Plot Summary - Act One
- The Birling family and Gerald Croft are celebrating the engagement of Sheila and Gerald at a Dinner Party in the Birling's Dinning Room
- Mr Birling makes a pompous speech outlining is views on the advances in science, technological innovations and relationships between bosses and workers. - He disagreess that everybody has a responsibility to care for everybody else
- The evening is interrupted by the arrival of a police inspector named Goole making enquiries about the suicide of a young woman named Eva Smith
- The inspector shows a photograph of Eva to Mr Birling who recognises her as an ex-employee at the factory. She was sacked for leading a strike for higher wages
- Sheila & Eric agree their father has acted harshly, while Gerald supports Mr Birling's claim he acted reasonably.
- Sheila is later shown the photo of Eva and realises that she too had been responsible for another sacking of Eva driven by pure jealousy and ill temper.
- When Gerald learns the girl changed her name to Daisy Renton, his reaction shows that he had once known the girl too.
- The Inspector suggests that many people share the responsibility for the misery which prompted Eva Smith/Daisy Renton to end her life
Plot Summary - Act Two
- Gerald admits he met Daisy Renton in the Spring of the previous year and that she was his mistress for six months
- Sheila is hurt and angry at Geralds involvement with the girl. She also feels a certain admiration of his honesty and openness of his admission
- Mrs Birling tries to bully the Inspector and to control events
- Sheila realises that the Inspector's enquiries are well foundedm and that he mother might also have had some dealings with the girl
- While Eric is out the room, Mrs Birling is forced to admit that the girl asked for help of the charity she works for and was refused.
- It is revealed the girl was pregnant, and Mrs Birling lays the blame for the girls death on the father on the unborn child.
- There is suspicion that Eric might have been the father to the unborn child as Mrs Birlings begins to relay the facts Eva told her, it becomes clear that Eric and mistery father are quite similar.
- Sheila realises what is happening and tries to stop her mother as she begins to rant about how the father should be made an example of.
Plot Summary - Act Three
- Eric arrives home and confesses that he got the girl pregnant and that he stole money from his father's firm to support her.
- Learning that the girl had appealed to his mother for help and been turned down, Eric blames her for the girl's death
- The Inspector makes a dramatic speech about the consequences of the sort of social irresponsibility that Mr Birling was preacing the end of dinner.
- The inspector, having shown that each family member (including Gerald) had a part in ruining the girls life and driving her to commit suicie, leaves.
- Between them, Gerald and Mr Birling gradually prove that the man that had just visited them was not a real Inspector
- A telephone call to the Cheif Constable establishes there is no Inspector Goole on the police force.
- A call to the Infirmary revelas that there has been no recent suicides
- Eric & Sheila continue to feel guilty about what they have done, but the others now shrug off any guilt.
- Mr Birling answers the telephone and is informed that "a young woman has just died on her way to the Infirmary and an inspector is on is way to make some enquiries.
Inspector Goole (1)
Who is the Inspector?
He introduces himself as Inspector Goole, a police Inspector who has come to ask some questions about the death of a young girl.
What does the Inspector do in the play?
- The Inspector interrupts the Birling family gathering
- He establishes a link between every single family member and Eva/Daisy. He reveals that each did something cruel or unkind to the dead girl which provided added scope for her wanting to end her life. (It is described as a chain of events)
- The Inspector takes control of the situation and the Birling's (much to their disbelief) and, while being polite), refuses to acknowlegde that any of the others is superior to himself - despite class differences.
- He leaves them after making an impassioned speech about social justice. This final speech from the Inspector is where J. B. Priestley really portrays his own opinions to the audience of 1945.
Inspector Goole (2 - Key Quotes)
- A man of "massiveness, solidity and purposefulness" - The Inspector is an imposing figure who will dominate the play and will achieve his aims.
- "One person and one line of enquiry at a time. Otherwise there's a muddle" - He wants to do things his way which orders things in a sensible manor. This allows J. B. Priestely to build the play as a "chain of events"
- "It's my duty to ask questions" - He takes his responsibilities seriously, and shows the others that they haven't done so.
- "He never seemed like an ordinary police inspector" - The word "ordinary" could mean "usual", or it could imply that he was somehow "extraordinary"
- The Final Speech from Inspector is very important as it provides J. B. Priestley's message clearly to the audience.
