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The play ‘Inspector Calls’ is “all about selfishness”: ESSAY

an inspector calls selfishness essay

In ‘An Inspector Calls’ Priestley presents selfishness as a pernicious and harmful quality, that has disastrous consequences for everyone.   One instance of selfishness is with the Birling family, who appear to live in their own “comfortable” bubble of wealth and avarice, which inhibits and warps their views of the world.  For instance, the stage directions describe the “suburban” Birling family home as “pink and intimate”.  The use of the adjective “pink” connotes ‘rose tinted spectacles’; the sense that the Birling family has a nostalgic, anachronistic and out-of-touch perception of the world, implying they are detached from the realities of modern Britain.  This feeling is further augmented when the Inspector arrives and shatters their rapacious ignorance.  The lighting changes drastically, going to “brighter and harder”.  The implication of such a change is that the Inspector is shining a light (as though in a police interrogation) on areas the Birlings had never previously seen (because of the ignorance afforded to them by their greed and selfishness).  The word “harder” connotes that the process of exposing the woes of the poor and the Birlings’ transgressions was actually physically gruelling for the family; perhaps as a result of the years of self-imposed myopia they underwent.  Moreover, the Birlings’ detachment as a result of their selfishness and wealth has led to a degree of inhumanity, with Eva Smith being described as a “wretched girl”.  The word “wretched” implies pity, not sympathy, and the word “girl” is demeaning to an adult woman who had recently died.   Certainly, throughout the play, Priestley conveys the feeling that greed, profiteering and capitalism are deeply virulent and subversive things that damage society as a whole.  For example, Birling’s obsession with “profits” and so forth lead him to dismiss Eva Smith, engendering a downward spiral which ended in her death.  The Inspector declared that “we are members of one body”.  This metaphor connotes that people need to work together to survive, as the body consists of many vital organs and systems that all work together to thrive.  The implication being that if even one component (or person) fails to work as part of a team, then the body (or society) will fail.   The calamitous consequences of a failure to work as a community and instead being selfish and acquisitive are enunciated by the Inspector, who warns of “fire and blood and anguish”.  This biblical, prophetic warning is multifaceted.  On the one hand, it urges people to work together lest there be such damage that physical injury (“blood”) damage and destruction (“fire”) and deep emotional suffering (“anguish”) take place.   But, alternatively, it paints the Inspector as an almost supernatural figure.  This is because to a 1945 audience, such desperate suffering would have been all too apparent: all of them would have endured the hellish World War 2 (1939-1945) and most of them would have suffered through World War 1 (1914-1918).  Such a prescient warning from the Inspector would have instantly aligned the audience with him and against Arthur Birling, who had previously fallen victim to dramatic irony (“Germans don’t want war”), making Birling seem pompous and tumid because of his selfish ignorance, whereas the Inspector (who embodied Priestley’s socialist ideals) appeared enlightened and popular with the audience.   Finally, the description of Arthur Birling proves his selfishness and gluttony.  For example, the adjective “portentous” is multifaceted.  One interpretation is that he is an arrogant and hubristic man who is overly self-important.  However, it could also be deduced that he is bloated and swollen; either because of gluttony and excess consumption or because he is brimming with arrogance and vanity – this comes from the adjective “portly”, meaning stout or overweight.

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When Inspector Goole stands centre stage in Act 3, it is clear that he is about to say something of great significance. The speech encapsulates Priestley’s purpose as Goole becomes the playwright’s mouthpiece and articulates his socialist vision 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 left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and a 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 in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.” J.B. Priestley,  An Inspector Calls

The choice Priestley presents here is stark: either live in an equal society, or face intense suffering and destruction. Through the repetition of “millions”, Priestley seems to open up the play from the limited scope of one family’s dining room to a global concern, whilst the Biblical language suggests that this is a question with both earthly and eternal significance. The intention is to impress the audience with the importance of this message, and thus to prompt individuals to enact social change as they return to their daily lives. As Priestley wrote in 1949, “I have tried to make myself – and other people – aware of the harsh economic realities of our time”.

In order to persuade the audience, Priestley uses the age-old rhetorical strategies of ethos (credibility), logos (logic/evidence), and pathos (appeal to the emotions). By this late stage in the play, Priestley has established the Inspector’s credibility. His physical presence on stage (his “massiveness” and “solidity” suggest an immovable, powerful force), his gender, middle-class appearance, and his assertion of dominance over the Birling family all contribute to this and emphasise the appearance of respectability at a time when these qualities would be expected of a politician or spokesperson. The fact that the Inspector seems to become a god-like figure whose omniscience has enabled him to know Eva’s story only serves to add to this effect. The logic of his argument is demonstrated through the case-study of Eva’s life, and the supporting evidence comes through each character’s confession of their self-interested reasons for preying on her vulnerability.

Yet, the most potent aspect of the speech is Priestley’s evocation of pathos. The use of anaphora (“their lives…”), emotive diction (“hopes and fears”), inclusive pronouns (“we”), and the triples are designed to make the speech both more memorable and more affecting. Similarly, the joint allusion to the Biblical apocalypse and the world wars in the phrase “fire and blood and anguish” would speak to an audience just emerging from the very real horrors of the Blitz and the front lines. The short sentence “we don’t live alone” resonates due to its simplicity, and also because it is an expression of a fear that lies close to the heart of many individuals who are struggling to find their sense of purpose in a chaotic and increasingly fragmented world.

The Inspector’s abrupt departure at the end of this speech indicates that there is no room for discussion as the situation is clear-cut – the audience should now go and help others, and play their role in moving society towards a socialist ideal. However, a more nuanced reading of the final speech reveals elements which are perhaps unsettling. Despite the Inspector’s insistence that “ we”  are “members of one body”, he repeatedly uses the pronouns “their” to designate the working-classes. Similarly, in a broader sense the play never gives Eva (or Edna, for that matter) a voice. This indication of a paternalistic approach to supporting the working-classes is patronising and unlikely to lead to any approximation of true equality, as inherent in the use of the pronoun is the assumption of middle- and upper-class superiority. Similarly, whilst the Inspector’s use of the word “intertwined” is a direct rebuttal of Mr Birling’s dismissal of “bees in a hive” in Act 1, the fact that both men adopt a dogmatic and didactic approach is troubling. The Inspector’s assertion of linguistic power belies the collaborative approach suggested in his metaphor of the body. For me, Priestley’s failure to truly challenge these hierarchical distinctions of class and gender mean that whilst the play may make some good points about society, the conversation is far from finished.

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an inspector calls selfishness essay

An Inspector Calls: A* / L9 Example Intro + Paragraph

Here are some samples of an essay on An Inspector Calls, on the theme of responsibility. I wrote these myself as a teacher to show students an example of the standard required to get a high level at GCSE. I’ve also broken down the structure below so you can see what to put into each paragraph and how to organise all of your ideas – this is the most important thing for getting a high level in an essay !

