The character of Gerald helps Priestly explore social issues by showing how playing with Eva’s emotions by entering into a romantic relationship can also be abusing social responsibility because relationships themselves carry responsibility, which is increased when one of the people involved is in a very vulnerable position and also of lower class. He gave her unrealistic hopes. But his first intentions were decent, but eventually he admits that the feelings she had for him were stronger than those he felt back. When he finally leaves her he feels immense guilt as he can only offer her temporary help and support. The feeling that I think Priestly wants us to have is that of sympathy for Gerald because ‘Daisy told me she’d been happier than she’d ever been before.’
Although he appears to have a deep feel of regret towards the way he used Eva and his actions where indisputable, his response to the inspector’s message does not have the same degree of depth that Sheila shows. It is worth to keep in mind that when the inspector leaves, to distract everyone from his or her own implication Gerald is the first to inquire into whether this man was an impostor. Gerald’s views are similar to those of Mr.Birlings; he shows support to him when Mr.Birling tries to justify his reasons for sacking Eva.
Mrs Birling is someone who is dedicated to helping women; she has therefore put herself in his position of social responsibility. She appears ignorant and prejudice throughout the course of the play. She makes snobbish remarks such as’ a girl of that sort’ and believing that she has absolutely no part in all of this makes snide comments about the way her family attempt to settle the matter of Eva’s death.
She remains determined that Eva’s death could be, in any way shape or form, her fault. In act II she even refuses to recognise a photo shown to her by the inspector ‘no, why should I?’ After being put under severe pressure by the Inspector, Mrs.Birling finally admits her disregard and neglect for the pregnant girl, yet still manages to force the blame onto the unborn child’s father ‘if anyone’s to blame it’s the young man’ unbeknownst to her that this ‘young man’ that she piles the blame onto will reveal to be her own son. The audience are now able to see that the chain of events could have easily resulted in the Eva Smith’s suicide. Her aim is to always reflect the image of respectability and this is what she puts before her responsibility as a person to help others that come to her charity.
Priestly uses this character because she has a strong personality and will have an immediate reaction on the audience or reader of this play, it helps him to explore how prejudice some people can be after the use of their name or something else that is equally petty is miss- used! Eric’s response to the tragedy is similar to that of Sheila, his immediate reaction seems to be ‘Oh, God’ they both show sympathy for the way she was sacked by their father.
But near to the end of the book, whilst some people have already figured out that Eric is the father of Eva’s unborn baby, we are told of his abuse of social status and male superiority. He exemplifies irresponsibility whilst under the influence of alcohol takes advantage of Eva’s vulnerability. Unlike Gerald, Eric does offer marriage to Eva, but as she is aware that he does not love her she refuses. Eric does give her money for support but when Eva realises it was stolen from his father, she will not accept any more from him.
I think that Priestly made the most responsible people for the death of Eva Smith, the older generation. This may have been because they are generally speaking more set in their ways unlike people such as Eric and Sheila. Ultimately I think that Priestly used each of the characters to portray a different part of society and personified them to the death of Eva Smith. I believe that Priestly made the character of Mr.Birling hold the most social and moral responsibilities. His unwillingness to accept these shows his insolence.
Priestly uses dramatic qualities to help the audience relate to and understand social responsibility. One way that he chooses to use dramatic qualities is by making a contrast between the families situation and atmosphere at the beginning and the end. At the start of the play, the family portray a seemingly perfect and happy family. Sheila is looking forward to her future with Gerald, she is ‘very pleased with life’ the others equally share her happiness and everything is well. The atmosphere at this part of the story is very positive and everyone is celebrating. Yet all of them have a hidden shame that is about to unfold.
The ending of this story has a completely different situation, their lives seem to have been destroyed along with the faith in certain family members. Sheila has broken up with Gerald due to the recent discovery of his affair and whilst some people, namely Mr and Mrs Birling are left in denial, the younger generation are traumatised and emotional. Even Eric admits to his father his true thoughts ‘you are not a man a son can go to’ leaving even more upset within the family. The atmosphere is that of confusion as to whom the inspector actually was, denial, anger and the future seems bleak.
