An Inspector Calls
An Inspector Calls
An Inspector Calls is a morality play (A drama with a clear message, guiding the audience to behave in a morally correct way) or a ‘whodunit’ (a detective story)
Priestly wrote it to express his socialist views
The play reveals truth, teaches moral message about responsibility and warns of consequences if message not heeded
- Play set in 1912, written in 1945
- ‘An Inspector Calls’ is set in the fictional industrial city of Brumley.
- Takes place in one location
- Set in the home of a prosperous factory owner
- Play shows the difference in lifestyle between those who had money and power and those who didn’t and depended on work
- The First World War would start in two years. Birling's optimistic view that there would not be a war is completely wrong.
- Mr Birling is excited about the sailing of The Titanic: famously, the ship sank on her maiden voyage. This puts the audience at an advantage over the characters and makes us more involved.
- Mrs. Birling inevitably finds out Eric was the one who got Eva Smith pregnant, when beforehand she stated “some drunken young idler” which highlights that she put the blame on the man that made her pregnant which turned out to be Eric
- When the inspector rings the doorbell of the house, Birling is explaining to Eric and Gerald about responsibility; the inspector explains the moral meaning of responsibility and shows Mr. Birling he is wrong.
· Represents the sin of avarice (or greed)
· He is extremely selfish:
- He wants to protect himself and his family. He believes that socialist ideas that stress the importance of the community is "nonsense" and that "a man has to make his own way."
- He wants to protect Birling and Co. He cannot see that he did anything wrong when he fired Eva Smith - he was just looking after his business interests.
- He wants to protect his reputation. As the Inspector's investigations continue, his selfishness gets the better of him: he is worried about how the press will view the story in Act II, and accuses Sheila of disloyalty at the start of Act III. He wants to hide the fact that Eric stole money: "I've got to cover this up as soon as I can."
Arthur Birling (Continued)
· One dimensional character
· Capitalist stock type
· He has worked his way up in the world and is proud of his achievements. He boasts about having been Mayor and tries (and fails) to impress the Inspector with his local standing and his influential friends
· Too arrogant to learn his lesson
· Class conscious and anxious: ‘’there will be a public scandal – unless we’re lucky’’
· Selfish: ‘’A man has to make his own way’’
· Ambitious: ‘’there’s a very big chance of knighthood’’
· At the end of the play, he knows he has lost the chance of his knighthood, his reputation in Brumley and the chance of Birling and Co. merging with their rivals. Yet he hasn't learnt the lesson of the play: he is unable to admit his responsibility for his part in Eva's death.
Arthur Birling Quotes
Page 4 (“Lower costs and higher prices!”): Shows he is vulgar by talking about business, and that his values are based on greed – avarice
Pages 6 & 7 (“The Germans don’t want war. Nobody wants war”, “and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable” – referring to the Titanic): Use of dramatic irony. All the big things Birling believes in will go wrong
Pages 10 (“a man has to make his own way – has to look after himself – and his family too, of course…): Birling believes that everyone is only responsible for themselves.
Page 11 (“Have a glass of port – or a little whiskey”): Attempts bribery to the Inspector
Page 14 (“Oh well – “): He’s unmoved by Eva’s death.
Page 15 (“Well it’s my duty to keep labour costs down,”): Does not see workers as humans.
Arthur Birling Quotes (Continued)
Page 16 (“Perhaps I ought to warn you…”): Tries to threaten.
Page 54 (“I’ve got to cover this up as soon as I can.”): His first reaction is to protect his own reputation.
Page 56 (“Look. Inspector – I’d give thousands – yes, thousands”): Tries to buy his way out of trouble.
Page 57 (“You’re the one I blame for this.”): Refuses to accept responsibility.
Page 57 ("But I care. I was almost certain for a knighthood in the next Honours List –"): Cares only about himself.
Page 70 (Jovially): He thinks he can turn back the clock, and everything can be back to normal.
· She represents the sin of pride.
