An Inspector Calls - Themes

Social Class

* Social class infulences the Birlings' behaviour and causes them to treat people differently.

* The message is about social responsibility, so class plays a central part in the plot.

* The characters in the play represent their classes. Priestly challenges their views and behaviour in order to challenge the class hierarchy.

* The upper classes are portrayed as having a limited sense of social responsiblility.

* Priestly uses the play to reveal the unfairness of the class system - he uses the Birlings as egaggerated caricatures of all the bad qualities he thought the ruling classes had.

* Priestly presents the working class as victims of the class system.

* Priestly suggests class clouds people's judgements.

* Priestly presentsof Eva/Daisy as more honourable than the middle/upper class.

* The higher classes didn't question the class system as it worked for them.

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Generation Divide

* The Inspector causes a rift between old traditionalists and yound idealists.

The Older Generation:

- Priestly present Mr & Mrs Birling as having very traditional views. They think that they know best.

- They represent the views of the ruling class.

- By questioning their old-fashioned, personal views, Priestly also questions their obsession with social class. He suggests the class system is out of touch and needs to be reformed.

The Younger Generation:

- The younger generation are ambitious, determined and motivated.

- The younger generation challenge the authority of their elders. This threatens Birling.

- The younger generation learn their lesson. There's a chance for an equal and fairer society.

Older vs Younger: Gerald Croft is a young man who's old in his attitudes. He's shallow & stubborn.

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Men and Women

* In 1912, men and women had different roles in the familiy and society. In the play, the men and women start out as stereotypes.


- They're supposed to be obsessed with "pretty clothes", shopping and weddings, all of which is shown presented in Sheila.

- They're protected against "unpleasant and disturbing" things.

- Stereotypical female trates include pride, vanity and jealousy.

- Sheila is accused of being hysterical, a state often associated with women at the time


- Preoccupied with work and public affairs.

- Feel it's their duty to rescue/ protect women.

- They're allowed to sleep around before marriage.

* The young women challenge the stereotypes. Eva/ Daisy questioned her boss' decision, Eva/ Daisy refused to rely on a man to save her and turned down stolen money, and Sheila interrupts and challenges everyone at different times.

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* The play's purpose is to show the importance of social responsibility.

The character's views are challenged:

- Birling thinks that community responsibility is "nonsense".

- Mrs Birling believes that they have no responsibility for the working class.

- Sheila realises it was irresponsible to get Eva/ Daisy sacked out of spite.

- Eric realises that his actions were responsible for ruining Eva/ Daisy's cchances of a new life.

Social responsibility is the Inspector's main focus. His final speach summarises his lesson about responsibility.

* The play reveals a lot about Priestly's Socialist ideas. It promotes social responsibility and criticises the problems caused by class divide.

* An Inspector Calls tries to make the audience question their social responsibilty.

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* J.B. Priestly uses the play, An Inspector Calls, to expose a string of lies and deceit found within each character.

* Priestly presents deceit as a destructive force that eventually pulls us down, as shown with the Birlings and Eva Smith.

The presentation of deceit in the characters:

- Eva/Daisy uses deceit to survive. She lies about her name when in search of help.

- Arthur Birling is living a lie. In the play, it is evident that his family aren't as high up in society as they would like to think, and they are more concerned about keeeping up appearances than being a close family unit.

- Sybil Birling is revealed a liar when she claims to have never met Eva Smith.

- Gerald Croft lies about his whereabouts over the summer, and lies to cover up his affair with Eva/Daisy.

- Sheila Birling lies to the manager at Milwards when she claims Eva/Daisy was rude to her in order to get her fired.

- Eric Birling Is presented as living a lie full of deceit. He lies about his alcoholism and seducing Eva/Daisy. He also stole £50 from the Birling family business.

- Inspector Goole is deceitful when he lies about who he is. However he also liks to the theme of deceit as he uncovers the Birling family's web of lies.

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