This contrast explores the social issues as well as adding interest that is very important. The ‘tragic’ feel imbued by the sense of a fall from power of the perfect middle-class family was another dramatic quality. Eva acted as though because of there status that she trusted them, thinking that they were the sort of people that would help her. But all of them failed and in the process lost the superiority they thought they possessed over her. It turns out that none of them did have this, as they could not help her when she needed it most. At they end they realise that nothing can really ever be the same. Priestly has obviously chosen this to be of importance so that the audience of the time could see just how easy it is to loose all your respect as a person with a high social status, when you act so cruelly towards someone who is classed lower than yourself.
The subject itself ‘a death by suicide’ is immediately something of interest to a person viewing or reading this play. As soon as the inspector tells us of this event we are instantly intrigued and desperate to hear more, this is the effect that deaths and suicides have on people. By using this type of story line Priestly can keep his audience interested whilst still managing to explore his social issues. The subject also indicates to the audience the way that the victim, in this case Eva, felt. It shows the shame that she experienced through the societies disapproval of her situation. It also gives the audience an insight into how they influence people of that class, so therefore should be more responsible in their actions.
This disapproval is shown with Mrs.Birling’s reaction when Eva Smith pleads for help from her committee. It is blatantly obvious that she is horrified by the situation Eva has got herself into. Priestly makes us think that Mrs.Birling assumes that the father would also be of this lower class. I can justify this when she begins to lecture the inspector who is interrogating her, “I blame the young man who was the father of the unborn child.” Here I think she is suggesting that the father must have been of the same class, otherwise would not have got this young girl into such a bad situation. But of course this is not necessarily the case.
The mystery element helps to add curiosity to the play therefore keeping the audience attentive. It plays a very strong part in Priestly trying to get the audience to realise their social responsibilities. I say this because, towards the end of the story the issue becomes not whether they all affected the same girl, or whether the name ‘inspector Goole’ actually existed. But through all this mystery these points become irrelevant and emphasize the fact that the real issue is all of these people have affected someone’s life in such a negative way.
The mysteries begin after the inspector leaves the family home. This is when each person feels at the most tension that they have all felt through the play. It is as if after he leaves they need something to distract them from the thought of being irresponsible in their actions. So they begin to ask themselves questions such as – was he a real inspector? And – Did he show us all the same photo? This brings the tension down. The thought of them being tricked by a hoax makes them concentrate on this matter instead of the thought of how terrible the death of Eva is and the way that they all acted towards her.
The climatic pattern of action is a very important dramatic quality of this play. It is a combination of the building up of tension starting from the entrance of the Inspector and the way he asks questions and interrogates each member of the family. The way in which he does question the family has a distinctive style it is as though he is putting ideas into there heads or suggesting the way that they might have affected her ‘in fact in a kind of way you might be said to have been jealous of her’ here he is slowly getting Sheila to admit that she did feel jealous of Eva. He appears very sly throughout the play, this helps us build a picture of his character in our minds ” Sheila- But mother do stop before its too late- Mrs.Birling- if you mean that the inspector will take offence- Inspector – No no I never take offence”.
Here he wishes for Mrs.Birling to carry on because he knows that she is digging herself in to a deep hole that she will not be able to get back out of, this is exactly the position that the inspector wants to get her into. As she gets herself into this position the tension among those on stage does build up dramatically and this has an affect on the audience, it makes them aware of how she treated the girl badly and refused to take the blame. They should therefore think afterwards only negative thoughts about Mrs.Birling and of course the rest of the family and want to change their own ways of treating and respecting people of a lower class. This is exactly what I think J.B Priestly wanted the audience of the play to reflect on, after leaving the theatre.
As the play progresses, the inspector manages to make each person admit there wrong doing and tell him the story of how they were involved with Eva Smith. He never actually tells them much about Eva Smith, but it is clear to us that he does however know more than he is letting on. It is clear that right at the end of Act II he know that Eric was the father of Eva’s unborn child. “I am waiting” – Mrs.Birling – Waiting for what – Inspector – To do my duty” here we are hinted that he is waiting for Eric to return back to the house, so that he may ask him questions about the death of Eva, shortly afterward Mrs.Birling realises that what he is trying to tell he is that Eric may well be the father. This is confirmed after the inspector interrogates Eric and as he has done so in the last four cases, gets him to explain everything.