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Social Responsibility Essay
Priestly’s Intention in presenting social responsibility is to make others aware of the lack of social responsibility within society during this time period.He does this to promote the impact this has on different social classes; he does this by using upper class characters who show no responsibility, to show the impact of those in lower classes.

During Act one, Priestly tries to show his view on the social class system through the use of the inspector, when the inspector enters, Mr Birling offers the inspector a whisky, who immediately refuses as he ‘is on duty’, this emphasis to the audience that the inspector takes responsibility for his role and job and it is important to him to accept his responsibility. It can also be thought that the inspector is presented by Priestly as a moral character who ‘knows’ the Birling family are linked to Eva smiths death and he cleverly tries to teach them to accept responsibility within society and to make them aware that the cause of Eva Smiths death was due to their own lack of social responsibility. This can also be linked to later on in the play when the inspector clearly states that each member of the Birling family were responsible to Eva Smith death, ‘helped to kill her’. This could suggest that the inspector is the most morally responsible character in the play, and could convey the idea that Priestly used the character of the inspector to express his own thoughts on social responsibility.

Priestley also presents the idea that people can be made to accept responsibility though their own selfish actions and their own lack of responsibility, Sheila is shocked when she learns that she had a part to play in Eva’s death, and feels terrible that her actions participated in Eva Smith killing herself. During act two, when Shiela starts to realise the consequence of her actions, Gerald is judgemental of Shiela’s actions,’all right Gerald, you needn't look at me like that, at least I'm trying to tell the truth. I expect you’ve done things you’re ashamed of too’. This shows that Sheila takes responsibility for her actions and tells the truth but Gerald is being judgemental of her even though he has not yet taken responsibility for his own actions and he doesn't yet know that ‘Daisy Renton’ was Eva Smith and that his actions towards Eva Smith had a bigger impact on her death than Sheila did.

Linking in with this,Birling has a completely contrasting views to Shiela, as he doesn't feel socially responsible for Eva Smiths death, or in fact anyone who is in lower class than himself or his family,’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?’, this encourages us to believe that Birling dismisses the idea that we should be responsible for each other, suggesting that such a situation would be ‘awkward'. Another way a lack of social responsibility is presented is by Birling refuses to take any blame for Eva Smith’s death, he describes the incident as if it was Eva’s fault, ‘wretched girl’, the word ‘wretched’ portrays connotations of ignorance towards the rest of society and shows no remorse towards Eva Smith, although he knows she is dead and makes a clear point of believing sb=he should of still been fired from work and in no circumstance should of asked for a pay rise. Priestley may have used Birling as a representative of who are at the top of society who refuse to take responsibility for the possible harm they may be causing to those lower down in the social class system to ‘millions and millions and millions of Eva and John Smiths’s’.

Priestly also shows how views on social class system is starting to change during this time, to inspire others to want to help make change. As well as Shiela taking responsibility for her actions, her brother also starts to feel socially responsible towards the end of the play,Eric shows that he takes responsibility for his actions in the final act of the play,’I don't see much nonsense about it when a girl goes and kills herself. You lot may be letting yourselves out nicely, but I can't. Nor can mother. We did her in all right.’Eric clearly shows that he has a sense of social responsibility. Whilst Gerald and Eric's parents are enjoying being in the clear, Eric still takes the matter of Eva's death very seriously. He is even brave enough to tell his mother that she should feel responsible too, by questioning his mother during this time, this would have been looked down upon and been seen as a very disrespectful thing to do. Eric could be seen as to be the one who is most responsible for her death as he was the one who sexually assaulted her, ‘she wasn't the usual sort, but she was a good sport’ When Eric found out that Eva had been to his mothers committee for help, he turned the blame to his mother, ‘you killed her, she came to you to protect me and you turned her away-yes you killed her’. Eric was left feeling guilty as though he had caused the whole thing and not just contributed to the sequence of events.

Priestley uses the inspector’s final speech to show the need for change within society, this is shown by “millions and millions and millions”. The repetition of the word “millions” suggests there are loads of vulnerable people out there beyond the Birling’s class. It is suggesting that the Birling’s should not be so self contained and to look after people how are less fortunate then themselves.“We are members of one body.” This metaphor suggests that class division should not exist as everyone in the world is one society. The inspector could represent a ghost like figure that could be a warning to the family,“I can tell you that the time will soon come.” This is something that a future ghostly presents may be able to do, this directs us to take look on our own actions and our behaviour affecting others around us.
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