Thanks for reading! If you’re stuck on An Inspector Calls and need more help, you can access our full course .

How does Priestley explore the theme of responsibility in the play?  

An Inspector Calls Intro


Responsibility is a very important theme in An Inspector Calls, as the Inspector reveals one by one that all the Birling family are partly responsible for Eva’s death. Eva represents the lower classes, and Priestley uses the tragic ending of her character to spread his message about social responsibility, a message which is delivered by the Inspector himself, who acts as a mouthpiece for Priestley’s own views on socialism and equality. Overall, the audience realizes that their actions affect other people’s lives, so they are responsible for looking after and caring for everyone in society. 

An Inspector Calls: Character Revision


  • Point (one sentence that answers part of the question, your idea)
  • Evidence (quotes/references that prove your point) 
  • The technique (language features/dramatic features/structure features)
  • Explanation (analysis – how/why the evidence proves the point)
  • Development (context/alternative interpretations)
  • Link (linking back to the argument/thesis in the Intro)

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Are you studying ‘An Inspector Calls’ at school or college? Don’t worry – we have a complete course that will help you get to grips with the text. It includes:

  • 2 Hours of Video Lessons
  • Extensive Support Material

JB Priestley embedded strong political messages in his play, and you need to understand those well to be able to write a high level essay or exam answer on the text. This course will enable you o revise the major characters and social messages in the play, and go deeper into the themes and context so you can get the most out of each essay

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What methods does Priestley use to present selfishness in An Inspector Calls?

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Priestley criticises the selfishness of people like the Birlings. What methods does he use to present this selfishness? Priestley presents the theme of selfishness in AIC throughout the play as it is an important part of expressing to the audience how society was in the past. He shows this idea in the Birling family along with Gerald who previously had made decisions which they didn’t care/understand how they damaged the lower class.

Selfishness is presented in multiple ways. Firstly Priestley talks to Mr Birling about how he fired Eva Smith from her job, just because she asked for higher pay. He explains that “it’s [his] duty to keep labour costs down” and “they could go and work somewhere else”. Through this text Priestley may be trying to show us how the society was driven by profit at the time and it didn’t make a difference to Birling if employees were discharged just to go and live on the street. This shows selfishness as Birling only cared about making a profit, he thought that increasing wages would lose him money; this led to the decision of denying a change and starting Eva’s journey which eventually led to her death. Even when the Inspector tells him this nearly two years later, Birling talks like this is none of his concern and just pretends that he is sorry. Another example of selfishness is when Birling describes himself as “a hard headed business man.” Priestley could be trying to show how all Birling cares about is business. The audience can see just how much the higher class were wealthy and selfish as they didn’t care about the working/lower class.

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Gerald, Mr and Mrs Birling all don’t accept their responsibility for what happened to Eva after the Inspector visits them. Gerald seems to feel emotional when he learns about Daisy’s death, exclaiming ‘In that case – as I’m rather more – upset – by this business…’ The use of the hyphens perhaps further express how he felt about her and he shows genuine sadness. However, at the end of the play, after deciding the Inspector was a hoax, he decides that he didn’t need to be emotional at all. He says to Sheila, ‘Everything’s all right now, Sheila. Now what about this ring?’ The fact that he has changed his mind so quickly shows the audience how he doesn’t understand that everything isn’t ‘all right’ for Eva. But his question to Sheila about just carrying on with their lives shows his selfishness, and he obviously hasn’t noticed she doesn’t think it’s alright despite how emotional she is ‘it frightens me the way you talk’.

At the start of the play Birling talks about him having the chance of gaining a knighthood and his obviously excited for it as he tells Gerald. Later on, despite everything that has happened, all he is worried about is his possibility of a knighthood, “I’d a special reason for not wanting any public scandal now.” Birling isn’t even worried about the reputation of others in his family such as his social superior, Mrs Birling’s reputation. But he cares for his own, as he is worried that he won’t have a knighthood after the events that had just occurred. Priestley shows selfishness by conveying how society at the time could be so selfish that they didn’t even stop to think about others in their families, only for themselves. Also as Mr Birling’s desire for a knighthood has not changed after all that has happened the audience would understand how it didn’t matter, to the higher class of the society at the time, what damage they did to the lower class as long as they kept their reputation.

The consequences of selfishness have a huge impact on Eva Smith; the audience would now consider their own actions in society. The older generation conclude that if the Inspector is a hoax then his message makes no difference to them. Priestly contrastingly convinces us that where or not the Inspector is real his message should be important to change how people treat each other in society.

What methods does Priestley use to present selfishness in An Inspector Calls?

Document Details

  • Author Type Student
  • Word Count 678
  • Page Count 1
  • Subject English
  • Type of work Homework assignment

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  • English Literature
  • An Inspector Calls
  • Created by: conniecartwright
  • Created on: 21-03-16 19:06
  • Eric and fathering a child.
  • Wanting daughter to marry up.
  • Milwards incident - Eva Smith
  • Irritation of Eva calling herself Birling.
  • Forces himself on her and doesn't think about consequences.
  • Looking for a way out.
  • Priestley wants us to think capitalism is selfish.

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an inspector calls selfishness essay