- But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do. We don't live alone. We are members of one body, We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.
Inspector Goole (3 - Additional Notes)
- Priestley doesn't want society to revert vacj ti it's 1912 ways, and through the Inspector, highlights that we must take responsibilities for our actions and each other.
- Priestely did not want to promote an interpreation of who the Inspector "really" is - it would have spolit the unresolves tensions throughout the play
- Priestely uses the Inspector to display the correct morals of society that everybody should hold, regardless of class. It shows how the working class Inspector can show better morals than the middle and upper classes which goes against all of societies perceptions.
- Omnipotent characters - he persuades everone to reveal things they would not have known or been aware of. He acts as the story teller, linking the chain of events. He is considered a father confessor as he has the bizare power to "somehow make you" tell him what happened. He encourages them to acknowlege guilt & responsibility. Makes each character judge themselves in order to lean enough to change their ways - voice of social conscience
Mr Birling (1)
Who is Mr Birling?
Mr Birling is a succesful businessman and factory owner. He is involved in local politics and previously stood as Lord Mayor of Brumley. He is very well respected and known of in the local area. He employs desperate working class girls at his factory and pays them very little money. He is father to Sheila and Eric, husband to Mrs Birling and business rivals with Geralds father.
What does Mr Birling do?
- Mr Birling hosts a dinner party at his house to celebrate Sheila's enagagement to Gerald. He is more interested in the business ventures, provided by the marriage, bewteen his company and the company operated by Geralds father.
- He declares that a man's responsibility is to only protect himself and his family.
- Two years previous to this night he sacked Eva from the factory which is said to have started the "chain of events"
- He tries to intimitdate the Inspector, but also tries to protect himself & his family
- He becomes increasingly concerned about a possible public scandal around his family and doesn't show any remorse for the events leading to Eva's death
- He takes the final telephone call to inform them an Inspector is on his way.
Mr Birling (2 - Key Quotes)
- "heavy-looking, rather portentous man" - Mr Birling's size helps to give him a threatening appearance.
- "a hard-headed practicle man of business" - he thinks of himself as a man who does well in business, and who doesn't let sentiment get in the way of whatever needs to be done to succeed.
- "Yes, my dear, I know - I'm talking too much." - He likes to air his views and is aware that he tends to monopolise the conversation, suggesting he has a high opinion of his own importance
- "I'm a public man -" - He expects respect as he has been a member of the town council, Lord mayor and a magistrate.
- "Unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable" - in reference to the Titanic which was yet to make it's Maiden voyage. Shortly after leaving Southampton, it hit an ice-berg, sunk and killed over 1500 people. Mr Birling liked to think he was right due to his life experience and general knowledge which made him much wiser.
- "I say there isn't a chance of war" - Mr Birling's views are again proved wrong. The play is set in 1912, just before the first world ward. Just because Mr Birling is middle class and supposedly better opinionated, doesn't always make him right.
Mr Birling (3 - Additional Notes)
- Priestley constructs this character to demonstrate his lack of morals and how they are obtusely incorrect. Priestley constantly interrupts Mr Birling with much more important things, specifically the Inspector on several occasions.
- The key moment of when Mr Birling is stopped in his tracks during an outrageously pompous speech is at the point of the Inspectors arrival. "We hear the sharp ring of a front door bell" Priestley disagrees with Mr Birlings views and so cuts him of with the introduction of the Inspector (as he is the one rining at the font door)
- Mr Birling see's himself as an important man in Brumley and he is prepare to use his reputation and powerful friends to intimidate the inspector.
- He makes his views clear in the early speeches in Act One and these do not change throughout the play as you might think they would. The information reveals by the Inspector should be enough to shock anybody into changing the way they act in society, but not Mr Birling. This is a contrast with his children, demonstrating the younger generation of the time were prepared to change and learn from their mistakes. Sheila and Eric's views change by the end of the play.
Mrs Birling (1)
Who is Mrs Birling
Mrs Birling is a prominent member of the Brumley Women's Charity Organisation. She is the wife to Mr Birling and mother to Sheila and Eric. She is described as her husbands social superior. She is a snob and very aware of the differences in social class. Like her husband, she refuses to believe that she did anything wrong and doesn't accept responsibility for her part in Eva's death (again constrasting with her children's obvious life lessons)
What does Mrs Birling do?
