost divine control over the action., after exposing the family’s “crimes” the inspector finally delivers his closing speech, which has all the hallmarks of a sermon that is delivered to the audience as much as it is to the family. in it, he reminds us of all the eva smiths and john smiths there are in the world, and that we are “one body.” here, the inspector is addressing both the audience in 1945 and the audience in 1912. the telling difference was the two world wars, during which the working classes proved themselves to be every bit as strong and resilient as their “social superiors.” the sense of national bonding that took place during the wars led to significant social changes in the uk, not least the creation of the nhs and the welfare state, and it was characters like the inspector (and priestley) who made sure this happened., his final warning, however, that “if we do not learn this lesson we will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish,” has a slightly different meaning in the two time periods. for the family in 1912 it was prophetic ; but for an audience in 1945 it would have been suggesting that the wars were almost a punishment for their behaviour, and a way of suggesting that if they didn’t embrace socialism now then the wars, and all the horrors that came with them, would return again., at the end of the play, the birlings receive a phone call which tells them that a real police inspector is on the way, to talk about a girl who has recently died. this final moment raises questions about the role of the inspector goole we’ve just watched, and it is at this point that his name seems important: is he a goole, or a ghoul, or something else from some other world is he some angelic messenger send to bring divine judgement that question is never answered, though the audience – or the young ones at least – should have no doubts that his understanding of the world is from a “higher” place., another essay on the role of the inspector in an inspector calls ., this essay's structure is as follows:, a summary paragraph, how the inspector is introduced, mr birling and the inspector – good for ao2, a “panic” paragraph – without quotes – that picks up on some key moments from the rest of the play – good for ao1, the inspector at the end, in the play an inspector calls, a police inspector brings judgement to a rich family who live in 1912. the play is a morality play, in which each of the characters represents a particular role or opinion. in this morality play, the inspector promotes a socialist understanding of the world in a way that reflects the views of the play’s author jb priestley., when the inspector arrives he cuts off mr birling’s lecture when he is saying that “ a man must look after himself and his family …” this interruption symbolises the way that inspector is going to stop mr birling’s views. also, it says that there is a “ sharp ring on the doorbell .” the word “ sharp ” suggests that the inspector will cut through mr birling’s selfish ideas. also, from the moment he arrives the stage directions call for the lighting to change from “ pink and intimate ” to something more “ harsh .” this is because the birlings see the world through as being nice and friendly while the inspector will bring a “ harsh ” judgement on them., in the play, the inspector works as a foil to mr birling’s selfish capitalism. at the beginning of the play, mr birling calls socialists “ cranks ” – which means crazy – and says that if we all listened to socialists we’d be like “ bees in a hive .” this remark criticises socialists as bees lack individuality, they work almost like a big machine, and only do what they’re told and mr birling doesn’t want the world to be like this. the inspector, however, believes that we are “ members of one body ” and that we are “ responsible for each other .” in this way, the inspector is talking about the socialist ideas which suggest that because we all live together we should look after each other. in fact, he goes on to suggest that if we don’t learn to do this we will “ taught it in fire and blood and anguish .” this is clearly a reference to the two world wars which were fought between the time the play was set and when it was written. it is also telling that mr birling didn’t think the wars would happen – he would probably have referred to that as being an idea from some kind of “ crank .”, at the beginning of the play mr birling threatens the inspector by saying that he plays golf with the chief inspector. the inspector, however, doesn’t care and carries on his investigation. throughout the play, the inspector acts like he doesn’t care about the characters social standings and only wants to focus on the facts. he is someone logical and he doesn’t care what people think of him. he just wants the truth about eva’s death. he also has a habit of looking “hard” at the person he is addressing. this is because he is inspecting them, almost as though he’s looking through them and into their soul., in the end the inspector leaves and we are left unsure as to whether he was real or not. however, because his name is inspector goole – which sounds similar to ghoul (which is a kind of spirit or ghost) – the audience would be within their rights to think of him as a kind of spiritual prophet or divine messenger., a third essay on the role of the inspector in an inspector calls , jb priestley uses the story of an inspector calls to contrast the differences between upper/upper-middle and working class people in society during the edwardian times. the inspector questions the birling family to think about the consequences of their actions on others – predominately the working class and people whom they believe to be inferior to them. priestley uses the inspector to make society question their morals and think about accepting responsibility for their actions. each character reacts differently to the inspector and priestley uses this to represent capitalist vs socialist ideals., - nice opening – clear and specific and leaves the examiner comfortable that you know what you’re doing. may be a bit long – though it is all meaningful, when the inspector enters the birling household, the stage directions states that the lights change from ‘pink and intimate’ to ‘brighter and harder’. this shows how the presence of the inspector changes the atmosphere and how he is here for a purpose. the lighting change from ‘pink and intimate’ to ‘brighter and harder’ almost shows how the inspector is going to burst the birling’s protected, capitalist bubble. the idea of the lights being ‘brighter and harder’ create the idea of a spotlight shining on the birling family and how the inspector is there to expose them to the truth. in the stage directions, it also says that the inspector ‘creates an impression of massiveness’. this shows that although the birling’s are superior to him in class, the inspector still holds the authority over them all. it could also be foreshadowing that the inspector is going to create a lasting ‘impression’ over the birling family and impact their lives hopefully for the better., - super cool lots of detail, specific things being said and focusing on sections of the text. this is what you want to do, in act one, mr birling makes several threats to the inspector about his connections with the chief constable. this shows how mr birling feels threatened and uncomfortable with the inspectors presence. he tries to assert his authority over the inspector to protect himself and his pride as he’s being questioned by someone who is inferior to himself. he doesn’t want to damage his reputation and all he is thinking about is himself. this represents the capitalist society and how they refuse to think of any but themselves and how they will go to any measure to protect their reputation. mr birling also tries to emphasise his importance to the inspector by mentioning gerald and his family name. he says, “perhaps i ought to explain first that this is mr gerald croft – the son of sir george croft – you know, crofts limited.” by mentioning gerald’s family name, it shows how mr birling is trying to intimidate the inspector. also, mr birling could be mentioning the croft name to try to make himself feel more in control of the situation and back in the superior position in the room. priestley uses the reaction of mr birling to the inspector to represent how people of the upper capitalist class use their positions of power as an excuse to be ignorant to their actions. priestley wanted make people aware of this to questions their own ignorance., - again, this is great. you show a clear understanding of the relationship between birling and the inspector and clearly explain the power dynamic in the room, at the end of the play, the inspector makes a big final speech to the birling family. it opens with a reminder that there are thousands of “john smiths and eva smiths” in the world. this reminds the audience that we all have to accept responsibility for our actions and realise it is not enough to only think of ourselves but we must think of others as well. the inspector then goes on to say that “we don't live alone. we are members of one body. we are responsible for each other.” these three concise sentences summarise the lesson priestley was trying to convey to the audience. by keeping the sentences short but powerful, it leaves a lasting impression on the birling family but more importantly, the audience. this links to the beginning stage direction of the inspector creating an ‘impression of massiveness’. he then warns the family (and audience) that if ‘men don’t soon learn their lesson they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish’. this is a reference to the many years of war that had taken place between when the play was set and when it was performed. it could be seen to be served as a warning to the people that they need to change their actions or history will repeat itself., - really good as well. you’ve focused in on specific techniques here and shown a clear understanding of how those techniques have effects., overall, this is a very good essay – it’s got a wide range of detailed quotes, points and pieces of analysis. it could be improved with a few moments where you zoom in on specific words and explore the meaning of them – think about mr birling saying he “can’t” take responsibility, or mrs birling saying she “won’t” take responsibility and the inspector saying “we are responsible.” this kind of link will push this essay up into the 8-9 category., what is the significance of the ending in an inspector calls , in effect, ‘an inspector calls’ has arguably three endings, or climaxes. the first is the final speech of the inspector, before he exits dramatically, walking ‘straight out’. the second is as the family think it all may have been a ‘fake’. the third represents the justice in the final words of the play., priestly ensures that the inspector says little in the way of moral judgment until just before he exits. this in itself increases dramatic tension – the audience is waiting for a confrontation which is dependent on all the facts of the story finally emerging. his final speech is based on the great moral authority he has gained through the entirety of the play and is in a sense cathartic. as an ‘inspector’, he is symbolic of the moral and legal authority of the police force. ‘inspecting’ carries the idea of sifting carefully though the actions of the birlings in a detailed and objective manner. priestley adds objectivity and legal precision to the inspector’s character; thus by the climax of his investigation, we, the audience, instinctively trust his moral conclusions also. there is a sense of relief in hearing the birlings finally being condemned for their actions., the inspector’s final speech is, in tone, almost a sermon. the frequent use of blunt, short diction is combined with imperatives which make him seem almost a preacher or a prophetic figure, as he tells the birlings to “remember this”, and tells them that “we are responsible for each other.” although he uses often the first person plural to emphasise their common humanity, he is also accusatory with his use of ‘you’ as he threatens them with what will come if they fail to learn this lesson. the imagery priestley draw from is biblical by nature. from the eucharist service, the inspector uses the biblical metaphor that we are all “members of one body”. the well-known nature of this metaphor makes it seemingly self-evidently true to the audience. the apocalyptic imagery that follows is equally well-known, as the inspector promises “fire and blood and anguish”. the tricolon is heavily emphatic and emotive – the birlings’ rejection of it, which follows swiftly, creates a further sense of their moral vacuity. this sermonic end to the inspector’s presence onstage makes him seem a didactic mouthpiece for the play – he speaks in effect as much to the audience as to the birlings. although it is a relatively brief and restrained speech, nonetheless it is a powerful end – it seems – to the drama., birling’s absence of moral epiphany is enacted in the second ‘ending’ of the play in the ‘huge sigh of relief’ he emits when he discovers that the inspector is not actually from the police station. he rejects the inspector’s final words through this stage direction which creates a dramatic hyperbole that it is impossible for the audience to miss. eva smith’s name suggests that she represents all of the ordinary humanity, eva suggesting eve of genesis, symbolically the mother of humanity, and smith being a stereotypical working-class surname. thus birling’s ‘huge’ indifference is, symbolically, to the suffering of any human being, particularly those who are his socially inferior. indeed, his estimations of people’s worth have been entirely based on their money or their social connections; early on in the play he attempts at first to threaten the inspector by explicitly ‘warning him that the chief constable, colonel roberts, is an ‘old friend’ of his. birling’s ‘relief’ therefore is that his place in society is not damaged after all – even though it is based on corruption and inhumanity towards whose who are weaker and more socially vulnerable than him. thus birling has learned nothing at all in the play., further, birling is ‘triumphant’ when he decides that the story is nothing more than ‘moonshine’. ‘triumph’ suggests victory and winning – birling’s delight is based on his perception that he will not be in any way held to account for his misdeeds. ‘moonshine’ is a dismissive colloquialism – priestley uses this to emphasise that there is no emotional impact whatsoever on birling for the suffering of eva smith and those whom she represents. this is accentuated by mrs birling’s suggestion that in the morning eric and sheila will be as ‘amused’ as they are. the tragedy of what happened to eva through her circumstances and through the undeserved actions of others is in effect diminished to a joke. priestley ensures that this anticlimactic interpretation of the play’s events by mrs birling is morally repugnant to the audience. the older birlings and gerald are villainesque, antagonistic figures., sheila is partly redeemed from the birling’s self-seeking immorality. sheila’s response to birling’s ‘relief’ is to accuse him of ‘pretending’ that all is well. this accusation of play-acting creates an ironic role-reversal, as though birling is the one childishly refusing to engage with reality, and she becomes the parent-figure who rebukes him for his immaturity. this childishness is not an indication of birling’s innocence, but of his lack of responsibility. sheila is the youthful one in the conversation, but she is the one who is vulnerable to the corruption of her parents, and she lacks meaningful power. partly also because of her gender, she is, like eva, the victim of birling’s philosophy of greed – and yet the awakening of her moral awareness is presented as a coming-of-age epiphany. she learns to reject the selfishness and inhumanity of her parents as she realises that all the working-class are intrinsically human beings. she absorbs the relatively complex moral didacticism the inspector represents with regards to the interconnectedness of human society. this is particularly shown by her quoting the exact words of the inspector’s apocalyptic list of consequences if the rich fail to heed the social situation: she quotes his words of ‘fire and blood and anguish’. although she shows no explicit awareness of the social apocalypse of which the inspector warns, she recalls what ‘he made me feel’. her emotional engagement is presented in ironic juxtaposition with her parents’ emotional disengagement. priestley redeems her partly to show the morally repugnant nature of the birlings’ lack of redemption, through juxtaposing their response with hers., the unrepentant birlings are presented by priestley as grotesque not only through their failure to realise their wrong-doing, but also, and more importantly in their seeking of moral superiority over eva smith and the workers she represents. the callous self-righteousness they exhibit is best portrayed in mrs birling’s rhetorical question, ‘why shouldn’t we’ when sheila asks how they possibly can continue as they were before. the fact she considers the question to need no actual answer indicates her moral blindness – it indicates her assumption that the rightr of the powerful to abuse the poor is irrefutable and self-evident. priestley, through the drama, shows how society creates moral indifference to the working-class., the superficiality is also epitomised in gerald’s statement that ‘everything is all right now.’ this bland cliché becomes ironically extremely emotive for the audience as we know that the lack of a moral compass for the birlings and gerald means that others will be treated just as eva was. the superficiality of this analysis has great dramatic power to repulse the audience – and perhaps to begin to effect the social change priestley desired., the third and final ‘ending’ is mysterious. at one level, it satisfies the audience’s hope that there will be justice for eva. by instructing the actors to look ‘guiltily’ around, priestly ensures that the moral indifference of the second ending is not the concluding note of the play. birling speaking on the phone when the person has ‘rung off’ indicates also that his social authority is over; creating the sense that there is justice has lost what he really cared about. the inspector’s semi-comical surname, ‘goole’ also seems relevant right at the play’s climax. there is the suggestion that he did indeed in some way represent supernatural forces intervening in the birlings’ lives to bring justice for eva. however, the play by its nature ends inconclusively. in effect, we are left on a cliffhanger wondering what the ‘real’ police inspector will do. perhaps this reflects priestley’s aim for the audience to think about the play’s social message. the ending of ‘an inspector calls’ is a strong statement of the responsibility of those who seek money and social rank at the expense of humanity. it is strongly didactic and powerful., check this essay.