an inspector calls selfishness essay

An Inspector Calls Essays

One of the best things you can do to revise for any english exam is to read examples of essays. below you'll find a range of essays which you can read at your leisure., though there are always benefits in reading essays, becoming use to "active reading" is also important. to do this, use one of these strategies to help:, print the essay off and highlight key phrases or pieces of analysis that you like, keep some notes on the ways the essays use key vocabulary, cherry-picking the best phrases for use yourself, note down the structures of the essays but making a note of the focus of each paragraph, remember that there are hundreds of ways to write a successful essay, as the examples below will highlight. but they all manage to link the big ideas of the play with the language and structure; they all write about priestley's intentions and the audience's responses; they all recognise that this play is written to make a political point, not just to entertain the audience., a) how does priestley explore responsibility in an inspector calls , in the play, priestly wanted the audience to take responsibility for each other, to see that society was "one body." he wanted the audience in 1945 to recognise that although there had been positive changes since 1912, he didn't want them to regress and, in fact, wanted them to demand even more social reform., firstly , priestley uses the inspector to demonstrate to his audience that morality is a much more admirable quality in a person than mr birling's selfish manner. in act 3 mr birling offers "thousands" to help eva, though the inspector tells him that he is “offering money at the wrong time.” this shows that the inspector has the moral high ground and, although from a lower class, is holding all the power over the birling's treasured reputation. to the audience it would be obvious that birling should have given the money earlier, that it was inevitable that eva would end up costing him. it is also revealing that birling wouldn't give eva smith a small pay rise as it would have meant he couldn't "lower prices" but when it came to saving his status he was prepared to “give thousands.” by this stage, mr birling seems quite flustered and somewhat embarrassed as although in the outside world his authority is growing in his own home he can't control a man of “that class.” from a psychoanalytic perspective you could argue that this reflects birlings upbringing and the values that he was taught to respect as a younger man when he worked had and was kept poor in a way that taught him the value of hard work. in this way, mr birling feels that all the people who have money deserve it while the people who don't have money clearly don't deserve it. also, it is from his background that birling being taught to prioritise materialistic things could be the root of his difficult relationship with eric; he comes across as very cold and unforgiving which possibly reflected onto his son. this could easily be a subconscious cause of eric's addiction (looking for escape and comfort in the absence of his father's approval) and be linked to why eva viewed him to be more juvenile than gerald. the need for superficial things in his life like power and wealth is portrayed in the play as quite harmful and only something which will hold a person back, the inspector seems to be free from all these hindering social constructs and is definitely a much more favourable character because of this., in spite of their strong differences in beliefs, both mr birling and the inspector are very self-assured characters who are equally set in their ways . this is not mirrored in the younger characters like eric or sheila. priestly emphasizes a message directed towards the younger generations that they are the hope for change. throughout the play birling refuses to accept the need for reform or responsibility , he represents the stereotypical man of his age and class that priestley uses to contradict sheila's growing outward-looking empathy. when she promises the inspector that she will “never never do it again to anybody” she is acknowledging her privileges and shows that she understands how people must take responsibility for each other. i would say that her materialistic upbringing and the damage that has done makes her incredibly naive and impacts hugely on her opinion of others' worth. when talking about eva smith in act 1 one of the first things she asked was “is she pretty” from this line alone it is clear to the audience where her priorities lie and what kinds of values were instilled in her from a young age probably by her shallow mother. priestly highlights that it's the duty of the young to bring about reform and for this to happen they firstly need to realise the older generations won't do it for them. he also stresses that it's not ok for people like the birlings to take credit for their achievements but never accept responsibility for the consequences of their profit., priestley uses the contrast between age groups and class to explore universal divides caused by pride, reputation and lack of accountability, things that mr and mrs birling value highly but sheila is willing to let go of by accepting her mistakes and returning gerald's engagement ring (also rejecting her father's business interest in gerald.).

Examiners commentary:

The simple, clear first paragraph is fine.

The second paragraph, however, contains some interesting points that could be related to the question but which aren't. As a result, a lot of what's good in this paragraph is lost. This could have been easily fixed if the student had remembered to continually link their points back to the question.

The third paragraph is an improvement in that it does mention responsibility more often and has some interesting observations about the generation gap.

The third paragraph feels unfinished and unclear - it sounds like it's saying that Mr and Mrs Birling value accountability highly, or that the view a "lack of accountability" highly, neither of which are true.

AO1: Lots of AO1, though it isn't connected to the question often enough

AO2: Not enough AO2 at all - hardly any specific language analysis

AO3: Nothing of note outside of the first paragraph

Grade: This is a difficult essay to grade. There are lots of interesting points, especially about how our upbringings affect our outlook, but they're not always linked to the question which means they won't score as well as they should. Also, a complete lack of AO2 causes real problems. This is probably a G5 though with a few minor changes it could easily be pushed up two grades.

B) How does Priestley explore responsibility in An Inspector Calls ?

Priestley presents a strong message about responsibility throughout the play. he wants us all to take more responsibility for each other., firstly, he uses the character of mr birling to convey the ignorance of those who refuse to take responsibility. we can see this when mr birling says, “community and all that nonsense”. the use of the noun “nonsense” shows the audience that mr birling is mocking socialists and those who believe society should be a community. you can almost hear his sarcastic tone as if ‘community’ is an absurd idea. the word “all” also highlights his belief that anything to do with community, such as helping others and being responsible for one another, is ridiculous. this links to when he says, “a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own.” the repetition of the pronoun “his” emphasises that he only takes care of his possessions and doesn’t think twice about others. also, it exposes to the audience his sense of higher class entitlement linked to his lack of responsibility for things that are not directly his fault. the audience of 1945 would have been shocked because by this time, after the labour movement and war, people were becoming more open-minded about mixing social classes and community responsibility. this links to priestley’s message because he was a socialist and believed people should have equal rights., in contrast to mr birling, priestley uses the character of sheila to present those who are willing to take responsibility. we see this in the line, “i’ll never, never do it again to anyone”. the repetition of “never, never” reveals that sheila feels guilty and deeply regrets her actions. it also tells the audience that she is open-minded about changing how she behaves, regardless of her social class. the use of the noun “anyone” reveals that she doesn’t care if the person is upper class or lower class. she doesn’t want to put anyone in that position again and has taken full responsibility. if this play had been shown in 1912, the audience may have been more likely to agree with the birling’s ideas and would have thought sheila may be acting foolishly. however, the audience of 1945 would have been more sympathetic towards sheila because at this time, society was shifting towards the creation of the nhs, the introduction of education for all and the building of social housing. this reflected how society was coming together more and caring more for the poor instead of brushing them aside., similarly, the character of inspector goole is the main voice of responsibility in the play and is the voice of priestley himself as he is trying to show the birling family that being upper class doesn’t make them any less responsible for the community than the next person. this sense of responsibility is also reflected in the stage directions when the light goes from “pink and intimate” and “brighter and harder”, when the inspector enters. immediately, this tells us that the i nspector has a presence on the stage and that he has come to say something important. perhaps it is about bri nging light to the things that the upper classes like to hide in the shadows, or the harsh lighting works almost like he is interrogating the family. the spotlight is now on them and what they have done., additionally, priestley conveys a message of responsibility through the inspector when he says, “we are members of one body.” the noun “members” highlights that we are all joined together and if one member falls, then it brings everything down. furthermore, it links to the idea that community is like a family who should take care of each other no matter what. it could also have religious connotations because in the last supper jesus said, “this is my body that will be given up for you, take this in memory of me.” here, jesus said that people should eat the bread because it would bring everyone together and he always believed that people should be equal. in 1912, people were very divided and the poor would rarely move up to the higher classes. priestley was aiming to ensure that the shifts in society happening in 1945 were strengthened and that everyone felt that responsibility for others was important..

