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An Inspector Calls

Essay by   •  December 21, 2010  •  2,750 Words (11 Pages)  •  1,637 Views

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The play revolves around the death of Eva Smith who is said to have committed suicide after her unfortunate meetings with each of the Birling's and Gerald. At the start of the play the Birling's are celebrating Sheila's engagement with Gerald, when unexpectedly inspector Goole arrives to question the Birling's and Gerald. The inspector tries to show and convince the characters how and what parts they played in Eva's death. All the characters succumb to the inspector's unconventional way of questioning and tell him how they each were in relation to Eva's death. Each character played a part towards the eventual demise of Eva and they were all responsible for her death in one way or another. I believe that it was not one particular incident that led to her suicide, but that it was the chain of events that the characters participated in.

After the inspector departs Gerald finds out that the inspector was not in fact an inspector and the whole thing was a hoax. Sheila and Eric are still in repentance about what they had done to Eva but the rest were comforted by the news and were very much relieved. Then they all are shocked when they receive a phone call from the infirmary saying that a girl called Eva Smith had just come in to the infirmary after swallowing some disinfectant and a inspector is on his way to question them all; this is where the play ends.

The first character I will look at is Mr. Birling who is a self-absorbed "hard headed business man". He also likes dishing out advice to youngsters even when it is not called for. Mr. Birling is also a very business minded person and has a rather peculiar way of thinking either something will promote his business or demote it.

Mr. Birling is also somewhat of a visionary. He feels that only good can happen and the world can only progress. He feels that the inevitable war will not occur and the titanic will not sink.

"Germans don't want war, nobody want's war" "In a year or two we'll have aeroplanes that will be able to go anywhere. The Titanic she sails next week, New York in 5 days unsinkable absolutely unsinkable."

The author JB Priestly brings out the dramatic ironies here, using the stubborn and shrewd character of Mr. Birling, because the war does commence and the unsinkable Titanic sinks. The audience knows this and immediately finds his character both ignorant and with an arrogant outlook to the future.

Just before the Inspector comes in, Mr. Birling is giving a speech to both Gerald and his son, Eric. This information is based on what he views on society, which happens to be that society is immoral and that it is "every man for himself." Mr. Birling is so caught up in his own Big-headedness and prestige that he believes that he should be passing on this knowledge "from the hard school of experience"- seeing as he is an elder and therefore supposedly knows better.

"These cranks go on about being responsible for each other"

What Mr. Birling doesn't know is that he is subconsciously calling the Inspector a crank and the Inspector responds to this by ringing the doorbell several times, interrupting Mr. Birling in the middle of his speech. This is one of the dramatic devices used by Preistley to contradict the views of Mr. Birling.

During Mr. Birling's interrogation, we find out that Eva Smith used to be an employee of Mr. Birling. Once the inspector starts questioning him, we find out that he thought Eva was a good worker and that he was going to promote her:

"A good worker too. In fact the foremen there told me he was ready to promote her"

But this all changed after she organized a strike and he fired her. When asked why he did this he says:

"It is my duty to keep labour costs down."

This proves further more that Mr. Birling's main prerogative is money, which he cares for more than someone's livelihood. But I feel that the only reason he fired her is not because of the commotion she caused, but because she was undermining Mr. Birling's authority and thus causing him to lose some of his influence if he tolerated her. This is shown where he says:

"She'd had a lot to say-far too much-she had to go."

Here, Birling is incredibly insensitive. He cannot understand why the Inspector is surprised and also disgusted when he tells him that he fired Eva. He just counts being cold hearted and mean as part of his job. He only cares about climbing the industrial ladder, and will push anyone out of his way while he does it. This attitude is one that Preistley dislikes the most and is the opposite of socialism, which the inspector represents and is trying to influence upon the audience.

I believe, that Mr. Birling feels he needs the to have the security of being in control and influencing everything that takes place and this is the reason why he fired Eva Smith. I think that when she put herself in a more confrontational position by requesting more money; Mr. Birling found this intimidating and sacked her, to avoid the threat of losing the control of his employees.

This also seems to be the reason why he is intimidated by the inspector's sudden arrival and intrusion on his family and in his home. He immediately offers the inspector a drink as a gesture of making peace with him. This may have also been an attempt to weaken the inspector's authority, as he would have been appreciative of the gesture and Mr. Birling's hospitality. The inspector, however, manages to maintain that authority by getting straight to the point; which in turn lets the audience concentrate on the importance of his visit, and a drink would have given the impression of comfort, as if he had come by for a friendly chat.

Preistley leads the audience to believe the Inspector as opposed to Birling's views as Birling's views on society are that there is no such thing; and that it is every man for himself. He is shown as having few kind emotions and is mostly celebrating Shelia\'s wedding because of the business opportunities it will bring.

"quote"

Preistley is trying to show that these views are wrong. He does this at two levels. One is the more obvious - he has been cast as the evil character who is caring only for his family and shows no compassion for Eva's horrific death. The other way is subtler; in all his predictions Birling is wrong and this gives the audience the idea that all Mr. Birling's views would be wrong. As these two quotes show:

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