There are drastic differences that are seen in people who are born in different generations. One may argue that the younger generations are more impressionable and naive while the older generations are very hardheaded and assertive. By creating characters like Sheila and Eric with a large age gap between Mr. and Mrs. Birling in the play An Inspector Calls, tension is created through their differences clashing. J.B. Priestley’s use of contrasting characterization within the Birling family in the play An Inspector Calls creates tension and communicates his theme that one must take into consideration the consequences of their actions and take responsibility for them.

The Birling’s children, Erica and Sheila, are presumed to be very naive and still listening and agreeing with their parent’s words due to their ages. Yet, thought the play both Eric and Sheila prove to be mentally mature and responsible while directly reflect the inspector’s message. Eric Birling was caught up in the complicated situation relating to the death of Eva Smith through his role in impregnating her. Although he is ashamed, he steps up to the plate and confesses his actions and even admits to the fact that “I wasn’t in love with her or anything”, yet he understands that his actions did produce consequences and he takes responsibility for them. He insists on giving her enough money to keep her going, even though it included stealing money from his father (Priestley 50). This action was done unjustly, yet it shows how determined Eric was in order to fix his mistake and take responsibility for his actions- exactly what the Inspector teaches. Sheila Birling, the sister of Eric, also starts out by admitting to her role in the death of Eva. She expresses her sorrow and regret for her actions stating how “It was my own fault… and if I could help her now, I would” right away (24-25). Even though she did not take action like Eric did, she still takes responsibility for her actions and shows that she really does care about the consequences she was unable to attend to. As the play continues and everyone finds out that inspector Goole was a fake, the parents of Sheila and Eric both start to downplay the events of that evening. Suddenly the tension starts to rise as soon as the children speak directly against their parents stating “if you must know it’s you two who are being childish” (55). Sheila is so disgusted by the actions of her parents, that her character takes an unpredictable turn and she evolves into a brave young woman annoyed enough to scold her own parents. Even Eric states directly to his parents that “well, I don’t blame you. But don’t forget i’m ashamed of you as well. Yes- both of you” (54). The characters Sheila and Eric create tension in the play through their differences regarding their view on taking responsibility that contrasts greatly with their parents. The fact that the younger generation is standing up to the older generation and doing unconventional actions like scolding them, the main theme of the novel is clearly represented.