Really clear structure, with a clear target for each paragraph

Doesn't make a wide range of points but has a quote to backup each point and explores the quote in depth

Each section ends with something about the context

Though each point is presented with a quote attached, this could have been improved with some other references from the play even if those quotes or references weren't analysed in depth

AO1: Not much AO1 really, no real refernces to key moments of plot

AO2: Lots of great AO2 - quotes analysed in depth

AO3: Good AO3, all key points linked to context

Grade: A really neat, clear and well organised essay. A lack of AO1 is a problem, as is the fact that although each paragraph was linked to an idea connected to responsibility the link isn't always made clear. However, there's loads of AO2 and AO3 so it would be a comfortable G7. With a couple of sentences added to each paragraph which referenced a few key moments of plot it would go up to a G8.

C) How does Priestley explore responsibility in An Inspector Calls ?

Priestley explores ideas about responsibility through the way the birlings behave towards eva smith. arthur birling explains the family’s capitalist philosophy when he says ‘a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own’ which suggests that he feels that he only has responsibility for his own family and himself . this is reinforced by the way the birlings treat eva smith. first of all, arthur fires her from his factory to make an example of her because she asks for higher wages and dares to take responsibility for others by speaking up on their behalf. it is revealed that arthur’s prime motive is to keep wages down so that he could make more profits. priestley reinforces this through arthur’s constant repetition of ‘hard headed man of business’, to remind the audience that he is representative of capitalism and the damage it causes. the word ‘business’ is later used by birling to refer to the death of eva smith as he states how her death is ‘horrid business’ which emphasises the message that birling only sees people’s lives in terms of profit. priestley is showing the audience that a blind belief that generating profits and prosperity for the good of everyone is fundamentally wrong as it causes innocent people to suffer tragic consequences., although all the birlings are responsible for eva’s mistreatment and death in some way, they react differently when they find this out from the inspector. mr and mrs birling do not change and are only concerned about their reputation - the possible ‘scandal’ or arthur’s ‘knighthood’. however, priestley’s intention is give the audience a message of hope as sheila and eric do recognise that they have behaved badly by the end of the play and therefore he is suggesting that it is the younger generation that have the responsibility for adopting more socialist principles. through the younger birlings’ attitudes, priestley suggests that socialism is the modern way and that it is young people who will change society for the better., this change of views in the younger generation is also shown through the play’s structure as eric dramatically exits the stage at a crucial point suggesting he is struggling to contain his guilt over his mistreatment of eva smith. likewise, sheila is struggling with her guilt and tries to show that she has changed by directing others to realise their own responsibility in eva smith’s suicide. for example, sheila warns her mother not to ‘build up a wall’ this metaphor describes the separation of the social classes as mrs birling believes she is superior to the lower classes. the irony is that the opposite is true as priestley reveals how mrs birling’s behaviour is morally wrong – she punished a pregnant girl by refusing her charity when she needed it the most just because the girl used her name and in doing so angered mrs birling., through using the form of a morality play, priestley is able to identify what each family member’s sins and how it was these sins that they demonstrated and caused their mistreatment of eva smith. for instance, eric’s lust for eva smith meant that he forced himself upon eva and then his sloth – his inability to earn his own money meant he stole money from his father instead of facing up to his responsibility and earning money himself. by the end of the play, priestley shows that eric fully accepts his responsibility and describes how he cannot even remember his assault of eva as being a ‘hellish thing’. the use of this metaphor implies he is being tortured by his own guilt and knows he has been committed to hell due to his sins., priestley constructs the inspector’s role as that of a priest as he extracts all the confessions from the birlings and attempts to force them to accept their responsibilities through asking questions which challenge their capitalist way of life and challenges their edwardian values of social class and hierarchy. in addition, the inspector’s language has religious tones to it as he warns the birlings and gerald croft that if they do not stop exploiting the poor, they will learn their lesson with ‘fire, blood and anguish’. there is an inference that they will be punished in hell for not caring about the way those less fortunate are treated. through the inspector’s voice, the audience hear the socialist message that the birlings are being taught and we left knowing that this is a warning to us all – we need to accept responsibility and take better care of others around us., how does sheila change during an inspector calls, - summary paragraph, - stage directions, - confrontation with the inspector – she takes responsibility, - standing up to her parents, - the young are more impressionable, - ending – grown up, throughout inspector calls, sheila is the character who changes the most. at the beginning of the play she is a young, naïve girl who is happy to be told what to think and do; by the end she is the only character who really takes responsibility for the death of eva and is happy to tell her parents that she thinks they are wrong., the stage directions describe her as being “very pleased with life” a phrase which reflects her luxurious upbringing. she’s also described as being “excited” an adjective that suggests she is looking forward to her life. in both these respects she could be viewed as being ignorant to the reality of what her luxury costs others, or how difficult the times ahead will be., sheila refers to her parents as “mummy” and “daddy,” nouns that are associated with young children and not young adults; she is also told off by her mother for squabbling with her brother, a fact that reinforces our vision of her as being infantilised by her parents. sheila is then given a ring by her fiancé gerald. “is it the one you wanted me to have” she asks him, a phrase that suggests she wasn’t really interested in what she wanted but only what gerald wanted her to have. throughout the opening she is presented as a child, with no real desires or wishes of her own. in many respects, she is the traditional rich young woman – without a real mind of her own by virtue of her gender., when the inspector arrives, he explains how her spoilt behaviour in a shop led to eva being sacked. “then i’m really responsible,” she accepts, quickly recognising her role in the girl’s downfall. also, she observes that the inspector is getting ready to speak to gerald next and pushes this through, asking direct questions to gerald and working out the reasons why he wasn’t where he said he was the summer before. in both these cases, she is showing independent thought – by accepting responsibility even when others don’t and by pushing gerald against his wishes., during their time with the inspector, her parents and gerald repeatedly try to send sheila out of the room to protect her from his news – her mother argues that she is “looking tired,” something that we would only really say to a very small child. sheila repeatedly refuses, arguing that she will stay until “i know why that girl killed herself.” here, she clearly shows herself standing up to her parents, sticking to her desire to discover the truth of the situation., at one point arthur argues that the inspector is making “quite an impression” on sheila, suggesting that she’s coming around to the inspector’s way of thinking. “we often do on the young ones,” the inspector replies, suggesting that his socialist values are more affective on younger people. this reflects a view of priestley’s which was that socialism and left wing values are more impactful on younger people, a fact that’s often reflected in even modern opinion polls where right wing conservatives tend to be older. this is also shown in how, by the end of the play, mr and mrs birling remain unchanged by the arrival of the inspector, while their children change – even gerald admits that the events “affected him,” before he reverts back to his old ways., even after the inspector leaves, sheila continues to push his ideas trying to make sure that her family don’t forget him. she claims they are beginning to “pretend” that nothing has