It was a known and accepted fact that nearly eight million people earned less than twenty-five shillings (1.25) a week, were under housed, underfed and not properly clothed. The play was written to show that you must have respect and take care of other people. It was brought out just after the war to encourage people to work together and not be ignorant to other people. J.B Priestley was trying to get the message across to people to say that if they carried on acting the way they were, there would be many more wars and conflict.
The purpose of the inspector was to tell people that they needed to take responsibility for their actions against other people otherwise there would be much more suffering. No one knew who the inspector was when they found out he wasn’t a real inspector; was he a hoax that knew very little about them and coincidentally managed to get a story out of them? Was he some sort of ghost looking into the future warning them? Was he psychic and knew what was coming? Was he trying to ruin the family celebration?
There are many explanations for the inspector’s presence. It was intended that you interpret this part for your self. I think the play had this twist in order to get people to think about and discuss how this has an impact on their own lives. He hoped that it would make people aware that they also do things similar to the Birling family, who did not take responsibility for their actions or reflect on how their actions affected others. By doing something because you are angry, or selfish or not thinking about the consequences your actions have on others, you could cause further conflict or harm to yourself or others.
JB Priestley creates good effects with the lighting, it influences on the mood of the setting, for instance, at the beginning of the play when the family are seated around the table having a happy, relaxed celebration, the lights are warm and calm giving a soft effect. When the inspector enters and starts challenging the characters, the lights are bold and vivid; this gives the impression of insecurity and pressure.
Each member of the family was involved in killing Eva Smith; – Just as the inspector thought he’d made an impact on the family, they found out that he wasn’t a real inspector, Mr and Mrs Birling and Gerald went back to being okay about what they had done, believing that it didn’t matter now because the terrible things they had done were not going to be publicised. However, Sheila and Eric were devastated at what they had done and where very ashamed of themselves. Mr. Birling’s business was not going to get a bad reputation, and that was the most important thing for him.
Throughout the play, Mr Birling made it clear that he didn’t care about how badly he treated his employees. For example, he had sacked Eva Smith and a group of other women for asking for a small pay rise. They asked for this because their income was so low that they couldn’t afford to live to a basic, reasonable standard. He called them “trouble makers.” When Mr Birling realised that the inspector was likely to make this well known to people, he said, “look inspector-I’d give thousands-yes, thousands-.”
He was trying to bribe the inspector into keeping this event quiet. This resulted in the inspector replying “you’re offering money at the wrong time.” He meant that the right time would have been to have given Eva the money in the form of a pay rise in the first place. After the inspector had gone and he found that he wasn’t a real inspector, he was extremely overwhelmed because this meant that the case was not going to be publicised so his business wasn’t going to get a bad reputation.
Shelia abused her power because she had wealthy parents and when she got angry with a shop assistant (which happened to be Eva Smith), in the shop- ‘Milwards’, she threatened to withdraw her account at the shop if the manager did not sack this shop assistant. Because the family were such good customers to the shop, Eva Smith was sacked. Shelia ruined Eva Smith’s last form of decent income. Now Eva had nothing-she was stuck. Shelia recognised she had done something very wrong, evidenced by her feelings of shame. She had learnt from the experience, which was demonstrated by her ownership of her part in the death of Eva and her challenge to the Birling’s when she said “I behaved badly too….I’m ashamed of it. But now you’re beginning all over again to pretend that nothing much has happened-”
Gerald was the one that figured out that the man wasn’t a real inspector. Although he was a clever man, he did not seem to think that there was anything wrong with betraying and lying to Shelia. His assumption was that his and Sheila’s relationship would be unaffected now that they would not be involved with the police, failing to realise the impact his actions towards Eva had on his relationship with Sheila.
Eric was angry with his mother accusing her of being the cause of Eva’s death. His anger was fuelled by the realisation that because she was pregnant, his own child had also been killed. He was also angry with himself and, therefore, sorry for what he had done and consequently agreed to work for his father until all the money he had stolen was paid off. The money he stole was to help Eva, so at least he put it to good use and demonstrates some good will and he recognised how his drink problem made him “turn nasty” and that it contributed to her becoming pregnant.