The older generation in the Birling family consists of strong characters: unlikely to sway in their ideas easily, hard headed, and arrogant. Arthur too is confronted about his dealings with Eva Smith, but immediately states that “the girl has been causing trouble in the works. I was quite justified (19). Here, he is seemingly ok knowing that she was forced to kill herself all because of something that started out with him originally and a sign of regret is not to be found. The younger generation, prominently Sheila is verbally pointing out her contrasting viewpoint directly saying (to Mr. Birling) “I think it was a mean thing to do” (21). Tension is created as a result of her comment, but in a way she forces her father to re-examine at his actions by him hearing an opposite viewpoint and internally contemplate her and the Inspector’s message. Another situation that increases the tension overall is when Sheila hears her father describe Eva as cheap labour, and automatically she jumps in stating “but these girls aren’t cheap labour – they’re people” clearly showcasing the differences in the mindset of the two generations (19). Lastly, Mrs. Birling gets confronted with her mistake and does admit to her actions. Her arrogance shows through when she plainly lays out her thoughts to the inspector that “if you think you can bring any pressure to bear upon me, Inspector, you’re quite mistaken. Unlike the other three, I did nothing I’m ashamed of or that won’t bear investigation… You have no power to change my mind” and like Mr. Birling does not have a hint of regret in her (44). Sybil Birling is blinded to the problems within her household and herself, and therefore tension is created when she directly contradicts the viewpoints of her children. The theme of the play is brought out because of this, when the children start to argue their point about accepting responsibility for their actions’ consequences.

