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    Sinking of the Titanic Essay (1326 words)

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    ‘An Inspector Calls’ was a play very much written to make a clear point and to convince the British public into a labour election victory after the war (as happened in 1945). Written in 1945 but set in 1912 in a fictional town called Brumley, the play is a series of events around one family (the Birlings) that lead to a girl drinking disinfectant to end her life. The author J.B. Priestly chose to set the play before the First World War and the sinking of the Titanic, there are several hints of irony as a result of this throughout the play. Written as a morality play, ‘An Inspector Calls’ still has as much relevance today as it did then – with its teachings of equality in the classes. In this essay I will be discussing the themes and characters in the play and how my understanding of these has been enhanced by watching a production of the play.

    A major theme of the play is responsibility; every member of the Birling family is some what responsible for Eva’s death. This sense of responsibility is brought out by the different reactions of the family members. Some, such as Sheila, feel greatly responsible for Eva’s suicide and learn to accept responsibility for her actions and this imposes a great change. In the production this is made very clear by the way Sheila chooses to run over to the darker side of the stage, when the Birlings house, in the light, is destroyed in front of them.

    This shows the change in her because she chooses not to stay with her family inside their own world, cut off from reality. The rift between Sheila and her family is shown when she speaks to her mother in act 2 saying “We really must stop these silly pretences.” The removal of her ornate costume by Edna, the working class maid, symbolizes how her association with Eva has removed the fade of her upper class mentality.

    Another theme in this play, which ties in with responsibility, is guilt. All the characters are guilty of metaphorically stabbing Eva Smith in the back but some refuse to accept their guilt. Mrs Birling is a good example of this. She is very hard-hearted and would not help Eva Smith because she was ‘giving herself ridiculous airs.” She almost believes that people in the lower classes are a different species to her believing that social class is everything. In the production she gets very aggressive and shouts at the

    inspector, denying any guilt or responsibility for Eva and her baby. We see the house destroyed as their real character and guilt is exposed to the audience. When the house is rebuilt, only the characters that have recognised their guilt and become responsible remain outside of the house. All of the characters lie to the inspector, to each other and to themselves. Some lies are simply denial of the truth, for example when Mrs Birling denies ever seeing Eva Smith before. She is also lying to herself when she believes herself to be completely innocent of any wrong doing – “I’m sorry she should have come to such a horrible end. But I accept no blame for it at all.”

    She is very hypocritical because she feels the man who made Eva pregnant was responsible for everything until she finds out the “young man” was Eric, her son. In the production Mrs Birling shouts a lot which emphasises how she badly misunderstands the situation. She doesn’t know that Eric drinks too much even though Eric has obviously been drinking when he enters and Sheila accuses him of being “squiffy.” Another example of a character that lies is Mr Birling. He denies knowing Eva Smith at first but later on he seems to remember her very well as a “lively good looking girl!”

    He is hypocritical when he tells Eric he needs to “face a few responsibilities,” yet refuses to face his own saying “I can’t accept any responsibility. If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward, wouldn’t it?” Some characters finally start to see their whole lives as built on a lie. For example Gerald has lied to Sheila and they discover that they don’t really know each other at all – “You and I aren’t the same people who sat down to dinner here. We’d have to start all over again, getting to know each other-.” The separation of these two characters is emphasised in the production when Gerald leaves the stage after this point and doesn’t come back until the inspector has left.

    The separation of the classes is represented by the levels of the house against the lower stage. The house is raised above where the working class will stand. This symbolizes the division between the two classes. The Inspector always stands on the lower stage because he is showing that he is there to represent the lower classes. He walks through the audience at the start of the production because he wants them to see themselves as part of the play. He is one of them and he wants the audience to understand the points he’s making.

    This is very much shown when the Inspector makes his final speech where the lighting on stage is all turned off and is directed fully at the audience as if he is speaking to them and on their behalf. When the Inspector questions each character he calls them down to him on the lower stage, he never goes to them. They have to cross a “bridge between the classes” in order to speak to him. This shows how he is bringing them down to the lower classes’ level and making them see the real situation of people such as Eva Smith.

    The different reactions from the characters show how much they have learned and those who return to the house at the end refuse to see the truth and wish to retain the false pretences which they live behind. The house in the distance which appears at the end of the play shows how many more people are living with the same false pretences allowed to them by their privileged lives. The staging brings out a lot about the characters. In Gerald’s case for example, the way he shuts the front of the house again shows that they are no longer exposed to feelings of guilt and responsibility. He returns with the idea that the inspector was a fake and he is happy that Eva Smith did not commit suicide.

    Mr and Mrs Birling are also happy to accept this explanation of the events and are shut back up in their false perceptions. Gerald is shown to be similar to Mr and Mrs Birling in his reaction but is not shown to be as guilty as the two of them because his treatment of the girl was more kind than anyone else’s. In the Inspector’s case, as I have already mentioned, he is speaking on behalf of the working classes and never enters the house.

    The use of extras, the children in poverty, is a visual representation of the working classes. At the start of the play during the inspector’s entry, one of the children playing runs up to him and takes an orange from him. Children at this time had never seen an orange because of the deprivations of the war, never the less the child still trusts him enough to take it from him. This implies that the inspector is a father figure, someone to be trusted. In conclusion I would say that the staging and setting of the production enhanced my view of the play. It brought out many important points about themes and characters in a visual way. This was very effective and clearly defined the differences between the characters. It emphasized the points and message of the morality play.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Sinking of the Titanic Essay (1326 words). (2017, Nov 09). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/sinking-of-the-titanic-26850/

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