- Mrs Birling praises Gerald for his timing in presenting the ring for Sheila
- She treats the Inspector as an inferior
- She is disgusted when she learns Daisy Renton was Gerald's mistress
- She persuaded the Charity not to help the pregnant girl (abused her powerful social position)
- She blames the girl's death on the father of the child and explains how he should be made an example of (not knowing the father is Eric)
- She claims she is the only who didn't "give in" to the Inspector
Mrs Birling (2 - Key Quotes)
- "a rather cold woman" and "her husbands social superior" - Mrs Birling is not a friendly person and rarely shows any affection. She looks down on most people, including her children, and expects the Inspector to treat her with respect.
- "please don't contradict me like that" - She does not like, and doesn't expect, people to disagree with her. She is even shocked when her own daughter has a different opinion to her. She is used to being listened to and having her opinions accepted as right - very much like her husband.
- "It's disgusting to me." - Even though Gerald comes from a good family and meets with her approval as a future son-in-law, she cannot accept Geralds affair.
- "the the most prominent member of the committee" - She is the most powerful and respected member of the Charity Organisation. She is able to influence the decisions it makes - including whether or not she helps Eva Smith only 2 weeks before she is found dead - could Mrs Birling be the final link in the chain of events?
- "a girl of that sort would never refuse money" - "that sort" being the working class, who were expected to want to take all the money they were offered as they were so desperate.
Mrs Birling (3 - Additional Notes)
- Priestley shows how she will not take any responsibility no matter how clear he makes it that she played a key part in the death of Eva Smith. She wants to protect her family from any humiliation just as Mr Birling wants to, but she seems the least "bothered" by the inspectors visit than anyone else.
- Despite Mrs Birling's line of work where she is supposed to provide support for needy working class women, she lacks understanding of how other people live.
- She is untouched by the Inspectors questioning (unphased/not bothered), although she is shocked to learn of Eric's involvement.
- She has almost no respect for the Inspector. She attempts to intimidate the Inspector - unsuccessfully - and force him to leave. She then lies that she doesn't recognise the photograph when it is shown to her.
- She sees Sheila and Eric as chidlren and speaks to them in a patronising manor.
- Having condemned Geralds "disgusting affair", she forgets it once the threat of a public scandal has been removed. This shows how she is similar to her husband in that she is only concerned about the reputation of the family rather than the terrible reality of what has actually happened.
Sheila Birling (1)
Who is Sheila Birling?
Sheila is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Birling and is engaged to Gerald Croft.
What does Sheila do?
- Sheila shows genuine emotion when she hears that a young woman has died.
- She was responsbible for making the girl lose her job in the dress job.
- She realises the Inspector is not someone who can be lied you.
- After hearing about his affair, she breaks off her engagment to Gerald (showing power and authority).
- She reveals that Eric drinks to much.
- She understands that the family's experience that night is meant to make them improve the way they treat others.
- She changes and learns from her previous acts and begins to understand that her morals were corupt. Sheila has done exactly what Priestley wants the audience to do.
Sheila Birling (2 - Key Quotes)
- "Oh - how horrible! Was it an accident?" - Sheila feels shock at the death of a young woman. She is naive to suggest that someone could drink such a fatal amoung of disinfectant "by accident", but it shows she can't imagine someone not having a lot to live for.
- "I wouldn't miss it for the worlds" - Although bitter about Gerald's relationship with Daisy Renton, her curiosity needs to be satisfied and she is strong enough to hear the full story. Typically, a young female, like Sheila, would not have stayed behind to listen to the story because they would be too distraught to cope with the terrible truth.
- "I had her turned out of a job" - She is prepared to accept responsibility for what she has done
- "it's you two who are being childish - trying not to face the facts" - Sheila clearly believes that it doens't matter whether the Inspector is a real police officer or not. Her parents are relieved that they might prevent a scandal, but she is concerned that they have all harmed someone. The way she speaks to her parents here shows how she has her confidence to speak out has flourished and she is not afraid to object to her parents views. The Inspector has achieved what he wanted with Sheila.