Through tension between the characters, the main theme that we don’t live alone, are members of one body, and are responsible for each other is revealed. Sadly for this to be revealed, tension is built greatly dividing the Birling family- the younger vs the older generation. The children desperately try to get their parents to accept what they believe is the inspector’s lesson and purpose for visiting, yet Arthur and Sybil are set on the idea that they are just “the famous younger generation who know it all. And they can’t even take a joke” (72). Although it may be true that the inspector is not real and the older generation will never learn, the main theme is being communicated successfully to the audience. By looking at Mr. and Mrs. Birling and the way they instigate an attack on themselves by their children, the audience feels disgusted by them and the theme reaches the audience.

Exemplar Essay: Arthur Birling

How does Priestley present Arthur Birling?

Early in the play, Priestley presents Arthur Birling as selfish. During Birling’s speech about how he runs his factory, Priestley has Birling state ‘a man has to mind his own business, look after himself and his own’. In other words, Birling is saying that he must only use his money to help himself and his own family. Priestley’s use of the words ‘his’ and ‘himself’ reveal how selfish Arthur Birling is. It is clear that he is not interested in taking care of his workers, which is not what you’d expect from someone in Birling’s important position. Priestley uses Birling to criticise selfish upper class businessmen in 1912, who did not do enough to help the working class people who worked for them.

