An Inspector Calls by J.B Priestly was first performed in 1946. It is still regularly performed and attracts modern audiences. Explain why, in your view, people still enjoy the play. I think the main reason this play still attracts audiences is because of the characters. Form the beginning you have a neutral view of the characters as the play goes on you get to know each one and decide whether you like them or not and these views change as you see their actions. Each of the Birlings can be related to a type of person, these types of people still exist more than fifty years after the play was first performed.
“He’s been drinking steadily for two years.” Eric Birling is an irresponsible young man. He is an alcoholic, which is a result of a bad education and working for Arthur, who wants to make him a “hard headed man of business”. “… this public-school-and-Varsity life you’ve had doesn’t seem to teach you” To this he replies sulkily: “Well, we don’t need to tell the Inspector all about that, do we?” When he tells of his involvement in Eva’s death we find out that he was irresponsible and reckless. He also tells us how he forced himself on Eva. “she told me she didn’t want me to go in … and I threatened to make row.”
From the start the audience doesn’t like him much because he is obviously drunk. When he describes how he made Eva pregnant we like him much less because we like him much less because of how he does it. By the end the audience’s view of him picks up because he realises his mistake and feels sorry for what he has done. “You’re pretending everything’s just as it was before.” Eric retorts: “I’m not.”
Sheila is young, romantic and dreamy but still has a lot to learn in life. From the start the audience likes her as they get to know her even though she says things that make her sound spoilt. When her farther is answering the Inspectors questions she felt sorry for Eva this makes us like her more. When it gets to her ‘turn’ to identify the Inspectors photograph she knows immediately what she has done something. She describes how she got Eva sacked from ‘Milwards’: “I caught sight of this girl smiling at Miss Francis- as if to say: ‘doesn’t she look awful’- and I was absolutely furious.”
“… if they didn’t get rid of that girl, I’d never go near that place again and I’d persuade mother to close our account with them.” Here she was ‘throwing her weight around’ in Milwards, using the fact that her family is rich to get Eva sacked. While the Inspector is questioning the others Sheila has figured out that he knows what they have done to Eva or Daisy. “Why-you fool-he knows. Of course he knows. And I hate to think how much he knows that we don’t know yet. You’ll see. You’ll see.”
Sheila is clever she has spotted that there is something odd about Inspector Goole well before anyone else has. When she admits to what she did the audiences view of her goes down. Arthur doesn’t think much of it but Sheila is very upset at what she did. Sheila tries not to make it better than it was for her. She warns her mother not to deny anything and make it worse for them. She tells Sybil not to lie and ‘build up a kind of wall between us and that girl.’ She tries to warn her mother: “You see I feel you’re beginning all wrong. And I’m afraid you’ll say or do something that you’ll be sorry for afterwards.”
By this time the audience likes her more because she isn’t being selfish. From the end of the play we know she has learnt her lesson but unlike Eric she makes it clear and tries to teach the others who refuse to take blame for what they have done as long as nobody knows. “You’re ready to go the same old way. And you’re not, eh? No, because I remember what he said, how he made me feel.” “Everything we said had happened, really had happened.” Feelings towards Gerald from the start would be a bit doubtful because one of the earliest conversations he is involved in is to clear his name from any ‘naughty business’.
“Yes -except for all last summer, when you never came near me… And I’ve told you- I was awfully busy at the works all the time. Yes that’s you say.” The first thing we think of would be an affair because we always think of the worst possibility. His involvement is confirmed by his reaction when the Inspector says the girl started calling herself Daisy Renton. This is an element that keeps audiences coming to watch this play. The audience has things to guess about that they will get right, wrong and be surprised by. Even if they guess wrong they would want the details. Other example of this is there is something fishy about the Inspector and that all of the Birlings are involved in the death of Eva.
“And probably between us we killed her.” Before he describes what he did to Eva he is reluctant to say anything in Sheila’s presence: “Why on earth don’t you leave us to it?” Then he describes how the affair started. The audience likes him much less because of how he exploited Daisy alias Eva. Gerald doesn’t leave Eva with nothing, he gives her money but this doesn’t make up for much. Sheila’s decision to call off the engagement seems fully justified.
When he returns from his walk he has discovered an ‘escape route’ for all of the Birlings to escape any blame. Arthur and Sybil are very pleased with him. The audience and Sheila would not be too impressed. “What do you male of this business now. Was it a hoax?” “I met a police sergeant I know … I asked him about this Inspector Goole … He swore there wasn’t any Inspector Goole or anybody like him on the force here.”