An Inspector Calls - Seven Deadly Sins


Seven Deadly Sins

The different characters in An Inspector Calls can be seen to represent the Seven Deadly Sins:

Pride - Mr Birling, Mrs Birling

Greed - Mr Birling

Lust - Gerald, Eric

Envy - Sheila

Gluttony- Mr Birling, Gerald

Wrath - Mrs Birling

Sloth - Eric

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What are the Seven Deadly Sins?

The seven deadly sins - Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath, Sloth - are also known as the capital vices or the cardinal sins. They can be 'cured' with their corresponding Virtues (Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility). The Catholic church historically used the concept of the Vices and Virtues to demonstrate to the widely illeterate population the way that they should live their lives in order to please God and avoid going to Hell.

In the same way, JB Priestley represents, using the characters in the play, where society has gone wrong and how this has lead to war, inequality and suffering. In doing this he suggests how society as a whole can change itself to become more socially responsible.

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Pride - Mr and Mrs Birling

Pride is usually considered to be the worst of the Vices, and often the root of the rest of them. It refers to 'dangerously corrupt selfishness, the putting of one's own desires, urges, wants, and whims before the welfare of other people', and ' irrationally believing that one is essentially and necessarily better, superior, or more important than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and excessive admiration of the personal image or self (especially forgetting one's own lack of divinity, and refusing to acknowledge one's own limits, faults, or wrongs as a human being)'

Mr and Mrs Birling can be seen to represent the sin of pride: Mr Birling puts his own needs far above Eva's when he sacked her for asking for a fair wage, and Mrs Birling when she refuses help to Eva. They also both display excessive pride throughout the play by constantly referring to their social status to try to intimidate the Inspector "I was Lord Mayor Here two years ago". As well as this, they refuse to accept and blame or guilt and try to blame anyone but themselves, even their own children:"You're the one I blame for this"

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Greed - Mr Birling

Greed can be defined as 'an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs, especially with respect to material wealth.' Examples of this include:'hoarding of materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by means of violence, trickery, or manipulation of athourity are all actions that may be inspired by greed'.

Mr Birling can be seen to represent this sin. He sees his own daughter's engagement to Gerald as an oppurtunity for his business to make more money; "...working together for lower costs and higher prices". He also sacks Eva, a young vulnerable girl, purely because he didn't want to give his workers slightly higher wages. As well as this, he seems more outraged by the fact thatEric had stolen money from him than than the fact that Eric r*ped Eva and made her pregnant, the final straw for Eva that led her to her suicide.

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Lust- Eric and Gerald

Lust is defined as: 'intense or unbridled sexual desire,which leads to immoral sexual acts. However, lust could also mean simply desire in general; thus, lust for money, power, and other things are sinful. In accordance with the words of Henry Edward Manning, the impurity of lust transforms one into "a slave of the devil".'

Gerald commits adultery beecause of lust, breaching Sheila's trust. Although he set out with good intentions to help Eva and not for her to be his mistress, he still succumbed to temptation, and as well as this, by the end of the play he does not learn his lesson.

Eric, who r*ped Eva initially, but then later had a consensual relationship with her, could not resist the temptation of lust and used Eva for his own pleasure. Although his sin could be seen as worse that Gerald's, he does give her, albiet stolen, money to keep her going, and by the end of the play he repents and learns his lesson.

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Envy - Sheila

Envy :' like greed and lust, is characterized by an insatiable desire. It can be described as a sad or resentful covetousness towards the traits or possessions of someone else.'

"According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the struggle aroused by envy has three stages: during the first stage, the envious person attempts to lower another's reputation;[Sheila is angry with Eva and jealous of her beauty, and uses her influence to get her sacked from Milwards] in the middle stage, the envious person receives either "joy at another's misfortune"[Sheila feels vindictive pleasure immediately afterwards knowing that Eva has been sacked] (if he succeeds in defaming the other person) or "grief at another's prosperity" (if he fails); the third stage is hatred because "sorrow causes hatred [Sheila feels guilty about what she has done "I felt rotten about it at the time and now i feel worse"]

Sheila does repent and does learn from her mistakes "I know I'm to blame and I'm desperately sorry" and she knows that what she has done is unacceptable "I'll never, never do it again"

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Gluttony - Mr Birling

A third sin that Mr Birling can be seen to commit is gluttony, defined as 'the overindulgence and overconsumption of anything to the point of waste'.  'In Christianity, it is considered a sin if the excessive desire for something causes it to be withheld from the needy'

 Mr Birling is gluttonous in his excessive consumption of food, leading him to be "heavy-looking", and also his consumption of expensive drinks "exactly the one [port] your father gets"

He allows his gluttony and desire for money to cause him to deprive his workers of higher wages, wanting to keep the money himself to spend on expensive food, drink and furniture

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Wrath - Mrs Birling

Wrath ' can be defined as uncontrolled feelings of anger, rage, and even hatred. Wrath often reveals itself in the wish to seek vengeance'

Mrs Birling commits the sin of wrath when she deprives Eva of financial aid, after Eva uses the name Mrs Birling by accident, when Eva appeals to the Women's Charity. Mrs Birling uses her influence to ensure that Eva was not granted any money. Mrs Birling admits that she was prejudiced againt Eva but is not sorry for it and does not repent or learn her lesson: "it was one of the things that prejudiced me agaist her case"

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Sloth - Eric

Sloth is "defined as absence of interest or habitual disinclination to exertion'.It is displayed when someone does not utilize their gifts or oppurtunities because of laziness.

Eric displays sloth in the fact that he is lazy at work and spoilt by his parents, and he prefers to live off of his parents' money and spend it on drinking in the town and going to the Palace Bar.

He does aknowledge that he is doing something wrong and repents for his actions.

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