As the play continues, Priestley presents Arthur Birling as irresponsible . When the inspector questions Birling, the audience learns that he ‘refused of course’ when Eva Smith asked for a small pay rise. Priestley’s use of the word ‘refused’ demonstrates that Birling didn’t even carefully consider giving the pay rise, which reveals how irresponsible he is. As a factory owner, he should have been taking responsibility for his workers but, instead, he was only interested in looking after himself. He was too worried that a small pay rise would eat into his profits, so he didn’t allow it. When the inspector tries to make Birling feel guilty that his actions contributed to Eva Smith’s death, Birling says ‘I can’t accept any responsibility’. In other words, Birling is stating that he doesn’t believe his actions led to Eva Smith’s death. It is clear from Birling’s presentation that Priestley wishes to criticise upper class people for not taking enough responsibility for working class people. He wants to convince his 1945 audience to take more responsibility and build a fairer society for everyone.

Later in the play, Priestley presents Arthur Birling as unwilling to learn. Priestley has Arthur Birling say to the inspector ‘I’d give thousands’. It is clear from these words that Birling is trying to pay the inspector to keep quiet about his involvement with Eva Smith because he wants to protect his reputation. Even though Birling has realised that his actions helped kill Eva Smith, he is still only thinking about himself, which indicates that he hasn’t learned at all. Priestley contrasts Arthur with his daughter Sheila, who says ‘I started it’, which demonstrates that she takes full responsibility for her actions. Unlike Arthur, Sheila recognises that her actions helped trigger the chain of events that led to Eva Smith’s death. Priestley does this in order to show the difference between younger and older characters. Whereas the older characters are unwilling to learn, the younger characters learn and mature throughout the play. Perhaps he aimed to show his 1945 audience that it was up to the younger generation to change society because they were more willing to learn from their mistakes.

In ‘An Inspector Calls’ Priestley presents Arthur Birling as selfish and stubborn. Through Arthur Birling’s character, Priestley not only challenges the capitalist viewpoint that dominates society but also criticises the irresponsibility of the wealthy, older generation.

Before the inspector arrives, Priestley portrays Arthur Birling as a selfish and foolish man to challenge his capitalist view. Just before the inspector enters, Priestley has Arthur Birling confidently deliver a speech to Eric and Gerald about his views on society. In this speech, Priestley has Arthur confidently declare that the Titanic is ‘unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable’. Through the repetition of the words ‘unsinkable’, Priestley suggests that Arthur Birling is extremely confident in the new streamliner. By using dramatic irony, Priestley is able to immediately show the audience that Arthur Birling’s views are foolish and arrogant because they would have known that the Titanic did sink. Perhaps Priestley wanted to instantly convey that Birling is foolish and wrong so the audience learns not to trust his views from the beginning. After Birling wrongly states that the Titanic will not sink, he boasts that a ‘man has to mind his own business, look after himself and his own’. As an arrogant businessman, Arthur believes that a man should work hard to be successful in life and has no interest in helping his workers or the wider community. Priestley’s use of the pronouns ‘himself’ and ‘his’ indicates that Birling is only interested in himself and supports the capitalist view that a man should only care about himself. By structuring Birling’s speech in this order, Priestley has already revealed to the audience Birling is wrong so that they do not trust the capitalist views he proudly shares with Gerald and Eric. Additionally, Priestley has the inspector enter at this moment to demonstrate that Arthur’s views are foolish and deserve to be interrupted.

During the inspector’s questioning, Priestley presents Arthur Birling as irresponsible to criticise the behaviour of wealthy businessmen. Upon being questioned by the inspector, Arthur selfishly admits that he ‘refused’ to give his workers higher wages ‘of course’. Rather than choosing to be a responsible employer and giving his workers a rise that he could easily afford, Arthur Birling proudly refuses to give his workers any more money. Priestley uses the words ‘of course’ to demonstrate that Birling believes he was right in refusing his workers any more money and that it was the obvious decision to make. By suggesting that Birling thinks this was obvious, Priestley implies many wealthy businessmen adopted the selfish model of paying their workers a minimum amount of money so that they could benefit from a higher profit. Not only does Birling not fulfill his duty of looking after his workers, he also refuses to admit that he played a role in Eva Smith’s death. As the inspector continues to interrogate Birling, Arthur Birling admits that he ‘cannot take any responsibility’ for Eva’s death. Despite knowing that by firing Eva he could have contributed to her death, he chooses not to acknowledge this. Priestley’s use of the word ‘any’ could be used to imply that Birling is unwilling to take even a small part of responsibility in her death which shows he is unsympathetic of the difficulties faced by the working class. Not only does Priestley use Birling to criticise the wealthy businessmen who did not take responsibility for their workers, he also criticises the way in which the older generation were too stubborn to learn from their mistakes. Perhaps Priestley wanted to encourage his audience to see the consequences of selfish behaviour in order to encourage them to take more responsibility.

