By the phrase “A prolonged clatter of skeletons” we mean a long drawn out revelation of many secrets. To some extents this is true of “An Inspector Calls”, but to say that this is the limit of the play’s message would be unfair to the hidden depths contained within. “An Inspector Calls” is a well-structured and well-made play because it contains many factors that captivate and sustain the attention of the audience.
One of the factors that makes the play captivating is the use of climax, the way it holds the audience all the way through, building up slowly, gathering the plot as it goes on and then finally ends in a stunning climax, for example the way the Inspector extracts small threads of information from the members of the family and slowly puts the picture together and narrows it down to the main culprit as the climax. John Boynton Priestley wrote “An Inspector Calls” in 1945 shortly after the end of the Second World War, when society was still experiencing the hardships of war.
Despite a severe damage to the economic situation of Britain after the war, when paper and other such resources were in short supply, the publisher thought it important to print this play. In a time of poverty and shortcoming, “An Inspector Calls” delivers an important message to society. It is a message of mutual responsibility and shows how everyone has a role to play in society, and that we should do as much as we can to help others, because we never know what effect our actions will have on their lives.
Priestley hoped his play would help create the desired effect of proactive unity, making people act to prevent something happening before it happens, amongst the public, giving society the chance with hindsight, to look back on what had transpired and learn from this. Priestley seems to be concerned with the darker side of Capitalism. “An Inspector Calls” is Priestley’s call for reformation. Priestley sees the nation as a society with communal, rather than individual responsibilities. The members of the Birling family are only concerned with individual gain and profit over person.
They are responsible for the young woman’s death by treating her as property, and it is this lust for material wealth that Priestley speaks out against. This Socialist message is delivered through the mouth of the Inspector, who takes on the role of a teacher to the Birling family. He hopes to teach them moral values and respect for everyone, no matter how poor. Whilst the older members of the family, Arthur and Sybil Birling and Gerald Croft, remain as pompous and superior as ever, the younger generation, Eric and Sheila Birling, realize and accept their part in the death of Eva Smith.
“I know I’m to blame and I’m desperately sorry” (Sheila Act 2) “I’ve told you all I know and it doesn’t seem to me very important. ” (Mr Birling Act 1) The play shows not only a divide between classes, but also the gap between generations. The Inspector has a far greater effect on the younger generation; Sheila and Eric realize their mistake and begin to repent. Priestley seems to think older people, such as Mr and Mrs Birling, are a lot more resistant and attached to their lifestyle. Mrs Birling is a typical member of the aristocracy, she is a very proud woman, well respected, however she is patronizing and conceited.
During the course of the play Arthur Birling, the rich industrialist, representative of all such figures in society, becomes Priestley’s mouthpiece for ideas that he, as the author, disagrees with. By making Mr Birling a pompous, unsympathetic, Priestley immediately gains the support of the audience in his viewpoints. Mr Birling expresses his political viewpoints in an arrogant manner. “Take my word you youngsters- and I’ve learnt it in the good hard school of experience- a man has to look after himself and his own. “