An Inspector Calls revision guide, everything you need to know. V HELPFUL!!!!


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Historical Background [Context ]
You shouldn't write lots and lots about this in your exam [a small paragraph at
most: 56 line summary]
IC is set in 1912, two years before one of the most important events in world history the
outbreak of the First World War.
Life in the early part of the twentieth century was very hard for poor people and society was
still very unequal:
Vast riches were enjoyed by a tiny minority of the population 5 % of people
owned 85 % of the nation's wealth.
There was a very fixed class system ­ upper class, middle class [the new rich who
had made their money in industry or commerce] and working class. You were born
into the relevant class and it was almost impossible to move between them.
Conditions for poor people were appalling, with no form of welfare or health care to
assist. Many had no proper homes and large numbers slept rough. Disease was rife
and many struggled to bring up families. Many ended up in the workhouses.
One historian commented: `class divisions were never so acutely felt as by the
Various Important Background Events
The Trade Union movement was becoming an increasingly important force, aimed at
improving worker's rights. Unemployment and recession were serious problems. There
were strikes by dockers, railway workers and miners but the govt sent in troops to break up
these strikes. However, there was a growing feeling that workers were gaining more rights.
The Russian Revolution occurred in 1917. This was where the masses rose up against
their ruling classes and formed a socialist state with the aim of making sure people in society
were equal and that wealth was shared out evenly. This event sent clear warning signals
around the world that, if the working classes remained locked out of power and were left
suffering in poverty for ever, then there was a danger of a civil rebellion. [The Inspector
warns of this danger when he prophesises about a time ahead of `blood and fire and
The 2nd WW forced people from all different classes to pull together ­ fight together, work
together, live together, suffer together. It became harder for the Eva Smiths of this world to
be cut off from the Birlings.
The Labour Party had been set up in 1900 to look after the interests of the working class. In
1945 the Labour Party swept to power with a massive majority. This event was seen as a
real chance to improve the life of the poorer members of society. The nation was caught up

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Start of the Welfare State
Huge programme of Nationalisation [ things run by govt not for profit but for benefit
of nation ]
Although set in 1912, IC was written and published in 1945. Its author Priestley was a
committed socialist and believer in the above new changes. IC is a product of this
excitement and is designed to show the need for the sort of policies advocated by Labour.…read more

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Reveals truth.....Teaches moral message about responsibility.....Warns of consequences
if message not heeded.
General: Birlings
The play highlights the current attitudes and problems within the privileged echelons of
society. Be aware: the Birlings are a reflection of many people with similar attitudes in
society. One critic has called them `a stereotype for their time.' Just as there are millions of
Eva Smiths, so there are lots of Birlings.…read more

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P 17 verb `discharged' is particularly callous and depersonalised to describe his
treatment of Eva Smith.
Once critic has called him: `a caricature of the heartless capitalistic businessman'
Reflect naivety of upper class / detachment from reality:
Comments about Titanic and his view there will never be a war or major labour unrest /
Reflect individual selfishness and moral decay:
Rejects any sense of social responsibility or equality ­ uses metaphor of bees in a hive and
complains about `community and all that nonsense.…read more

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One of her main roles in play is therefore: to reflect narrow, uncaring, privileged
hypocrisy of many in her class and the gulf between the classes ­ note the irony of her views
which come through in her choice of words such as: `respectable'/ `duty'/`deserving.'
She makes a number of comments about: `lowerclass' persons and `girls of that sort.' She
snobbishly criticises Eva using nasty premodifiers like `ridiculous airs' and `elaborate
fine feelings' ­ she sees lower class as almost a different species.…read more

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P40 ­ `you and I aren't the same people who sat down to dinner here'
P71 `you began to learn something...…read more

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Yet, despite this, he has redeeming features:
Shows genuine upset / remorse when the news of her death sinks in
Originally rescued her from clutches of drunken Alderman Meggarty
Set her up in Charlie Brunswick's flat and gave her money for food and clothes etc
Gave her parting gift of money
Eva Smith
She dominates the action invisibly.
Her role is to:
1. Represent situation of many in lower class [`millions and millions of Eva Smiths' ]
2.…read more

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An enigmatic figure single minded, doesn't deviate from his task or moral position.
Described using abstract nouns such as `purposefulness.'
Who is he? Various interpretations:
Name is an obvious pun on `ghoul' ­ could be seen as some kind of spirit, sent to torment
the consciences of the characters / conduct a preliminary kind of Day of Judgement. Note
he doesn't forgive or punish ­ his job is to uncover the truth and encourage them to
acknowledge their guilt and learn from it.…read more

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