happened, clearly accepting that things won’t be the same again. her use of the verb is interesting as well, as games of “pretend” are really childish things. it seems that the girl who was once infantilised is now accusing her parents of playing make-believe. she also argues that her parents “don’t seem to have learnt anything,” behaving almost like a school mistress arguing that a lesson has been missed. she also says, in response to a speech from eric in which he accepts responsibility, that he makes her feel a little less “ashamed” of them, a word which really shows just how powerfully sheila sees her parents’ remorseless behaviour., her frustration is clear throughout the ending, where she says her parents’ behaviour “scares” her. this clearly references the inspectors closing words about “fire and blood and anguish” which referenced the years of war that would follow the period between the play being written and being performed. the audience at this point would doubtless be agreeing with sheila regarding her fear. her parents continue to ignore her desire to grow up, infantilising her again by suggesting that she’s just “tired” and “hysterical,” though they can’t ignore her final words when she refuses gerald’s ring again which clearly shows that she has grown up enough to express herself completely, how does priestley present mrs birling as an unlikeable character (high level response), priestley presents mrs birling as an unlikable character as she doesn’t change throughout the play. in acts 1 and 2 she doesn’t say much about the tragic death of eva at all, showing her lack of remorse., on the other hand, characters like sheila do realise the horror of the suicide. in act 2, gerald says “sorry, i’ve just realised a girl has died”. this is ironic [sic] as he had found out in act 1, but it had only sunken in in act 2. the word “sorry” shows he feels embarrassed about his emotional side, as many men of the time (1912) did., sheila also changes throughout, creating a stark contrast to her mother. in act 1 she refers to her mother as “mummy” like when she says “mummy, isn’t it a beauty” this shows she was dependant on her and worried about material things. she later says, “but these girls aren’t cheap labour, they’re people” to mr birling, showing his daughter isn’t afraid to voice her opinion but her mother is. in act 2, sheila says, “we really must stop these silly pretences”. the inclusive pronoun “we” not only presents sheila as the family member doing the right thing and trying to influence others, as her mother should, but also involves the audience, trying to give them a message. the noun “pretences” is significant as it was mrs birling who pretended not to remember eva smith., when she was shown the photo it was evident that mrs birling didn’t change throughout as at the end of the play in act 3 gerald suggests that “he’s been had”, and the birlings are keen to accept it, whilst sheila and gerald remain guilt-stricken. the audience of the time, in 1945, would have just experienced the war and realised everyone must start taking care of one another. they may have not been so quick to change, as, at the time, only rich, most-likely capitalist, people would have gone to the theatre to see the play, whereas a modern audience is more diverse and open., priestley also presents mrs birling as an unlikable character as she is dismissive towards many different groups. for example, she says “a girl of that class” when her part in the suicide is revealed. the noun “girls” shows mrs birling’s views that working class girls are undeserving of names. this derogatory comment would have infuriated an audience of 1945 as the working class were extremely beneficial during the war, though the class divide was massive in 1912. she is even misogynist, like mr birling, who says “clothes mean something different to women”. she says “sheila and i had better go to the drawing room”, which shows her views on women’s place in society, due to gender roles. she also says men have to spend a lot of time working away, but sheila challenges it and says she won’t get used to it. it is obvious priestley has used the younger generations as a symbol for more open-minded people as eric also challenges mr birling on war. mr birling says the titanic is “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable”. the repetition and qualifiers enhance the dramatic irony as he was wrong about both of these things. it is almost as though priestley is mocking people like mr birling., mrs birling also has capitalist views which don’t change throughout the play. she believes in a social hierarchy as seen in the stage directions before the play begin, where the characters are placed around a rectangular table which gives power to those at the top and bottom, and when she says, “be quiet and let your father think of what we should do next”. the imperative verb “be” shows how she is even being rude towards her own children., this contrast with shelia’s feminism, which was popular due to the suffragette movement in 1912, significant after 1945 as many women helped the war effort and important to a modern audience who have achieved so much. mrs birling uses her powers for bad as she “influenced” the committee to refuse eva help., priestley uses the play as an allegory for his socialist views. by inducing a sense of hatred towards mrs birling he allows the audience to see the flaws in a capitalist mind-set. priestley, having served in the war himself, developed strong socialist views. this is reflected in the inspector, who is a mouthpiece for priestley as he uses the metaphor, “we are all part of one body” to imply everyone should look after one another. priestley had a popular radio programme which was cancelled for being too “left wing” by the bbc. as time progresses, the audience becomes more socialist and the play is more effective., priestley presents mrs birling as having double standard. this can be seen in the quotation, “i’m sorry eric… didn’t know”, after finding out it was her son she was talking about when she said he should take full responsibility for eva’s pregnancy., despite stage directions calling for pink, intimate lighting at the beginning, mrs birling never seems to be intimate with her children. when the inspector asks if eric drinks, she says “of course not, he’s only a boy”, which shows she is either lying or not close with her family. however, sheila says he’s been “steadily drinking for two years”, showing she is either trying to get him into trouble or is keen to get him help. either way, she is closer with him than his own mother. the siblings also exchange comments when she calls him “squiffy”. the colloquialism has mrs birling unaware of the changes and reluctant to change her mind-set. this also foreshadows the importance of alcohol in the play as it was the cause of eric’s behaviour., how does priestley present the views of the inspector in an inspector calls (high level response), inspector goole is presented as an omnipotent, powerful figure throughout the whole play; his presence immediately has the power to change the light and cheerful atmosphere of the birlings' dinner party. the lighting changes from "pink and intimate" to "brighter and harder" once the inspector arrives. here, priestley's use of the adjectives "pink and intimate" suggests a warm and happy atmosphere whereas the adjective "harder" opposes this. priestley uses the inspector as a dramatic device. not only could it be argued that the inspector is an immensely powerful figure but also that priestley uses the stage directions that inspector goole's arrival to act as a symbol for how he wants society to improve. the lighting before the inspector arrives suggests that the birling family – who are a stereotypical portrayal of a middle class family – were happy whilst they were ignorant to the working class. the lighting change tells us how priestley wants society to change; he wants society to stop being ignorant to the working class., furthermore, j. b. priestley uses the inspector to convey that he wants society to change and become more empathetic towards the working class instead of perceiving them as being disposable. when the inspector arrives, he tells the birling family about eva smith’s suicide in which she drank a lot of strong disinfectant that “burnt her inside out”. priestley’s language persuades the audience to feel immense sympathy not only for eva smith but also for all of the working class; it could be argued that eva smith’s suffering and suicide is used as a metaphor to highlight the continuous struggled faced by the working class, throwing into relief the issues within society and how these problems are ignored by the wealthier classes. priestley’s gory imagery alternately makes the audience feel guilty because they may realise how ignorant they have been to ignore the struggles of the working class and persuade them to change by being more empathetic., priestley suggests that a pressing issue with the twentieth century society is that people are reluctant to take responsibility for their actions. this