Themes and Ideas in An Inspector Calls

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  • Themes and Ideas in An Inspector Calls
    • An equitable society
      • The Inspector tries to get others to accept that all people share a common humanity and so are part of an interdependent society
        • Birling dismisses the idea of a community, in which responsibility and guilt are shared, as the foolish mutterings of socialist cranks
      • The Inspector becomes a spokesperson for the disadvantaged and a voice for the conscience which the Birlings and Gerald seem to lack
      • 1912 was a time in which most people had few rights and depended hugely on the good will of their employers
        • Eva Smith is completely at the mercy of the Birling family
          • As she comes into contact with each of them, her situation becomes worse and worse- she is on a downward journey
    • Responsibility
      • Mr Birling feels responsible to make a success of his business, even if it means being harsh to others along the way
      • Sheila belatedly recognises that as a powerful customer she has an obligation not to let her personal feelings and ill temper lead to misery for people who have no power
      • At the beginning of the play, Eric has little sense of responsibility. He drinks too much and he forced Eva Smith into a relationship which had disastrous consequences
        • Both Eric and Sheila realise the importance of responsibility by the end of the play
          • Sheila belatedly recognises that as a powerful customer she has an obligation not to let her personal feelings and ill temper lead to misery for people who have no power
      • Birling, Mrs Birling, and Gerald deny responsibility
        • They care too much about pride and the possibility of a 'public scandal'
    • Love
      • Gerald and Sheila appear to be in love before the Inspector arrives and their engagement seems to bring happiness as they contemplate their future together
        • After they have each confessed, Sheila realises that they don't know each other well and that trust is essential in a relationship
      • Birling perceives marriage as a convenient way of progressing up the social and economic ladder
        • Causes the audience to wonder if his marriage to the socially superior Mrs Birling is really as a result of true love
      • Gerald and Eric's relationships were only  prompted by physical attraction
      • The Inspector preaches a form of love, like a true 'charity' which is a deep care for our fellow human beings
    • Time
      • The Inspector arriving before the suicide is a reality, offers each character the chance to see the consequences, change the future, and break out of the cycle
        • Eric and Sheila seem prepared to face up to their actions and accept responsibility and learn from their mistakes
      • The reflections on the past, and possibly the future highlight the importance of caring for others and taking responsibility for our actions whilst considering the consequences
      • The Inspector's departure gives the characters the opportunity to change
        • The audience wonders how they will cope reliving the close scrutiny of their dealings with others when the cycle begins again
      • The failure of the older characters to learn anything reflects the failure of the generations to learn from the mistakes of the recent past
        • Set in 1912 after WW1 ('the war to end all wars'), but written in 1945, at the end of WW2

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