An Inspector Calls Themes

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  • An Inspector Calls Themes
    • Class
      • Birling: "Lady Croft - while she doesn't object to my girl - feels you might have done better for yourself socially"
        • Birling refers to Sheila as "my girl". It may be that this is said with a sense of pride, but the tone seems to be one of ownership rather than love
        • The phrase "done better" makes marriage seem like a competition Gerald has failed. The world "socially" has nothing to do with love and compassion, but entirely to do with public appearance
        • The hesitant sentence structure from Birling highlights how the upper class don't talk openly and honestly - they prefer to keep things private.
      • Inspector: "A nice little promising life there, I thought, and a nasty mess somebody's made of it"
        • The adjectives "nice little promising" all have positive associations, but also a tone of vulnerability. the use of the word "A" suggests Eva is not the only young women destroyed by people like the birlings.
        • There is a clear juxtaposition between the "nice" and "promising" elements Eva brings to the world, and the "nasty mess" that the Birlings cause.
        • The Inspector uses the pronoun "somebody" to emphasise the upper class hiding behind their status - no one will take responsibility for their actions.
      • Mrs Birling: "I don't understand for a moment that we can understand why the girl committed suicide. Girls of that class"
        • Mrs Birling's prejudice view of lower classes is clear. Sheila states they are "people" and the Inspector calls Eva "pretty, lively" - Mrs Birling refers to "that class" with a highly dismissive tone, suggesting  they are all the same.
        • "We" doesn't mean society as a whole, simply the upper class. "understand" suggests the lower classes are completely alien to Mrs Birling.
        • Sybil is unwilling to think of Eva "for a moment" and is dismissive of "that class", ironic as she is part of a charity that helps "girls of that class"
    • Society
      • Birling: "hard headed practical man of business"
        • The alliteration of the "h" sound in "hard headed", has a cold tone, mimicking his coldness towards his workers
        • "Hard" shows Birling has no caring, compassionate side, and "headed" suggests he views things with his head, not heart.
        • Birling is giving this speech at his daughter's engagement, yet he does not identify himself as a father or husband, but as a "practical man of business". his main role in society is as a businessman, not a father.
      • Inspector: "millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths"
        • The polysyndeton emphasises the sheer scale of the issue facing society. the use of "and makes the number of people just like Eva go on and on.
        • The male "John Smiths" remind us this isn't about gender. many of Eva's troubles were because she was female, but we have a duty to all people.
      • Sheila: "How could I know what would happen afterwards? if she'd been some miserable plain little creature, I don't suppose I'd have done it"
        • .The noun "creature" has animalistic associations - until now, Sheila saw those beneath her, such as Eva, as noting more than animals.
        • The tone of her question shows a desperate need to excuse her behaviour. Unlike her parents, she begins to realise her behaviour has consequences.
        • The adjectives "miserable plain little" all emphasise the characteristics Sheila and the Birlings assume the working classes have - they have no right being "pretty" but instead should remain vulnerable and easy to manipulate.

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