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An Inspector Calls
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Yet, Priestley's play undergoes a subtle shift in mood and tone
until it has become something much more unusual, which defies
both its initial expectations and its seeming naturalism.
Edna's silence in the play, though she begins as a natural
component of the comfortable family room as the curtain rises,
gradually comes to seem more and more significant as the play
Priestley's dramatic irony, then, is poignant, not merely coy and
comfortable, for the audience.
Birling's politics of self-reliance and personal responsibility are
staunchly and unashamedly capitalist, perhaps even right-wing.
He believes in "low wages, high prices," is absolutely dismissive of
Eva's strike, and, even at the close of the Inspector's inquiry, can
only limply claim that he would "give thousands" to make things
Notably, she stands in stark contrast to her mother, who refuses
to change at all and (so far) refuses to drop her mask of icy,
upper-class politeness. Priestley is interested in the well-worn
idea that the young have the capacity to change, accept new
ideas and move forwards while their parents and the older
generations often fail to do so.
Priestley's socialist message--that everyone must look out for
each other--is extended further in the Inspector's damning
comment that the public people "have responsibilities as well as
The chain of personal and social events is not simply a metaphor
for the way the class system holds people like "Eva Smiths and
John Smiths" firmly in their subservient positions in society, but
it is also a neat encapsulation of the Inspector's key moral: that
everyone, contrary to what Birling explains, is indeed bound up
with everyone else "like bees in a hive." As much as we like to
think of ourselves as individuals, we are also social beings.
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It is important to analyze the Inspector's promise, later repeated
by Sheila, of "fire and blood and anguish" if men will not learn
that they are responsible for each other.…read more