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An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley - Coursework Example

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An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley.
‘An Inspector Calls’ is one of J.B. Priestley’s most well known plays and is an expose on the empty false standards and values adopted by British society in the early 20th century…
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An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley
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Download file to see previous pages The entire play, based on three acts, takes place on the same evening of 1912 at the Birling residence in Brumley, which is described as ‘an industrial city in the north Midlands’. The Birlings are having dinner when they are interrupted by an Inspector Goole who insinuates that they are responsible for causing the death of a young working class woman called Eva Smith. In the interim there are many instances where we get an insight into the nature and attitudes of the characters, which the playwright has so cleverly indicated as he intersperses events with anecdotes about them. Thesis Statement Priestley’s play ‘An Inspector Calls’ gives a good glimpse into the decadent values and attitudes held by British society. He underscores the differences between the erudite facade of composure they maintain while they are really at ill-ease with themselves and their place in society. In other words, they are more concerned with outward appearances, while this masks and hides many a skeleton in their closet. The differences between the social classes are clearly indicated, and the apparent superiority of the Birling household is ridiculed. Discussion The real significance of Priestley’s ‘An Inspector Calls’ is not really in the plot, but in the story that unfolds between the lines. Priestley has aimed his salvos here at upper class British society, mainly the nouveau-rich social strata like the Birlings. It appears that the Birlings have indeed come into contact with Eva at various junctures in the recent past and all of this is recollected as the play unfolds. Their attitude in dealing with Eva on these occasions in fact reflects on their own character and values as well-“…what happened to her then may have determined what happened to her afterwards, and what happened to her afterwards may have driven her to suicide. A chain of events” (Inspector Goole: Act One)1. The patriarch of the family, Mr. Arthur Birling is described as a ‘heavy looking, rather portentous man in his 50s’. He is the picture of the capitalist, and loves to describe himself as a ‘hard headed businessman.’ As would be expected of this character type, Birling is arrogant and self centered, while being morally blind as well. At no point in the play do we find him repentant or soul searching. He dismisses any inclination of guilt or blame in Eva’s death, although he recalls that he had dismissed her about 18 months ago for stirring up trouble at his mill. He was concerned with quelling dissent and lowering labor costs at the factory, both of which were accomplished by Eva’s dismissal. Arthur is displeased with Inspector Goole’s visit, this having materialized just when they were celebrating the engagement of his daughter Eva to Gerald Croft, the son of a business competitor. This he is overly concerned with his family’s social standing and cannot stand to see it tarnished by Goole’s accusations. The last thing he wants is a public scandal… “You'll apologize at once ... I'm a public man” (Mr. Birling: Act Two)2. Sybil Birling is Arthur’s wife and comes from a higher social status than her husband. As the head of a women’s charitable organization, she looks down upon the working class and regards the deceased Eva and her ilk as being dishonest, greedy and immoral. She also stands by her husband’s side and tries to protect the family name. On the last occasion she saw Eva, the latter had been ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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