· She tries to deny things that she doesn't want to believe: Eric's drinking, Gerald's affair with Eva, and the fact that a working class girl would refuse money even if it was stolen, claiming "She was giving herself ridiculous airs."
· She admits she was "prejudiced" against the girl who applied to her committee for help and saw it as her "duty" to refuse to help her. Her narrow sense of morality dictates that the father of a child should be responsible for its welfare, regardless of circumstances.
· Dismissive of Eva, saying "Girls of that class." – does not consider Eva/her situation to be worthy of her time
Sybil Birling (Continued)
· Prejudiced – against people of a lower social status; Ignorant- unwilling to accept Eric’s alcoholism + treats Sheila like a child; Self-Indulgent; Class Conscious; Patronizing – talks down to others (treats Eric and Sheila like children); Irresponsible; Unremorseful – feels no guilt for her actions; Cold-Hearted; ‘Snobbish’; Old-fashioned – her perspective on many matters is of a traditional ; Selfish; Oblivious - unaware of what is going on around her (Eric’s alcoholism); Immoral– refused to give Eva help when she was pregnant; Unsympathetic – the audience will not sympathize with Sybil’s situation; Uncompassionate – does not sympathize with the situation; Egotistical – Thinks highly of herself; Proud; Self-Absorbed - cares only about her own interests, her family and herself; Domineering; Heartless– refused to give aid to Eva;
· At the end of the play, she has had to come to terms that her son is a heavy drinker who got a girl pregnant and stole money to support her, her daughter will not marry a good social 'catch' and that her own reputation within the town will be sullied. Yet, like her husband, she refuses to believe that she did anything wrong and doesn't accept responsibility for her part in Eva's death.
Sybil Birling Quotes
Page 31 (“I’m talking to the Inspector now, if you don’t mind.”): She thinks her social position should protect her from unpleasant things.
Page 43 (“Yes.”): Admits to prejudice against Eva.
Page 44 (“If you think you can bring any pressure to bear upon me, Inspector, you’re quite mistaken”): Shows how heartless and unmoved she is.
Page 48 (“If the girl’s death is due to anybody, then it’s due to him”): Dramatic irony – Eric is the father.
Page 55 (“No – Eric – please – I didn’t know – I didn’t understand –”): Tries to make excuses – as sorry for herself as anyone else.
Page 70 (Smiling): Doesn’t understand that anything has changed.
· Sheila’s sin is that of envy.
· Sheila is the most emotionally responsive character, and has a natural sense of right and wrong
· Even though she seems very playful at the opening, we know that she has had suspicions about Gerald when she mentions "last summer, when you never came near me." This suggest that she is not as naive and shallow as she first appears
· Although she has probably never in her life before considered the conditions of the workers, she shows her compassion immediately she hears of her father's treatment of Eva Smith: "But these girls aren't cheap labour - they're people." Already, she is starting to change.
Sheila Birling (Continued)
· She is horrified by her own part in Eva's story. She feels full of guilt for her jealous actions and blames herself as "really responsible."
· When she hears about the affair, she says that she respects his honesty. She is becoming more mature than before when she called her mother, ‘mummy’
Sheila Birling Quotes
Page 2 (“Mummy.”): Seems childlike.
Page 19 (“But these girls aren’t cheap labour, they’re people”): She has a natural sense of justice.
Page 24 (“And if I could help her now, I would –“): Admits that she acted badly, and feels ashamed without being told: Sheila gets what the inspector wants her to understand by herself.
Page 25 (“Oh don’t be stupid”): She guesses Gerald’s secret – she already suspected it.
Sheila Birling Quotes (Continued)
Page 28 (“Don’t please – I know – I know –“): She accepts her responsibility; the inspector shows her pity.
Page 40 (“I rather respect you more than I’ve ever done before.”): She has matured a lot even after she hears that Gerald had an affair
Page 71 (“You’re pretending everything’s just as it was before.”): She is shocked her parents still don’t get it, that they will suffer if they don’t change.
Page 72 (“No, not yet. It’s too soon. I must think.”): She needs to decide if she can trust him and if he can change.
