Choose two contrasting characters in “an Inspector Calls” examine how they deal with the inspector’s accusations of their guilt. Go on to consider how J B Priestley uses the play as a vehicle of social criticism. J B Priestleys “an Inspector Calls”, written in 1945, is a well written play. It differs from other plays because the whole play is set in one setting (unity of actions) and has few characters and has no sub-plot. The main plot of the play is the death of Eva Smith and how the characters are linked to her death. J B Priestley encourages the audience to learn about responsibility and Social criticism in the performance. The characters reactions to the death of Eva Smith are important and often contrasting. The two contrasting characters that I have chosen are Mr Birling and Eric, his son.
Mr Birling is the first of my contrasting characters. He is a snobbish, oaf of a man and enjoys putting down people of a lower social status. Mr Birling’s relationship with Eva Smith was that Mr Birling was the manager of a factory that Eva Smith worked in as a machine worker. Eva Smith was the hard working type and not the rebellious type, until she came back from holiday. She started a strike for more money. This caused Mr Birling to fire her. The Sacking of Eva Smith cause the whole chain of events.
Mr Birling is the fist person to be interviewed by the Inspector. Mr Birling at the beginning refuses to answer the Inspectors questions, you can see this when Mr Birling states “I don’t understand why you should come here”. Mr Birling is the only character not to display any emotions towards the death of Eva Smith. It could be interpreted, by the audience, as another part of Mr Birling’s ego. Mr Birling personality doesn’t change; he stays snobbish and has no care for people of a lower social status. Mr Birling makes the most important anti socialist speech of the play “If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward”. This shows that he rejects all responsibility completely.
Eric is the second of my contrasting characters. He is immature, frequently drunk which the characters describe as being “squiffy”. Eric relationship with Eva Smith is that he met her at the Palace Bar. He insisted that Eva Smith let him stay the night or he’d make a row, so she did. They met again at the Palace bar where Eva Smith told him she was pregnant. He promised to take care of the baby and this results in him stealing money from the factory. This creates tension between Eric and his father.
Eric is the last person interviewed by the Inspector and this is when everything begins to fall into place. The audience already knows that Eric is the father of Eva Smith’s baby, which creates dramatic irony. Eric already knows that his family have figured out that he is the father of the baby “you know, don’t you”. Eric feels increasingly guilty “God – how stupid it all is”, and Mr Birling consequently makes him feel worse by nagging him, constantly. The Inspector insists that he finishes talking to Eric, and after he has left they can sort out their differences, “Just a minute, Mr Birling. There’ll be plenty of time, when I’ve gone, for you to adjust your family relationship. But now I must hear what your son is trying to tell me”.
In the play Mr Birling represents the rich, successful type. You can tell this by the fact that he lives in a mansion, he has a maid and he drinks expensive spirits. Eva Smith represents the poor outcast type. Priestley does this to show how harshly and cruelly the rich treat the poor just because they have a higher social status than the poor do. Mr Birling conveys all the socialist ideas that the rich have the right to make fun of and misuse the poor. Mr Birling does this in his factory by exploiting the workers.
In the play, J B Priestley is aiming to put forward the feeling of social intolerance. You can see this many times in the play. For example he shows how full of themselves the upper class are, by making Mr Birling say that there isn’t going to a war “Just because the Kaiser makes a speech or two, or a few Germans have too much to drink and begin talking nonsense, you’ll hear people say that war is inevitable, and I say – Fiddlesticks”, and how the Titanic is unsinkable ” The Titanic – she sails next week – forty-six thousand and eight hundred tons – -New York in five days – -and every luxury – and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable.
These accusations were all incorrect, the Titanic did sink and, and war was waged in 1914. J B Priestley also shows his anger towards the inequality of women. He uses Eva Smith to show the dual standards that exists, which means Eva Smith can have sex before she gets married but Sheila can’t. Mr Birling shows he is very against feminist sexists when he says “She had a lot to say – far too much – so she had to go.
I think there is little hope for the future because there are still people in the world like Mr Birling, with his point of view. There are also people who misuse their power like Mr Birling. My point of view is proven by the fact that there have been two world wars and that is still wars happening now and will happen in the future. There is still poverty in the world and will be for years to come. When also there are still people who fight over things like money, power and authority.
I thought that the play was a very witty and thought provoking play. It contains many valuable points that can be used in our daily lives. The play keeps you thinking until the end when a sudden surprise is sprung on you. I thought that the inspector was actually their self-conscience, but the teacher will not tell me whether I’m right or wrong. I will close with a quote ” We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are all responsible for each other”.