“One Eva Smith has gone – but there are millions of Eva and John Smiths still left with us”. Priestley’s strong views on “acting like a community” were cleverly put into the character of the inspector and the opposite was given to the more Laissez Faire opinionated characters such as Mr and Mrs Birling.
The play was such a success because Priestley not only entertained his audience, but educated them as well. In this essay I will show how he used different techniques and involved different issues when writing the play. One of Priestley’s themes was based around generations, and the idea that “hope is with the young”.He gave this message by conveying the younger generation as the potential heroes, the older generation as the dismissive, with a “live what you have” attitude and the Inspector as the character to drag out the other characters true feelings. “You don’t realise yet all you’ve done. Most of this is bound to come out.
They’ll be a public scandal” When the curtain rises at the beginning of the play, we see Birling in his usual upper class, loud, high-status manner. However, when the Inspector leaves in Act three, Birling’s pride is taken.Here, Priestley has effectively and dramatically changed the whole characteristics of Birling by the Inspectors impact. “If men will not learn this lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish” The Inspectors final words to the Birlings contain very clear and strong use of dramatic irony, as the play was set in 1912 and World War One began two...
years later. Ironically, with his left wing attitude, Priestley served during WW1 in the 10th battalion, amoungst the fire, blood and anguish that the Inspectr’s message really was.
The younger generation, Sheila and Eric are still disgusted by what the family are responsible for. The families reaction is relief that there will be no “public scandal” even when adultery, abuse of power, ignorance and unawareness of peoples lives have taken place. This is one of the reasons why the play is still relevant to the present day: “hope is with the young”. “Their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives” Priestley’s strongest message was that people should act as a community.As one body. Rather than upper class people neglecting the needy.
Every victim of Eva’s death apart from Eric seemed to have been involved in the crime scene through using their status and standard of living. Sheila used her fathers authority to get Eva fired, Gerald used his wealth to seduce her and Mrs Birling looked down on her, dismissed her and denied her help. Being set in 912, Priestley realistically shows the condition lower-class women received. Mr Birling’s capitalist attitude is portrayed in many different ways throughout the play.
His enthusiasm with his daughter marrying an upper-class, rich, self-dependant man and his man to man friendship with him shows how important it is to him for his family to hold up their reputation. Birling treats life as a competition, a race that he’s winning with his family. “As if
were all mixed up together like bees in a hive – community and all that nonsense” Although Birling ultimately appears to be upright and in control, Priestley cleverly sneaks in Birlings signs of foolishness.He falls into a state of embarrassment and guilt for the first time in the play when the Inspector exits. However, this is quickly recovered.
In a speech he makes near the beginning his blissful absentminded-ness is revealed to the audience when he mentions “The world developing so fast that it’ll make war impossible” Whilst trying to prove a point to his son Eric who is on the track on the subject (not in denial) and is debating the possibility of war, Eric appears as a very quiet, yet dignified man.To me, this seems it is because he wants to follow in his father’s proud footsteps, but has been so often corrected and dismissed by his father that he’s lost a certain degree of argumentation. Gerald seems to share Eric’s unexpressed nature, but perhaps based on him not wanting to aggravate or challenge Birling. Mrs Birling and Sheila have a more boisterous and demanding way of dealing with things.
Mrs Birling doesn’t speak as much as Sheila, but when she does speak, she’s defending herself, showing Mr Birling’s right wing enforcement on her.Sheila uses her mouth to raise a point, mainly in a desperate way of trying to make a point across to her family so they don’t end up saying something to land someone close to them in more trouble. Every character adds their own personal touch to the story to keep the audience interested, but Priestley uses many other styles than focusing the audience’s interest on the Birling’s to make this a brilliant play. Priestley uses many “dramatic devices” throughout the play, but most of them are located in Act three.This is because a lot of twists are created at the end of the play and this has a big impact on the audience as no twists are used up to this point.
The barricade of twists begins a few minutes after the Inspector’s departure. Birling and Gerald (whilst Sheila and Eric drown in guilt and Mrs Birling is speechless) begin to feel sceptical about the whole thing. Primarily – who was the Inspector? “If you ask me, he behaved in a very peculiar and suspicious manner” This is where the “three phone calls” fall into the story.The first is on the basis on “Is he a real Inspector? ” “He swore there wasn’t any Inspector Goole or anybody like him on the force” So now Gerald and Birling’s sense of relaxation increases, but possibly they’re just trying to bury all the allegations that have been made by the Inspector? When Sheila tells Gerald that he hadn’t heard of their involvement in the crime scene he merely pushes it aside: “That’s all right, I don’t want to know” and when Gerald asks Birling what he takes out of the situation, Birling thinks it as a hoax.This is where the second phone call is brought in. If the Inspector is fictional, what about the girl? Consideration