The ways in which Priestley conveys a socialist message in An Inspector Calls
The ways in which Priestley conveys a socialist message in An Inspector Calls

The ways in which Priestley conveys a socialist message in An Inspector Calls

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An Inspector Calls is set in 1912, just before the beginning of World War One, however it was written in 1944-5, and was first performed in 1945 as the Second World War ended. Priestley survived the First World War, but bitterly disliked it. So when the Second World War came around, he began to question the point of the first war. So many men died, yet seemingly for nothing because this scene was re-enacted; just a replay if you like of the first.

He began to question the point of leadership, and the belief in the power of leadership; they did nothing to prevent the first war, but even worse, they allowed the second to go ahead.He did not think there was a point in fighting another war simply to be recognized as the victor, or to gain land; the war could only be viable if it led to some good happening as a result. He believed that it should have resulted in society being improved, which is one of the main socialist ideals. So he chose the setting of this play to be before the Second World War, to show how foolish the capitalist British upper classes were, and showed how similar the experiences of the two wars were.There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.

” Margaret Thatcher, 31 October 1987 This quote perfectly outlines the general view of the capitalist classes pre-WW1; although 60 years later, the capitalist message still held strong, although this was what Priestley hoped to prevent. The play was set in the

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past to highlight through retrospection the failure of capitalism to the lower classes, and argue for the improvement of life for all in the future.It is also thanks to the little mentions of historical events that were great calamities to many humans thanks to the capitalistic society. It is all done quite subtly; the Inspector never tells them bluntly to be communist.

Priestley appears to have made the play highlight the faults among society as it was. He wanted more general understanding by the public and by turning them on the upper class characters, he hoped to gain sympathy for socialism. Socialism also has its proven successes in the past, as the USSR showed.It is such an easy concept to grasp, and benefits so many of the lower classes, that of course it would be readily welcome by them, and even the audience to some extent.

To convey his message of socialism, he had to make the characters believable, based on real perceptions of their class, yet also look down on class boundaries and turn the public against their type. He made the characters very carefully; some would be liked due to their socialist realizations, and some disliked due to their stubborn attitude towards the change of time and ideals.Priestley conveys his socialist message in a number of ways; firstly he gets the audience to dislike the capitalist Birlings and try to exempt themselves from any blame, that even when the audience realizes that it is the Birlings’ fault, the Birlings couldn’

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care less. Mr. Birling’s comment at the start that everyone should only be looking out for themselves is at direct contrast with the Inspector’s very subtle socialist comment at the end of the play.

By that point the Inspector has completely swayed most of the audience into his point of view, so we can criticize Mr.Birling for his blatant capitalism. Mr. Birling’s attempt to deny the Inspector’s existence, and therefore morals, at the end of the play, makes him a figure of fun as well as closing the case that socialism is better than capitalism. Mrs.

Birling would rather accuse someone else of crimes than accept responsibility herself. She cares for her family, her place in society and her aristocracy. She is by no means a socialist, though although she runs a refuge for young women of lower classes, she only does that selfishly to elevate her own social status.She does not care what happens to the young women she turns down; as long as she gains respect that is fine by her. So when she tries to foist the blame for Eva Smith’s death onto someone else, she expects it to be foisted onto someone she has had no dealings with.

This is because she believed the father of her baby was someone ‘un-important’, whereas in fact she unknowingly blamed her son for her death. Mrs. Birling’s capitalism clearly shows when she shows no emotion to being told that Eva Smith was dead; instead, she only cares that no one in her family is blamed.So when the audience feel remorse for Eva, they see how crass Mrs. Birling is, and turn slightly more to socialism. Priestley creates the Inspector, who is the introducer and enforcer of socialism, and gets the audience to empathise with him throughout the play.

It proves how well the play was written by the fact that we never turn to capitalism once in the play. The Inspector’s statement, “We are members of one body,” drives home the fact that we are all responsible for each other. This is more than a statement. It is also a question which most of the members of the audience would ask themselves.The message is put across much more convincingly than if it was said in a speech; as who would expect to hear a piece of half political, half personal propaganda in a form of entertainment with many listeners? Subtly suggested, as the Inspector does not question them directly, it is openly put; to what extent in today’s society do we follow this advice? Sheila is a member of the capitalist Birling family, however we her after she realises the error of her previous capitalist way of life.

She is the one of the few who sees the error of her ways and asks for forgiveness.Sheila feels even worse after she realises that Eva was a human being, a young woman very similar to her in a lot of ways. She then works almost with the Inspector to try and get the rest of her family to see from the same viewpoint. Her parents stick fast with their capitalism,

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