An Inspector Calls Revision – Social Class
In An Inspector Calls, Priestley explores the theme of social class through the treatment of Eva Smith by the wealthy Birlings and Gerald Croft.
Firstly, in the play, Mr Birling seems to show no respect for the lower class as he sees Eva as one of ‘several hundred young women’ meaning he sees her with no value and doesn’t car about letting her go as he mentions ‘they keep changing’. This is implying that he employees many different women of the lower class and doesn’t respect or acknowledge them as humans and just sees them as his minions working for him. In the play, the victims of are working class females. JB Priestley highlights the vulnerability of the working class in the time that the play is set which was something that was socially accepted.
Mrs Birling also seems to have similar opinions to her husband about the working class. She mentions ‘girls of that class’ which overall enhances that the only importance in her life is class and her own status to other people. In that sentence, she uses very disrespectful words that ultimately dehumanise the working class. The word ‘girls’ show she has no respect for the women and she treats them as if they aren’t important by not calling them women. ‘that’ also implies that she is looking down on the class as a disgrace as if it doesn’t deserve a name.
However, in contrast to her parents, Sheila has very different opinion of the class system and how they are treated by her parents. She ends up standing up for the working class by stating, ‘these girls aren’t cheap labour – they’re people’. This shows her challenging her parents viewpoints but also shows that she has gathered sympathy for Eva Smith and that the Inspector may have had an influence on her. The way she uses the word ‘people’ shows that she is the opposite to her mother and is giving the working class titles, showing that they exist like everyone else in other classes. this portrays Sheila as becoming more social aware of society and its class system, making the future with the younger generation look bright.
Finally, Priestley uses the Inspector as a mouthpiece of his own views. He makes the family easier that thy have an easy life compared to those in a lower class. Priestley was a socialist and wanted the class system to be abolished so the Inspector tells the family that they are ‘all member of one body’ and are ‘responsible for each other’. This means that the Inspector is trying to make the Birlings see that the class system is just made up and isn’t needed I society. He is also trying to make the character feel sympathy for the lower class and recognise their mistakes in how they have treated them. This is also teaching the audience a moral lesson in how to treat other people equally and not have division.