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an inspector calls

analysis on inspector calls characters
Original post by zaxra.1
analysis on inspector calls characters

btw i didnt write this, someone else posted it on the eng lit p2 aqa forum
key quotes:
+ “but these girls aren’t cheap labour - they’re people!” - sheila
> sheila is thinking of others before she knows that she is involved, shows she might’ve already had socialist views but they might have been buried as a consequence of growing up in a capitalist society.
+ “we are members of one body.” and “they will be taught in fire, blood and anguish” - inspector’s final speech
> proxy to JB Priestley’s socialist views he wants to show to the audience. presents the inspector as omnipotent as 1945 viewers would know that the world was “taught in fire, blood and anguish” in ww1.
+ “mummy” - sheila
> simple one to remember, sheila goes from being an infantilised capitalist girl to a changed, socialist woman.
+ “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable” - mr birling
> Priestley uses dramatic irony to presents birling as foolish as 1945 audience would know that the titanic did sink. immediately gets audience to dislike him and his capitalistic mindset
+ “everything’s alright now, sheila. what about this ring? - gerald
> gerald shows clearly that he believes nothing has changed. he expects that Sheila will have gotten over it so soon and he believes that now that the situation is over everything can go back to normal. this shows quite a naive side of gerald and shows that he has had no understanding of the lesson the Inspector was trying to teach and that he has little respect for sheila.
+ “you’re not the type- you don’t get drunk-“ - mrs birling
> she denies what she doesn't want to believe. this contradicts the earlier statements she was making about the father of eva’s baby and portrays her as pretentious; proves that her arrogance is empty because, after seeing her son's mistakes, it is evident that there is no difference between classes.
+ “a girl of that sort” - mrs birling
> she is stereotypical and unsympathetic; sees eva as a liar and a criminal (traits she assumes all lower class citizens have). sarcasm and prejudice are present.
+ “not the sort of father a chap can go to when he’s in trouble” - eric
> highlights the distance between him and his father, contradicts the earlier quote of “you seem like a nice well-behaved family” by gerald. the use of the noun “chap” seems to be eric’s attempt at distancing himself from his actions, showing he doesnt entirely accept responsibility, but he does learn the inspectors lesson at the end.
key themes:
+ CLASS: taking the play from a socialist perspective inevitably focuses on issues of social class. class is a large factor, indirectly, in the events of the play and eva’s death. mrs. birling is her husband’s “social superior”, just as gerald will be sheila’s social superior if they do get married. priestley also subtly notes that gerald’s mother, lady croft, disapproves of gerald’s marrying sheila for precisely this reason. finally, everyone’s treatment of eva might be put down (either in part or altogether) to the fact that she is a girl “of that class”.
+ YOUTH AND AGE: the play implicitly draws out a significant contrast between the older and younger generations of birlings. while arthur and sybil refuse to accept responsibility for their actions toward eva (arthur, in particular, is only concerned for his reputation and his potential knighthood), eric and sheila are shaken by the inspector’s message and their role in eva’s suicide. the younger generation is taking more responsibility, perhaps because they are more emotional and idealistic, but perhaps because priestley is suggesting a more communally responsible socialist future for Britain.
+ RESPONSIBILITY: though responsibility itself is a central theme of the play, the last act of the play provides a way people can let themselves off the hook. if one message of the play is that we must all care more thoroughly about the general welfare, it is clear that the message is not shared by all. by contrasting the older birling and gerald with sheila and eric, priestley explicitly draws out the difference between those who have accepted their responsibility and those who have not.
+ CAUSE AND EFFECT: the Inspector outlines a “chain of events” that may well have led to eva’s death. her suicide is the product not of one person acting alone, but of a group of people each acting alone; it resulted from several causes. If birling had not sacked eva in the first place, sheilacould not have had her dismissed from Milwards, and eric and gerald would not have met her in the palace bar. had she never met eric , she would never have needed to go to the charity commission. this series of events is closely associated with priestley’s fascination with time and how things in time cause or are caused by others.
+ TIME: time, which deeply fascinated Priestley, is a central theme in many of his works. he famously was interested in Dunne’s theory of time, which argued that the past was still present, and that time was not linear as many traditional accounts suggest. aic deals with the nature of time in its final twist: has the play, we might wonder, simply gone back in time? is it all about to happen again? how does the Inspector know of the “fire and blood and anguish,” usually interpreted as a foreshadowing of the world wars?
+ THE SUPERNATURAL: the inspector’s name, though explicitly spelled “goole” in the play, is often interpreted through an alternative spelling: “ghoul.” the Inspector, it seems, is not a “real” Brumley police inspector, and priestley provides no answer as to whether we should believe his claim that he has nothing to do with eva smith. what are we to make of the police inspector who rings to announce his arrival at the end of the play? is the original Inspector, perhaps, a ghost? what forces are at work in the play to make the birlings really accept their responsibility and guilt?
+ SOCIAL DUTY: the inspector’s final speech is arguably is the most important and central theme of the play: that we have a duty to other people, regardless of social status, wealth, class, or anything else. there is, according to priestley, such a thing as society, and he argues that it is important that people be aware of the effects of their actions on others. the birlings initially do not think at all about how they might have affected eva, but they are forced to confront their likely responsibility over the course of the play.

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