Sheila Birling (3 - Additional Notes)
Further Useful Quotes
"I went to the manager at Milwards and I told him that if they didn't get rid of that girl, I'd never go near the place again and I'd persuade mother to close our account with them." - This shows how Sheila has always got what she wanted from her parents-spoilt. Becuase of the way she has been socialised, she can use her power and authority to perform negative acts. She commits one of the seven deadly sins - Jealousy.
"But I felt rotten about it at the time and I feel a lot worse now" - Sheila already aware of her actions and how they are wrong. She has learned. She is willing to change to help the working class. But she is too afraid to voice her true opinion through fear of her family's reaction. She needs to Inspector to help her voice how she feels in support of WC. Inspector is a dramatic construct.
"But I couldn't be sorry for her" - "her" not personal-could be anyone. Despite what she says earlier, doesn't respect Eva when she recalls the events at Milwards. Stay with the morals she's been brought up with but wants to be her own woman.
Priestley users to show how the younger generation can change views & realise their mistakes. Doesn't wish to revert back to 1912 society after it developed during WW2. People in the theatre need to make a decision on their future
Eric Birling (1)
Who is Eric Birling?
Eric is Sheila's brother. He is employed in his father's business, drinks more than is good for him and is the father of Daisy Renton's unborn child.
What does Eric do?
- Eric drinks too much at the family dinner.
- He mete girl in the bar of the Palace Variety Theatre and made her pregnant
- He stole money from his father's firm to give to the girl
- He accuses his mother of killing her own unborn grandchild
- He accepts his guilt, whether the Inspector is a real police officer or not
Eric Birling (2 - Key Quotes)
- "Just keep quiet, Eric, and don't get excited" - Mr Birling recognises that Eric has had too much to drink and might easily say something he shouldn't to the Inspector.
- "That's something this public-school-and-Varsity life you've had doesn't seem to teach you." - Eric has been to an expensive school and then university, but Mr Birling feels he knows more of life than his son.
- "Besides, you're not the type - you don't get drunk - " - We know that Eric does get drunk, and that the opposite of what his mother says is true
- "Your trouble is - you've been spoilt" - Mr Birling thinks that by being the boss's son Eric has had too easy a life.
- "Yes I insisted it seems, I'm not very clear about it, but afterwards she told me she didn't want me to go in but that - well, I was in a state when a chap easily turns nasty, and I threatened to make a row" - uses his power badly and to his advantage and rules/powers over her (similar to middle class - working class). always gets his own way/spoilt - drunken, young.
Eric Birling (3 - Additional Notes)
- Eric is a misfit. He is "not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive".
- He is weak-willed and looks for an easy way out of troubles - like when he leaves the house upon the Inspectors arrival.
- He sees his father as "not the kind of father a chap could go to when he's in trouble"
- He doesn't share is father's hard-headed attitude to business.
- The unpleasant side to Eric emerges when he drinks
- Like Sheila, Eric believes that their experiences at the hands of the Inspector should make them improve their behaviour
- Eric points out the hypocracy of the sacking of Eva from Mr Birling's factory. She asks for higher wages so that she can afford the increasing costs of her life. This is seens as bad behaviour in the eyes of Mr Birling, even though he reminds the audience of the way his business works: "trying for lower costs and higher prices"
- Priestley uses Eric, much like Sheila, to show how the younger and future generations are prepared to change their ways for the future of society. They have both learnt a lesson.
Gerald Croft (1)
Who is Gerald Croft?
Gerald is the son of a wealthy industrialist and business rival of Mr Birling, and he has just become engaged to Sheila Birling.
What Does Gerald Do?
- Gerald gives Sheila an engagement ring during the dinner party
- He agrees with Mir Birling about the way the buiness should be wrong
- He rescued Daisy Renton from the drunken Alderman Meggarty
- He kept Daisy as his mistress for six months, then broke off their relationship
- He finds out that a police sergeant has never heard of an Inspector Goole.
- He telephones the Infirmary and learns that no girl died that day.
- He leaves just answer his part in Eva's death is revealed and doesn't return until the end when it has all been uncovered about what happened.
Gerald Croft (2 - Key Quotes)
- "easy, well-bred young man-about-town" - Gerald gets on easily with people, is self-confident and assured, and looks as if he knows a lot about life. Demonstrates he is of a high class as he expects to be respected by others around the local area. He has been abscribed his status as he is from a wealthy family and has not ahieve.
