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An Inspector Calls: Themes
Taking the play from a socialist perspective inevitably focuses on issues of social class. Class
is a large factor, indirectly, in the events of the play and Eva Smith's death. Mrs Birling, Priestley
notes, is her husband's social superior, just as Gerald will be Sheila's in the event of a marriage. It is
also subtly noted that Lady Croft, Gerald's mother, disapproves of such a marriage. Finally, the
treatment of Eva by each individual might be due to her class. Priestley was clearly interested in the
social class system and how it determines decisions made.
Youth and Age:
The play implicitly draws out a significant contrast between the older Birlings and their
children. While Arthur and Sybil refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, Eric and Sheila are
shaken by the Inspector and by Eva's suicide. The younger generation are taking more responsibility,
perhaps because they are more emotional and idealistic, but maybe Priestley is suggesting a more
socialist future for Britain.
Though responsibility is in itself a central theme, the last act of the play provides a fascinating
insight of people letting themselves off the hook. If one message is that we must all be more
community-orientated, Priestley makes clear that this sentiment is not shared by all. By contrasting
the older Birlings with their children, the difference is highlighted between those who accept
responsibility and those who do not.