· Eric represents lust
· When he hears how his father sacked Eva Smith, he supports the worker's because, "Why shouldn't they try for higher wages?" – rebellious, has a tense relationship with his father
· He feels guilt and frustration with himself over his relationship with the girl. He cries, "Oh - my God! - how stupid it all is!" as he tells his story. He is horrified that his thoughtless actions had such consequences. – instant change of heart
Eric Birling (Continued)
· He had some sense of responsibility, though, because although he got a woman pregnant, he was concerned enough to give her money. He was obviously less worried about stealing (or 'borrowing' from his father's office) than he was about the girl's future - the most socially aware member of the Birling family
· He is appalled by his parents' inability to admit their own responsibility. He tells them forcefully, "I'm ashamed of you." When Birling tries to threaten him in Act III, Eric is aggressive in return: "I don't give a damn now."
· At the end of the play, like Sheila, he is fully aware of his social responsibility. He is not interested in his parents' efforts to cover everything up: as far as he is concerned, the important thing is that a girl is dead. "We did her in all right."
Eric Birling Quotes
Page 5 (“Steady the Buffs!”) He’s a bit drunk already.
Page 11 (“My God!”): He naturally feels pity when he hears about Eva
Page 52 (“I’m not very clear about it, but afterwards she told me she didn’t want to go in but that – well I was in that state when a chap easily turns nasty – and I threatened to make a row”): Treated Eva violently.
Page 54 (“you’re not the kind of father a chap could go to when he’s in trouble” ) - He blames his father for his predicament, truth about their relationship
Page 55 (“Then – you killed …”): He realizes the truth, and that both his parents have failed him.
Eric Birling Quotes (Continued)
Page 58 (“Yes, and …”): Eric turns Mr. B’s arguments against him.
Page 59 (“He was our police inspector all right”): He sees that they have all been investigated and ‘solved’.
Page 64 (“What’s the use of talking about behaving sensibly.”): He sees that what matters is the human tragedy.
Page 65 (Shouting): Very rebellious
Page 71 (“And I agree with Sheila”): He lines up with Sheila against the others.
· His sin is gluttony
· Engaged to be married to Sheila
· Socially higher than the Birlings – that’s why Mr. Birling is happy with the relationship
· Had an affair with Eva/Daisy
· Kept Daisy as his mistress for six months then broke off their relationship - she became his mistress because "She was young and pretty and warm-hearted - and intensely grateful."
· Denies any feelings for her but has been hiding his feelings
Gerald Croft (Continued)
· Saddened by Eva’s death – “I’m rather more – upset – by this business than I probably appear to be –’’
· Sympathy towards Daisy - "because I was sorry for her;"
· He discovers the truth about the Inspector
· Agrees with Mr. Birling about the way a business should be run, Gerald has a similar outlook on life as Mr. Birling as his views about businesses and how workers should be treated are the same as what Mr. Birling believes.
· At the end of the play, he has not changed. He has not gained a new sense of social responsibility, which is why Sheila (who has) is unsure whether to take back the engagement ring.
Gerald Croft Quotes
Page 4 (“Hear, hear!”): His views are the same as Mr. B’s.
Page 35 (“The girl saw me looking at her and then gave me a glance that was nothing less than a cry for help”): He tries to make it seem that he got drawn in by her.
Page 37 (“...because I was sorry for her…”): Keeps making it sound as though he was just being a good person, not after ***.
Page 37 (“Yes, I suppose it was inevitable. She was young and pretty, and warm-hearted –“): Admits that he really saw ‘Daisy’ as someone to exploit.
Gerald Croft Quotes (Continued)
Page 38 ([Hesitatingly] “It’s hard to say.”): Admits that he was just using Eva – knows he has lost status in the eyes of the Birlings.
Page 69 (“I don’t mind doing it.”): He starts to take charge – he is behaving like Mr. Birling did on page 62
Page 70 ([Smiling] “Thanks.”): Thinks everything is alright again.
Page 71 (“Everything’s all right now, Sheila.”): He is thinking like Mr. Birling – that everyone will carry on as though nothing had happened.