- "That was clever of you Gerald" - He has a sense of what to do and when to do it, and he clearly has the approval of Mrs Birling. He is trying to fit in with the Birling family by pleasing them and adopting their opinions.
- "You're just the kind of son-in-law I always wanted" - Mr Birling sees Gerald as being like himself - a determined man of business; he sees the engagement as bringing the two family businesses together. This shows the differences between how men and women felt in that time as it demonstrates how Sheila is looking forward to a loving relationship but the men are more concerned over possible business opportunities.
- "I'm rather more - upset - by this business than I probably appear to be -" - Gerald has been hiding his feelings, like an English gentleman is supposed to do. Deep down he is greatly saddened by the girl's death, and has a strong feeling of responsibility for what has happened.
Gerald Croft (3 - Additional Notes)
More Key Quotes
- "I want you to understand that I didn't install her there so that I could make love to her. I made her go to Morgan Terrace because I was sorry for her... I didn't ask for anything in return." - Gerald is the only one who really seemed to genuinely care for Eva/Daisy. Anyone else who was involved with Eva pushed her away in order to gain something for themselves. Gerald didn't push Eva away, in fact he saved her from the man in the Palace Variety Theatre. He made her live at Morgan Terrace because he felt truly sorry for her and wanted to help. The fact that they ended up in a relationships shows that Gerald must have been a really good friend to Eva/Daisy for them to become comfortable with each other. This could possibly show that after all Gerald did have good morals because he is a higher class than the Birlings. He then, however, appears to agree with the Birlings when they are all together and with the Inspector because he doesn't want to go against his own class who are probably still prejudice towards working class people and he wanted to fit in with the Birlings to impress Arthur so that he could marry Sheila and they could explore new business ventures together. Gerald shows hope of changing, where as Sheila clearly does change.
Eva Smith/Daisy Renton (1)
Who is Eva/Daisy?
These are two names by which a girl who suffered at the hands of the Birling Family and Gerald was known. She was a factory worker at Birling & Co. and shop assistant before turning to prostitution. She was working class and faced prejudice from people of other classes. (ie: the Birlings)
What Happens to Her?
- Mr Birling sacked her from his factory for leading a strike over better pay
- She was sacked from a dress shop after Sheila unjustly complained about her
- She became Gerald's mistress. She was made pregnant by Eric Birling
- She was refused help by the Charity that Mrs Birling operates
- She committed suicide by swallowing disinfectant as a result of the neglect she received through the chain of events over two years which started from being sacked by Mr Birling and ended with her being refused help from Mrs Birling.
Eva Smith/Daisy Renton (2 - Key Quotes)
- "a lively good-looking girl - country bred" and a "good worker too" - Mr Birling had a good opinion of her. Being bred in the country made her naive, less worldly-wise than a city girl. As a good worker she was a potential "leading operator"
- "She'd had a lot to say - far too much - so she had to go" - She had spoken up for the other girls who were on strike and was showing leadership qualities against Mr Birling, and he didn't like that. Girls like Eva from the working class shouldn't be that confident and that rebellious. Mr Birling felt threatened by the unexpected power that Eva had.
- "She was very pretty and looked as if she could take care of herself" - But Sheila judged the girl by her appearance, and she did not think about the difficuties the girl might face in getting another job. This is because Sheila was socialised in a middle class environment where she has always had everything she needed or wanted given to her; she doesn't realise that working class people have to work for what they want.
- "Now she had to try something else" - The words sound innocent but "something else" was meeting men in a place used by prostitutes
Eva Smith/Daisy Renton (2b - Key Quotes)
- Attractive - "young and fresh and charming"
- Honourable - "she didn't want to take any more money from him"
- Working Class - "Girls of that class", "a girl of that sort"
- A prostiture - "There was some wom an who wanted her to go there"
Eva Smith is a sort of Everyman
- Her first name "Eva" - similar to the first women of the world - Eve and therefore symbolic of all women.
- Her second name "Smith" - the most common surname. It comes from the word for a trademan. "Smith" could be anyone.
- Eva Smith represents all ordinary, working class women.
