Responsibility essay

In the essay, I explain responsibility of Mr. Birling, Shelia and the Inspector.

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  • Created on: 19-11-16 13:26
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How is responsibility portrayed in An Inspector Calls?
Responsibility is holding yourself accountable for your own actions. This is one of the key themes
in an inspector calls and priestly choses to portray this differently through each character. When
Priestly wrote the book in 1912 there it was a communist community and Priestly tried to show
through An Inspector Calls that we all have a responsibility and things needed to change because if
we keep going on like things are right now then the community that we have right now will start
to determinate in the near future.
Priestly decides to show the theme of responsibility through the character of Mr Arthur Birling
whose lack of social responsibility is shown by his lack of compassion towards Eva Smith who is a
representative of the working class. Mr Birling thinks that "If we were all responsible for
everything that happened to everybody we'd had anything to do with, it would be very awkward,
wouldn't it?" which implies that Mr Birling feels that the lower class and the upper class should be
separated and that they are not connected. Mr Birling immediately dismisses the idea that the
two sides should work together and that the two sides together would be `awkward'. The
powerful adjective shows how it would have put him and the rest of the upper class in an
inconvenience so it is evident how he only cares about himself and not about the wellbeing of the
other people especially those in the lower class. The rhetorical question "wouldn't it?" which is Mr
Birling asking for the inspectors and the rest of the family's acceptance with the idea that we
should not help anybody who is less fortunate than us. He uses the technique of bathos as he is
meant to be talking about how happy he is to be giving his daughter away but instead he
self-obsessed and doesn't care about his children emotionally. It also shows how he is fixated
with money, so much so that he would exploit innocent members of the lower class as he states
that `Gerald and Crofts should join together for lower costs and higher prices' which clearly shows
that Mr Birling has no empathy towards the lower class and feels no remorse about exploiting
Shelia is automatically remorseful and accepts that she is guilty as she thinks that she is `really
responsible' this opposes her father's views as he felt no sympathy towards the lower class.
Priestly Shows responsibility of Sheila through her compassion towards Eva Smiths death. Sheila
shows compassion towards Eva Smith and the rest of the lower class as she feels so strongly that
she interrupts her father and states that `But these girls aren't cheap labour - they're people.' In
this quote she shows compassion for the working class for the way that there remorseless father
has treated them. Shelia emulates the inspector as she interrupts her father, which the inspector
did on many occasions. From her emulating the inspector we can't tell that she is repentant and is
changing her views towards the society and is starting to become less ignorant towards what is
happening in the community around her. Even though at the start of the play she agrees with her
parents views at the play progresses she becomes more independent and becomes mad with her
family. Sheila was especially mad as the older generation were trying to `pretend that nothing
much has happened' which shows that they the older generation were not repentant but the
younger generation accepted responsibility and showed compassion and immediately felt guilty.
Sheila saw her parents and Gerald in a new unfavourable light for the way they treated the lower
class. Moreover, at the start Sheila is a spoilt girl who used her social status to manipulate and
harm other people but at the end she is repentant and compassionate.
Priestley's key message is that everybody has a responsibility in their society and that everybody
should help each other. Priestly uses the powerful technique of repetition when he authoritatively
states that `there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still with us.'
This emphasises the suffering of the lower class and that even though one girl of the lower class /

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powerful collective pronoun `we' implies that we all have a responsibility in the community and
that there is a `chain of events' so there is no person who is more important than each other. The
inspector is Priestley's author surrogate. Moreover, the metaphorical idea of `fire, blood and
anguish' suggests that if you do not change your ways than you will be eternally punished by going
to hell which is represented by the fire.…read more


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