view is encapsulated through the use of the elder members of the birling family, arthur birling and his wife mrs birling – who do not take responsibility for their actions towards eva smith. however, priestley uses the inspector to try to change this. the inspector states that if we share nothing else, “we have to share our guilt”. here priestley uses the personal pronoun “we” to give society a sense of unity, implying everyone must do the same and follow the inspector’s teachings. ‘an inspector calls’ was set in 1912, a time in which society was divided by not only gender but by social class. priestley wants the middle and upper classes to transform from abusing their power to dominate and exploit the working class to instead being more responsible for their actions and treating people more sympathetically ., priestley uses the inspector to convey the consequences of what will happen if members of society do not change. he states that we will be “taught” in “fire and blood and anguish”. priestley’s use of a triplet of nouns act as metaphors for the two world wars. the entire play is used as a motif for the wars; if society proceeds to not improve the way in which members of society treat each other, the world wars will repeat in an endless cycle until we learn. here, the inspector is presented as an omnipotent being. ‘an inspector calls’ was written and first performed at the end of the second world war therefore the contemporary audience will have experienced the perpetual suffering that comes with them. priestley uses the inspector to make the audience fearful as they are persuaded to think that the inspector is a god-like character imposing judgement on society. this will persuade all audiences to change their actions and embrace socialist ideologies of caring for other members of society which is what priestley intended them to do., priestley wants the middle and upper classes to stop being selfish and exploiting the poor for their own financial gain, but instead be more generous and empathetic towards other members of the working class. the inspector is almost an impartial figure in the play because he does not fit into the distinct levels of society. this gives the audience the impression that the inspector is an unbiased figure; they will be persuaded to listen to him and change their views., compare priestley’s presentation of eva smith and shelia birling., in the play ‘an inspector calls’ we see a family called the birlings that consist of many different characters, personalities and beliefs. we only begin to see these different aspects when the family begin to learn how each one of them was involved in causing the chain of events which led a girl, eva smith to commit suicide. there are two characters in particular who are very different in the way that they live their lives and their own outlook on life. these two characters are eva smith and shelia birling., shelia is the daughter of sybil and arthur birling. they are a well-known family in brumley and are in the public eye constantly because of the position her father holds within the town as he is on the bench and the owner of the big birling and company and is due to marry gerald croft whose parents are very well-known also., eva smith is almost the opposite of the social scale to shelia. she has no friends or family to rely on and is quite an independent woman. she struggles to get by and is unable to cope with the strains that she is forced to be under at her age., at the beginning of the play we see shelia at the table with her family and how she is influenced by her family’s thoughts. she was quite childish and used petty excuses for her actions ‘i told him that if they didn’t get rid of that girl, i’d never go near the place again’. this shows that shelia had the same approach about how to treat others of the lower class as her father, which is not a good quality that shelia and arthur birling share., when we first hear of eva smith in the play we learn about the time that she experienced while working at birling and company. she was outspoken, resilient and gutsy as she led a group of workers on strike in an attempt to get higher wages ‘she’d had a lot to say-far too much- so she had to go’., there we see the huge difference in the lives that each of them live, but it is the way that shelia changes as the play goes on and learns more about eva smith’s life., once shelia knows more about the family’s effect on eva’s life she becomes more defiant, and mature. she begins to stand up to her parents who still look down on eva. she realises that there is no need to treat a person the way that the birling family did, no matter whether it was the same girl or not ‘everything we said had happened really hadn’t happened. if it didn’t end tragically, then that’s lucky for us. but it might have done.’ she has a more compassionate approach to eva and her life as she learns about the suffering that this girl the same age as herself had to go through., priestly shows the importance of caring for others within your community by showing that if the birling’s had looked after eva smith and treated her with any respect then maybe it would have prevented her suicide, because she would have been in a lot happier state of mind. this also takes place near to every one of us. if you treat one person unacceptably then you never know what effect that may have on them and others around them, if you do your bit to treat every person with decency that you meet then you will have no regrets with what you have done., priestly also shows through shelia that she was the next generation, with the new ideas of how people of another class should be treated and how the other birling’s are still living in the old, traditional frame of mind, which is harsh and uncaring to others. whereas shelia would be a middle aged woman when priestly wrote the book, he wanted to show the difference of views between the younger and older generations of 1912., shelia birling and eva smith are very different characters, but it is the effect that they can have on each other’s lives which highlights priestley’s views about community., to what extent could you argue that mr birling is the most important character in an inspector calls , as the ‘head of the household’ mr birling is, arguably, the central character to an inspector calls. throughout the beginning of the play he displays the kind of arrogance that priestley expected to see from a selfish capitalist; throughout the exchange, he is completely unapologetic about the death of eva; and after the inspector leaves, he tries his hardest to get out of trouble. also, if you argued that an inspector calls is really a morality play, then you could see mr birling as representing the deadly sins of greed and pride, both things that priestly attacked capitalists for., at the beginning of the play, mr birling is described as “heavy looking” which immediately reminds us of a large, well fed, rich man, enjoying the luxuries of life. his “easy manners” but “provincial speech” remind us that although he is now rich (as symbolised by his knowledge of manners) he is from working class roots (provincial means from the country, or of a lower class.) mr birling is one of those men who had made money during the industrial revolution and, priestley argues, was then exploiting the working classes for his own profit., during the opening exchanges over dinner, birling shows off to gerald croft – his daughter’s new fiancé – by mentioning some rather expensive port he bought, and then gives a long and stuffy speech about how lucky his children are to be born into a time of such good fortune. throughout the speech priestley uses a lot of dramatic irony as he mentions birling’s belief that there would be no labour issues (despite the fact that the russian revolution was just five years away;) there would be no war in germany (despite two being on the horizon,) and – in a moment of comedy – that the titanic was “unsinkable.” throughout this speech, audience members are reminded of how little we know about the future, and how important it is that we prepare for the unexpected. birling is shown to be arrogant, small minded, and selfish; all features that a socialist like priestley would expect to see in a capitalist like birling., priestly times the inspector’s arrival so that he cuts birling off during one of his selfish rants: “a man has to mind his own business and look after himself,” he is saying as the doorbell rings. his initial response to the inspector is immediately defensive: he delivers a short speech detailing the members of the local police force that he knows, and the fact that he used to be mayor. the inspector seems uninterested though. throughout their exchange birling makes it clear that he feels no responsibility saying a number of times that he had nothing to do with this “wretched” girl’s death. the use of this adjective is interesting as “wretched” can mean poor or downtrodden, but it can also mean disliked and disgusting; birling, we have to assume, feels both are true. at one point he argues, perfectly summarising