Eva Smith/Daisy Renton (3 - Additional Notes)
Eva/Daisy never sought Revenge, so the Inspector does it for her:
- Eva/Daisy is a silent, offstage character. In the play, she represents the silent, invidisible and powerless members of society. She dominates the action of the play invisibly.
- Eva/Daisy didn;t have the power to make life difficult for the people who mistreated her. She was trapped by her situation.
- The inspector speaks for Eva/Daisy and uses her as a symbol of the powerless working class to teach the Birlings about social responsibility and to make them realise their mistakes.
Eva/Daisy is central to the play's message
- The inspector says there are "millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left" and their chances of happiness are "intertwined with our lives"
- The inspector tells the Birlings, and the audience, to behave responsibly towards other. - Priestley's message.
Eva Smith/Daisy Renton (3b - Additional Notes)
So, although the focus of the drama is around the five people sitting at the dinner table at the beginning, the real focus of the play is the life and death of an unidentified and unseen woman. If they all met different girls, it doesn't matter; Eva is a mix of all the people they've ever treated badly.
We should recognise that Eva works hard, supported her fellow workers nd was kind. Although she was reduced to earning her living working in the Palace Variety Theatre, her honesty prevented her from considering marriage to Eric to prtoect him from his folly in stealing money. You could say that she stands for all the people we meet in our everyday lives, and J.B Priestley uses her to make us think about our responsbility towards others.
Eva/Daisy (4 - A Chain of Events)
- Autumn 1910 - Mr Birling sacks Eva Smith for aksing for more money when she led a strike supporting her fellow workers in a bid for better pay
- November 1910 - Eva fins work at Milwards, the "posh" shop where Sheila an Sybil buy clothes from.
- January 1911 - She is sacked when Sheila complains about her.
- (Gerald recognises the name Daisy Renton)
- March 1911 - Gerald meets Daisy in the Palace Variety Theatre where she is working as a prostitute. Gerald provides a small room in Morgan Terrace for Daisy because he wants to ensure she is safe.
- September 1911 - Daisy becomes Gerald's mistress for 6 months ending September
- (Daisy gets away for two months with the money Gerald provided)
- November 1911 - Eva has returned to working as a prostitute. She meets Eric
- (Eric & Eva meet several times at her lodgings. Eva becomes pregnant.)
- Early Spring 1912 - Eva finds out Eric has been giving her stolen money - stop seeing each other.
- 2 Weeks Previous-1912 - Eva: pregnant, lonely & skint appeals to Mrs Birlings charity but is denied help.
Key Themes (Family Life)
There were expectations of Middle Class families in 1912:
- Family members were expected to know their role and accept it - the parents were in charge of the family and children were obdedient and unquestioning.
- "Gender Roles" were well defined for the wealthy middle class
- Men were expected to: Women were expected to:
-Work to support their family -Marry into money so they didn't have to-Protect women - (wives & work
daughters -Plan parties, visit friends, have children.
-Didnt do jobs like cooking & cleaning
The Birling's seem normal...but something's not right:
- Clear hierarchy in the family is destoryed when the inspector arrives
- Without their parents influence, Sheila and Eric can think and speak for themselves
- Eric says his mother doesn't "understand anything" and Mr Birling isn't "the kind of father a chap could go to" for help. Shila & Eric refuse to "go on behaving just as we did". Not pretending anymore. Parents have no authority,
Key Themes (Social Class - 1)
Class drives the plot and shapes the characters:
- Priestley designed the characters to put across a message
- The message is about social responsibility, so class is a central part in the plot
- The characters in the play represent the classes - and Priestley challenged their views and behaviour in order to challenge class hierarchy
The Class system in early 20th meant the Lower Class struggled:
- Class system made it difficult for those far down - hard for people live Eva to help themselves if they were in trouble
- Priestley shows the upper classes as having a limited sens of social responsibility
- Mrs Birling "doesn't recognise" Eva's photo. To hr, she has no identity
- Higher classes didn't question the unfair class system because it worked for them. They overlooked unpleasant issues like alcoholism and womanising because it didn't apply to them
- The inspector tells the Birlings that everyone should take responsibility for each other, it it'll all end in "fire", "blood" and "anguish"
Key Themes (Social Class - 2)
The Birling's think Class is all that matters:
- Birling's biggest concern over Ebva's death is that he won't be awarded his knighthood because of the "public scandal"
- Birling thinks that because he has had many positions of authority he is more important. He's been Lord Mayor, a council members and now sits on the migistrate bench.