As the inspector prepares to leave, Priestley demonstrates that Arthur Birling is unwilling to learn in order to challenge the stubborn nature of the older generation. Just before the inspector leaves, Arthur Birling states that he would give ‘thousands’ in order to make the situation with Eva Smith disappear. Not only does Priestley reveal here that Birling is wealthy enough to pay his workers more money, he also insinuates that Birling only uses his money for selfish means. Rather than feeling guilty about his treatment of Eva Smith, Birling offers the ‘thousands’ in order to protect his own reputation, showing that he has learnt nothing from the inspector. Priestley makes clear to the audience that Birling only wants the situation with Eva Smith to go away so that he can maintain his reputation and still be in the running for a knighthood. A knighthood is awarded for achievements and commitments to your country so by having Arthur Birling in the running for a knighthood, Priestley could be suggesting that Arthur Birling is hypocritical. Birling is willing to accept his knighthood and judge other people based on their moral and responsible behaviour but is unwilling to accept his responsibility in Eva’s death. Priestley might also be criticising society for being hypocritical because selfish, wealthy men like Arthur Birling are celebrated while moral working class people are often ignored and mistreated. As people in England were beginning to notice, and campaign against, the fact that society was unfair, perhaps this would have given Priestley’s audience even more motivation to fight back against the inequality in society.

Overall, through the character of Arthur Birling, Priestley encourages his audience to move away from capitalism and towards socialism. Priestley’s portrayal of Arthur as irresponsible and selfish highlights the foolish and destructive nature of capitalism and puts forward the need for a more equal society where people are responsible for each other.

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Grade 9 Model Answer and Revision Guide: Selfishness and Its Effects in An Inspector Calls

Grade 9 Model Answer and Revision Guide: Selfishness and Its Effects in An Inspector Calls

Subject: English

Age range: 14-16

Resource type: Assessment and revision

Elizabeth Quigg's Shop

Last updated

8 August 2023

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how is selfishness presented in an inspector calls essay

Description: This digital product is curated for educators teaching “An Inspector Calls” by J.B. Priestley to facilitate a deep dive into the theme of selfishness and its consequences within the play.

This resource contains the following sections:

  • Key Ideas: This section offers a comprehensive overview of the central themes and motifs associated with selfishness in the play. Drawing from character actions, dialogues, and historical context, this part lays the foundation for students to understand the broader implications of selfishness in Edwardian society and how Priestley presents it.
  • Key Points: These are precise bullet points summarizing core aspects and examples of selfishness in the play. Ideal for revision, these points can also serve as a launching pad for classroom discussions, debates, and essay planning. Teachers will find them useful for structuring lessons and ensuring students grasp the crucial elements related to the topic.
  • Model Answer: Designed as an exemplar, this section showcases a high-quality essay response to the question, “How does Priestley present selfishness and its effects in An Inspector Calls?”. It integrates evidence from the text with critical analysis, demonstrating how students can cohesively argue a point. Educators can use this as a reference, guiding students in essay writing techniques, structuring arguments, and utilizing evidence effectively.

Benefits to Educators and Students:

  • For Educators: This resource offers a structured approach to teaching a complex theme in “An Inspector Calls”, ensuring that all pivotal aspects are covered. It also provides a ready-made, high-quality essay that educators can use for teaching purposes, saving valuable preparation time.
  • For Students: The clear segmentation into key ideas, key points, and a model answer provides a step-by-step approach to understanding and writing about the theme of selfishness. The bullet points are particularly handy for revision, while the model answer acts as a blueprint for constructing well-argued essays.

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