priestley’s feelings about the attitude of people like birling: “i can't accept any responsibility. if we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward.”, during the remainder of the play, mr birling continues to reveal himself as being selfish and without regret. he is continually worried about the threat to his dreamt of knighthood and, when the chance arises, is even happy to direct all the blame at his young son, eric. he also tries to bribe the inspector, offering him “thousands” now it has all gone wrong, despite the fact that he wouldn’t pay her even a few shillings more at the time. throughout act 3, it is mr birling who leads the campaign to recognise the inspector as being a fraud and he is the most relieved when it turns out that there is no dead girl. however, unlike sheila, he isn’t relieved that no-one had died but is simply pleased to have saved his own hide., however, as the main character in the play mr birling receives both the opening and closing lines. in the end, it is him who is stuck, holding the phone and revealing that there is and “inspector on the way,” and in many ways it is him that the audience will be most pleased to see get his just deserts., what is the role of the inspector in an inspector calls , an inspector calls is a parable that was set during the belle époque (meaning the beautiful period) which lasted from 1870-1914. in the play, a family have their dinner party interrupted by an inspector who comes to visit. though this is a morality play in the traditional sense, its moral compass is very much set by the author’s belief in socialism ., the inspector arrives at a critical point. mr birling, the patriarch of his family, is delivering a lecture to his son and future son-in-law, about how “men must look after themselves…” in this way he is exposing his deep selfishness – one that priestly believed was at the heart of all capitalists. at this point there is a “sharp ring on the doorbell,” the adverb perhaps foreshadowing how the inspectors arrival will cut through the birlings’ veneer of respectability ., almost as soon as he arrives, mr birling reminds him of his own social standing – that he used to be mayor and has played golf with the chief inspector. the fact that mr birling is threatening the inspector is barely concealed , though the inspector brushes it aside. as a morality play, all the characters in an inspector calls represent something else - an ideal or social group or class. here, the birlings represent the wealthy and privileged elite while the inspector represents the newly educated middle classes, who would rise up and form a bridge between the elite and the working classes below them. the inspector, as becomes clear, is here to ensure that the birlings do not get away with how they treated eva smith., the inspector is described as giving an “impression of massiveness.” this is interesting as it makes it clear that he isn’t massive but should give that “impression.” as a direction this is a bit of a nightmare for a casting agent . he shouldn’t be big, but should have a gravitas that makes him seem huge. fortunately, however, priestley has written a part that gives every opportunity for moral superiority for an actor., also, from the moment he arrives the stage directions call for the lighting to change from “pink and intimate” – perhaps reflecting the rose - tinted spectacles through which the birlings view the world – and to something more “harsh.” perhaps this change is designed to highlight how the inspector’s arrival puts the birlings behaviour in the spotlight or exposes the lies they kept hidden in the shadows ., the first to fall to his inspection is mr birling, who sacked eva after she arranged for a strike amongst his workers while they demanded more pay. though birling admitted that she was a good worker, he clearly saw his profits threatened by her behaviour and made an example of her. mr birling’s children, however, do not share his selfishness and, as his son points out, “why shouldn’t they try for higher wages we try for bigger profits.” in many ways this quote exposes the selfish, unreasonable nature of capitalists : that they see their own right to desire more profits as god given , while those who resist are “troublemakers” and “cranks.”, after mr birling, the inspector turns to sheila, who had eva sacked from her job in a local department store. it is clear from the story – which sheila tells – that she was jealous of eva’s good looks. it is also clear, however, that sheila deeply regrets her actions. not long after this, mrs birling comments that sheila’s feelings have been changed and claims that the inspector has made an “impression” on her. this is a telling word – an “impression” is something that is the result of pressure, as though she’s been bullied into seeing things differently; but it is also something that often disappears over time. mrs birling’s feelings are clear: that the inspector’s ideas have affected sheila, but only fleetingly . the inspector replies dryly , acknowledging that he will often have an effect on the young. in many ways this reflects the old adage that young people are more socialist by nature, gradually turning to the more self-centred right as they grow. this is certainly the point that is being made by priestley, as the inspector affects the younger generation far more than their elders., after sheila, he turns to gerald who, again, reveals his own role in the death of eva. by this stage she is known as daisy renton – a name that perhaps reflects the fact her position: daisies are simple flowers that call to mind the innocence of daisy chains; while the appearance of “rent” in her name reminds us of what she did to her body in order to survive., the play continues to get darker as the inspector turns to mrs birling. under pressure she tells the inspector, and the audience, about how she turned away a young pregnant woman and that if the inspector was doing his job properly he should be chasing down the father. at this point, the audience know that she is talking about eric and are tensely waiting for the big reveal. in many respects it is also at this point that the audience is forced to reflect on the nature of this play: up until this moment, the action seems relatively realistic and, although the focus has been on only one character at any time, the focus has shifted around the room without any seeming construction . this time, however, the structure is too neat to be believed; it’s too well constructed to maintain the illusion of realism , and we know that we are watching a parable in which the inspector has an almost divine control over the action., after exposing the family’s “crimes” the inspector finally delivers his closing speech, which has all the hallmarks of a sermon that is delivered to the audience as much as it is to the family. in it, he reminds us of all the eva smiths and john smiths there are in the world, and that we are “one body.” here, the inspector is addressing both the audience in 1945 and the audience in 1912. the telling difference was the two world wars, during which the working classes proved themselves to be every bit as strong and resilient as their “social superiors.” the sense of national bonding that took place during the wars led to significant social changes in the uk, not least the creation of the nhs and the welfare state, and it was characters like the inspector (and priestley) who made sure this happened., his final warning, however, that “if we do not learn this lesson we will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish,” has a slightly different meaning in the two time periods. for the family in 1912 it was prophetic ; but for an audience in 1945 it would have been suggesting that the wars were almost a punishment for their behaviour, and a way of suggesting that if they didn’t embrace socialism now then the wars, and all the horrors that came with them, would return again., at the end of the play, the birlings receive a phone call which tells them that a real police inspector is on the way, to talk about a girl who has recently died. this final moment raises questions about the role of the inspector goole we’ve just watched, and it is at this point that his name seems important: is he a goole, or a ghoul, or something else from some other world is he some angelic messenger send to bring divine judgement that question is never answered, though the audience – or the young ones at least – should have no doubts that his understanding of the world is from a “higher” place., another essay on the role of the inspector in an inspector calls ., this essay's structure is as follows:, a summary paragraph, how the inspector is introduced, mr birling and the inspector – good for ao2, a “panic” paragraph – without quotes – that picks up on some key moments from the rest of the play – good for ao1, the inspector at the end, in the play an inspector calls, a police inspector brings judgement to a rich family who live in 1912. the play is a morality play, in which each of the characters represents a particular role or