There are many issues presented by J. B. Priestley in ‘An Inspector Calls’. One of the main issues in the play is associated with the dramatic change of society and culture from the beginning of the 20th Century. J. B. Priestley cleverly hides this in the language of the characters in the play, in particular Mr. Birling and Inspector Goole. Mr. Birling and Inspector Goole can be split into two sides of society, socialism and capitalism. The Birlings are a rich middle class family with a high income generated by their own business.
The older Birlings, Mr. and Mrs. Birling, are more directed to capitalism. This is clearly shown in their language. Early on, Priestley uses Mr. Birling to show dramatic irony and the smug complacency of Mr. Birling. This is done when Mr. Birling talks about the Titanic sailing soon. He emphasizes the words unsinkable as though he would know it would sink. The Titanic was a symbol of great power and authority; it showed just what we could achieve.
The Titanic was highly complex and its design was based upon the class system with poor, working class people at the bottom of the ship and the middle and upper classes at the top with access to the decks and luxurious restaurants. On its journey to America it tragically sank beneath the water killing over a thousand people. This symbolised the collapse of the hierarchy of the population projecting a future of more equality between everyone. Mr. Birling and Mrs. Birling along with many other elder middle class citizens thought that everything would stay the same forever and nothing will provoke any change.
The elder citizens of the middle class had such a fixed attitude they would ignore or dismiss any claims of war or labour trouble. Arthur Birling crawled his way into the middle class from his childhood of working class. This has made him more aware of his position and his privileges. He also likes to make sure lower classes know he has his position and privileges. This is shown in the following quote,’ I was an alderman for years… Lord Mayor years ago… I’m still on the Bench… know… Brumley police officers very well… ‘. At that time Mr.
Birling trying to make the Inspector lose his power of high authority and intimidation over the Birlings and Gerald Croft. The older Birlings have a fixed attitude towards capitalism in society. This is because they live a life full of luxuries and large amounts of money and authority. When the Inspector says he does not play golf this reveals his class difference, the Inspector must be from a working class background as many middle and upper class people and only middle and upper people played golf at the beginning of the 20th Century.
The Inspector acts and thinks in a different way to the older Birlings. The Inspector is much towards socialism in society. Socialism is when everyone should support each other and work equally with each other in a place where no one has any privileges over anyone else. In 1912, the middle classes obviously did not support this as they wanted to keep a sense of power and authority standing above the lower, working class families with a shadow that cover the working class in poverty and misery. His views are also shown in his language.