· Mouthpiece for Priestley’s socialist views
General behavior that is found suspicious:
- The timing of his entry (noted by Eric)
- His intimate knowledge of Eva's life and despite the fact that he never spoke to her
- His method of working: “one person and one line of enquiry at a time” (A policeman would not insist on this. A real policeman would interview people alone. This Inspector already knows; he wants the others to see what they have done.)
- His concern for moral law not for criminal law.
- His statement: “some things are left to me. Inquiries of this sort, for instance”.
- His final speech, which has nothing to do with criminal law, but which is a lecture on social responsibility and the perils of ignoring it.
- The Birlings' discovery that no such officer is on the local police force.
- His foreknowledge of Eva's death.
Inspector Goole (Continued)
· The inspector is a mysterious presence in the play. His name (a homophone for ‘ghoul’, a ghost), suggests this from the moment he is introduced
· Inspector Goole is instrumental in disturbing the harmony; a purposeful, mysterious character who forces the characters to confront each other's social responsibility, snobbery and guilt.
Inspector Goole Quotes
Page 11 (I’d like some …; yes, she was …): Tells them he wants information from them. Uses a brutally direct description to shock.
Page 12 ([cutting through, massively]): Not impressed by Mr. Birling
Page 29 (“You see, we have to share something. If there’s nothing else, we’ll have to share our guilt.”): Moral message
Page 34 (“And anyhow I knew already.”): He convinces Gerald he knows everything, so G. tells truth.
Page 45 (“That doesn’t make it any less than yours”): He is hard on Mrs. Birling, and turns the others against her too.
Page 56 (“…there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us…” “We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.”): He reinforces the message of being responsible for each other, and looks forward to the world wars as punishment for failing to do it.
- Has a clear sense of right and wrong (she won't take Eric's stolen money)
Act One Summary
· The Birling family and Gerald Croft are celebrating Sheila’s engagement to Gerald
· Mr. Birling makes speeches outlining his views on the advances in science, new inventions and the relationship between bosses and workers and saying they should ignore the ‘cranks’ (page 10) who claim everybody has a responsibility to care for everybody else.
· The evening is interrupted by the arrival of a police inspector named Goole making enquires about the suicide of a young woman, Eva Smith.
· Mr. Birling admits he employed her in his factory but sacked her for being one of the leaders of a strike for higher wages
Act One Summary (Continued)
· Sheila and Eric feel that their father has acted harshly while Gerald supports Mr. Birling’s claim that he acted reasonably.
· Sheila realises that she had the girl sacked from her job in Milwards due to jealousy and ill temper
· Gerald reacts when he hears Eva Smith changed her name to Daisy Renton, showing that he knew her too.
· Sheila warns Gerald not to try to hide anything from Goole
Act Two Summary
· Gerald admits he had met Daisy the spring of last year and that she was his mistress for six months
· Sheila is hurt and angry but respects his honesty and openness
· Mrs. Birling to control events
· Mrs. Birling is forced to admit the girl asked for the help of her charity and refused
· It is revealed that Eva/Daisy was pregnant and Mrs. Birling lays the blame for the girl’s death on the father of the unborn child, not knowing that it was Eric.
Act Three Summary
· Eric confesses that he got the girl pregnant and that he stole money from his father’s firm to support her
· Eric blames his mother for Eva’s death once he learns that Eva had appealed to Mrs. Birling’s charity but was turned down
· The inspector makes a speech about the consequences of the sort of social irresponsibility, he then leaves after showing that everyone had a part in ruining the girl’s life
· Gerald and Mr. Birling prove that the man wasn’t a real inspector by phoning the Chief Constable and finding out that no such inspector was on the police force
Act Three Summary (Continued)
· A telephone call to the infirmary reveals that there has been no recent suicide
· Eric and Sheila continue to feel guilt however the others don’t
· The phone rings and Mr. Birling picks up. He is informed that a young woman has just died on the way to the infirmary and an inspector is on his way to make enquires