- Birling uses Gerald to promote his social class - he asks him to hink to his parents he's expecting a knighthood and is pleased his daughter's marrying into a higher class.
Priestley thought that class shouldn't matter:
- Priesley uses the Birling's to exaggerate all the bad qualities the ruling classes had to show how unfair the class system is
- The working class are victims - although Eva's story is unique, what she suffered would have been quite common. Eva Smith could have been anyone.
Key Themes (Young & Old)
The Older Generation are Old-Fashioned:
- Priestley presnets Arthur & Sybil as having traditional views - they "know best"
- By questioning their old views, Priestley also questions their obession with social class - suggesting the system is out of touch and needs to be reformed
The Younger Generation are Different:
- Some are abitious, determined and motivated - Eva "had a lot to say - far too much". Her courage is why Birling sacked her
- The younger generation are shown to be challenging the authority in society. Birling feels threatened and tells then they'd "better keep quiet"
- Because the younger generation learn their lesson, there's a chance for an equal and fairer society in the future
Gerald's the oldest young man around...Gerald's closer to Sheila and Eric's age than he is to Mr & Mrs Birling's, but he's a young man who's already old in his attitudes: Marriage is for business, agrees with Birling about Eva's sacking, he doesn't learn anything
Key Themes (Men & Women)
The Women & Men start out as Sterotypes:
Women - Supposedly obsessed with "pretty clothes", shopping and weddings | Sheila gazes adoringly at her ring | Protected against "unpleasant and disturbing" things | Sheila gets Eva sacked because of pride, vanity and jealousy.
Men - They're preoccupied with work and public affair | Gerald feels it's his duty to rescue Daisy from the womaniser in the Palace Variety Theatre | Gerald is allowed to sleep around before his marriage - Sheila isn't - Arthur says that even in his day they "broke out and had a bit of fun sometimes".
The Young Women Challenge the Stereotypes:
- Eva and Sheila try to rebel and break out of the roles they've been given
- Instead of relying on a man to save her, refuses to take Eric's stolen money
- Sheila interrupts and challenges everyone a different times, not the inspector
By the end, the stereotypes are turned upside down...
Birling, Gerald & Eric get weaker as Sheila gets stronger | Gerald's rejected by Sheila | Eric has a drinking problem | Birling is "panic-stricken" - speaks the final line a different man from the one at the beginning | Sheila has her own opinions
Key Themes (Judgement)
The Style is like an old Morality Play
- An Inspector Calls is like a murder mystery - but it's also like a morality play
- Morality plays were religious plays in the Middle Ages which taught people how to behave and warned them of sins
- An Inspector Calls follows the same idea as it shows everyone's sins and gets them to confess and repent
- It doens't follow Christian ideas. Moral judge isn't God, it's a police inspector
There's something odd about the Inspector
- Sheila says she had an idea that "there was something curious about him"
- His origin is unknown and he appears omniscient. They didn't tell him anything he didn't already know - a real inspector wouldn't have known that much
- Priestley deliberately leaves questions unanswered as it increases the mystery
The Important thing is to learn the lesson...in the end it doesn't matter who the inspector is. He teaches the Birling's a lesson. Sheila & Eric hold true to their moral instincts. The others act selfishly and don't take any responsbility
Key Themes (Social Responsibility)
The characters' views are challenges:
Birling - thinks that community responsibility is nonsense. Interests of business are more important than worker's rights
Mrs Birling - believes they have no responsbility to the working class - her prejudices can't be changed because they are so ingrained
Sheila - realises that getting Eva sacked out of spite was irresponsible - but she didn't do anything then. The Inspector challenges her to improve her behaviour
Eric - realises too late that his selfish actions were responsible for ruining Eva's chances of improving her life.
Social Resonsibility is the Inspector's main focus:
Final speech is clear and to the point. a summary of his lesson about repsonsibility
Inspector wsn't trying to make the family feel guilty, but to make society aware of the difficulties faces by all the "millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths"
All the events in An Inspector Calls are connected. Priestley's moral seems to be that "it doens't take great people to change the world - we all change it every day just by the way we treat others"