Eva Smith is a representative of the lower class and how it reacts to the upper class. She is very strong-willed as she demonstrates through all of her involvement with the Birlings and Gerald but the upper class don’t like this which is why she is so unfortunate. With Mr Birling she stands up for what she believes is right when she leads a strike for higher pay but gets fired for doing it. With Sheila she tries to be polite and kind but, just because of her good looks, is fired from working in the shop.
With Gerald she is very grateful for his generosity but he breaks off the relationship as he doesn’t really love her and never intended that it would be anything more than an affair. With Eric she is only trying to earn some money but when she finds out that Eric is stealing it and he doesn’t love her at all she leaves. With Mrs Birling she only asks for help because she is in a terrible situation but she gets refused help as Mrs Birling is prejudiced against her. Mrs Birling ‘didn’t like her manner’ because she spoke her mind and this is exactly what the upper class hate.Order now
Eva proves Mrs Birling’s belief that class determines moral behaviour wrong as she is seen to be the victim of prejudice against her social class by the audience. She is also seen to have very good standards of moral behaviour, which are shown when she won’t take stolen money from Eric: ‘She wouldn’t take any more, and she didn’t want to see me again. ‘ and when she refuses the offer of a marriage of convenience made by Eric: ‘She didn’t want me to marry her. ‘ Priestley uses the Inspector as a device to voice his own socialist views.
The Inspector arrives at a significant moment in the play: just after Mr Birling has been telling Gerald and Eric about how wrong the socialist ‘cranks’ are and ‘that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own family. ‘ Priestley manages to use the Inspector as a device by using the Inspector to get each of the Birlings and Gerald Croft to accept responsibility for their actions towards Eva Smith. The Inspector seems to know most of the details about the suicide however he still questions the Birlings and Gerald to make them admit that they had something to do with Eva Smith.
The two generations in ‘An Inspector Calls’ react differently to the Inspector with the exception of Gerald. Sheila and Eric both understand the full consequence of their actions and are willing to admit that they are responsible. Mr and Mrs Birling aren’t willing to take any responsibility for any of their actions, which is probably because they are older and more set in their attitudes and behaviour. Gerald starts to take responsibility but then goes to the way he was before when he finds out the Inspector was a hoax.
Mrs Birling even notices that the Inspector is having an effect on Sheila and the Inspector replies: ‘We often do on the young ones. ‘ When the Inspector leaves Priestley uses Sheila to replace him as a device to voice his socialist views because she has learnt the lesson that he intended her to learn: ‘But now you’re beginning all over again to pretend that nothing much has happened -‘ Priestley wrote ‘An Inspector Calls’ to be successful in voicing his socialist views but also to be successful as a play that an audience would enjoy.
‘An Inspector Calls’ explores human moral behaviour and values and, because of this, still has some relevance to a modern audience though it is not as relevant as it was when it was written. Today’s society is not as divided as it was in 1912 (when the play is set) and even in 1946 (when the play was written) but some people still have the same attitudes as the characters in the play. Many people in today’s society still believe that we should try to create a more peaceful and compassionate world where people take responsibility for others as well as themselves but some still think that there is no such thing as society.
Throughout the play Priestley maintains the anticipation of the audience using various methods. At the very start of the play the audience are left with a lot of unanswered questions which are answered later such as ‘Where was Gerald last summer? ‘ and ‘What does Eric mean by telling Gerald of Sheila’s bad temper? This keeps the audience guessing and trying to piece the story together as the play progresses, which keeps them involved. The fact that the ending of ‘An Inspector Calls’ is so unexpected and leaves the audience with so many questions gives them something to talk about after the play has finished.
Act changes are put in very specific places so as to build up the suspense of the audience. The change from Act one to Act two is when the Inspector is questioning Gerald then leaves Sheila and Gerald to talk about it and comes back at exactly the right time when the curtain falls. The Inspector’s ways of investigating the suicide and some of his comments make the audience interested to see who he really is. ‘He speaks carefully, weightily, and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at a person he addresses before actually speaking.
‘ This suggests he is quite intimidating when he questions people but he is totally unintimidated by other people such as Mr Birling and questions and judges his behaviour unlike a real police inspector. He says many things, which a real police inspector wouldn’t dream of saying such as: ‘But after all it’s better to ask for the earth than to take it. ‘ He also gives the Birlings rope to hang themselves with on plenty occasions: ‘Who is to blame then? ‘
The audiences through the play doubt that the Inspector is a real police inspector however as a result of the final twist at the end of the play they even begin to question his humanity. The Inspector keeps the audience in suspense when he doesn’t go in chronological order of events happening with Eva Smith, he questions Mrs Birling before Eric even though she only saw Eva after Eric did. This means that the audience knows some things before the characters on stage, which adds to the effect of scenes such as the questioning of Mrs Birling about the punishment of the person responsible for Eva’s pregnancy.
After ‘An Inspector Calls’ was first performed as a play many people criticised the Inspector’s final speech saying that it was unnecessary and should have been left out of the play because the point had already been put across during the rest of it. ‘if men will not learn their lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. ‘ This is prophetic because it is as if he is foreseeing the future, the two world wars ahead. It is possible for Priestley to use this because of his chosen time frame.
He seems more concerned with what is right and wrong rather than what is legal and this moral dimension makes him different to a usual police inspector: ‘We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. ‘ Priestley uses the well-known ‘whodunnit? ‘ genre so that the audience can recognise and understand it well however he manages to make it his own which helps ‘An Inspector Calls’ to be more successful as a play. In doing this Priestley also made his play more successful as a vehicle for voicing his views, as he was able to make it his own and therefore include his own feelings in it.
Priestley especially chose this genre for these specific reasons. By only having one focus throughout the whole of ‘An Inspector Calls’ which slowly progresses Priestley is able to keep the audience involved by giving them things to think about but by still using the same focal point. At the beginning of the play the idea that Mr Birling does not agree with everyone being united is established and then built on when the Inspector arrives and during his final speech when he proclaims that ‘We are all responsible for each other.
‘ Priestley intentionally began ‘An Inspector Calls’ as a naturalistic play but only to become more unnatural as it progressed. This brings up many questions from the audience who thought they knew what was happening then suddenly find they don’t. For example, the Inspector seems realistic but becomes less so as the play progresses. This is a successful way to write a play because it gives the audience a reason to be interested in it allowing the writer to form a successful and educational play.