opinion. in this morality play, the inspector promotes a socialist understanding of the world in a way that reflects the views of the play’s author jb priestley., when the inspector arrives he cuts off mr birling’s lecture when he is saying that “ a man must look after himself and his family …” this interruption symbolises the way that inspector is going to stop mr birling’s views. also, it says that there is a “ sharp ring on the doorbell .” the word “ sharp ” suggests that the inspector will cut through mr birling’s selfish ideas. also, from the moment he arrives the stage directions call for the lighting to change from “ pink and intimate ” to something more “ harsh .” this is because the birlings see the world through as being nice and friendly while the inspector will bring a “ harsh ” judgement on them., in the play, the inspector works as a foil to mr birling’s selfish capitalism. at the beginning of the play, mr birling calls socialists “ cranks ” – which means crazy – and says that if we all listened to socialists we’d be like “ bees in a hive .” this remark criticises socialists as bees lack individuality, they work almost like a big machine, and only do what they’re told and mr birling doesn’t want the world to be like this. the inspector, however, believes that we are “ members of one body ” and that we are “ responsible for each other .” in this way, the inspector is talking about the socialist ideas which suggest that because we all live together we should look after each other. in fact, he goes on to suggest that if we don’t learn to do this we will “ taught it in fire and blood and anguish .” this is clearly a reference to the two world wars which were fought between the time the play was set and when it was written. it is also telling that mr birling didn’t think the wars would happen – he would probably have referred to that as being an idea from some kind of “ crank .”, at the beginning of the play mr birling threatens the inspector by saying that he plays golf with the chief inspector. the inspector, however, doesn’t care and carries on his investigation. throughout the play, the inspector acts like he doesn’t care about the characters social standings and only wants to focus on the facts. he is someone logical and he doesn’t care what people think of him. he just wants the truth about eva’s death. he also has a habit of looking “hard” at the person he is addressing. this is because he is inspecting them, almost as though he’s looking through them and into their soul., in the end the inspector leaves and we are left unsure as to whether he was real or not. however, because his name is inspector goole – which sounds similar to ghoul (which is a kind of spirit or ghost) – the audience would be within their rights to think of him as a kind of spiritual prophet or divine messenger., a third essay on the role of the inspector in an inspector calls , jb priestley uses the story of an inspector calls to contrast the differences between upper/upper-middle and working class people in society during the edwardian times. the inspector questions the birling family to think about the consequences of their actions on others – predominately the working class and people whom they believe to be inferior to them. priestley uses the inspector to make society question their morals and think about accepting responsibility for their actions. each character reacts differently to the inspector and priestley uses this to represent capitalist vs socialist ideals., - nice opening – clear and specific and leaves the examiner comfortable that you know what you’re doing. may be a bit long – though it is all meaningful, when the inspector enters the birling household, the stage directions states that the lights change from ‘pink and intimate’ to ‘brighter and harder’. this shows how the presence of the inspector changes the atmosphere and how he is here for a purpose. the lighting change from ‘pink and intimate’ to ‘brighter and harder’ almost shows how the inspector is going to burst the birling’s protected, capitalist bubble. the idea of the lights being ‘brighter and harder’ create the idea of a spotlight shining on the birling family and how the inspector is there to expose them to the truth. in the stage directions, it also says that the inspector ‘creates an impression of massiveness’. this shows that although the birling’s are superior to him in class, the inspector still holds the authority over them all. it could also be foreshadowing that the inspector is going to create a lasting ‘impression’ over the birling family and impact their lives hopefully for the better., - super cool lots of detail, specific things being said and focusing on sections of the text. this is what you want to do, in act one, mr birling makes several threats to the inspector about his connections with the chief constable. this shows how mr birling feels threatened and uncomfortable with the inspectors presence. he tries to assert his authority over the inspector to protect himself and his pride as he’s being questioned by someone who is inferior to himself. he doesn’t want to damage his reputation and all he is thinking about is himself. this represents the capitalist society and how they refuse to think of any but themselves and how they will go to any measure to protect their reputation. mr birling also tries to emphasise his importance to the inspector by mentioning gerald and his family name. he says, “perhaps i ought to explain first that this is mr gerald croft – the son of sir george croft – you know, crofts limited.” by mentioning gerald’s family name, it shows how mr birling is trying to intimidate the inspector. also, mr birling could be mentioning the croft name to try to make himself feel more in control of the situation and back in the superior position in the room. priestley uses the reaction of mr birling to the inspector to represent how people of the upper capitalist class use their positions of power as an excuse to be ignorant to their actions. priestley wanted make people aware of this to questions their own ignorance., - again, this is great. you show a clear understanding of the relationship between birling and the inspector and clearly explain the power dynamic in the room, at the end of the play, the inspector makes a big final speech to the birling family. it opens with a reminder that there are thousands of “john smiths and eva smiths” in the world. this reminds the audience that we all have to accept responsibility for our actions and realise it is not enough to only think of ourselves but we must think of others as well. the inspector then goes on to say that “we don't live alone. we are members of one body. we are responsible for each other.” these three concise sentences summarise the lesson priestley was trying to convey to the audience. by keeping the sentences short but powerful, it leaves a lasting impression on the birling family but more importantly, the audience. this links to the beginning stage direction of the inspector creating an ‘impression of massiveness’. he then warns the family (and audience) that if ‘men don’t soon learn their lesson they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish’. this is a reference to the many years of war that had taken place between when the play was set and when it was performed. it could be seen to be served as a warning to the people that they need to change their actions or history will repeat itself., - really good as well. you’ve focused in on specific techniques here and shown a clear understanding of how those techniques have effects., overall, this is a very good essay – it’s got a wide range of detailed quotes, points and pieces of analysis. it could be improved with a few moments where you zoom in on specific words and explore the meaning of them – think about mr birling saying he “can’t” take responsibility, or mrs birling saying she “won’t” take responsibility and the inspector saying “we are responsible.” this kind of link will push this essay up into the 8-9 category., what is the significance of the ending in an inspector calls , in effect, ‘an inspector calls’ has arguably three endings, or climaxes. the first is the final speech of the inspector, before he exits dramatically, walking ‘straight out’. the second is as the family think it all may have been a ‘fake’. the third represents the justice in the final words of the play., priestly ensures that the inspector says little in the way of moral judgment until just before he exits. this in itself increases dramatic tension – the audience is waiting for a confrontation which is dependent on all the facts of the story finally emerging. his final speech is based on the great moral authority he has gained through the entirety of the play and is in a sense cathartic. as an ‘inspector’, he is symbolic of the moral and legal authority of the police force. ‘inspecting’ carries the idea of sifting carefully though the actions of the birlings in a detailed and objective manner. priestley adds objectivity and legal precision to the inspector’s character; thus by the climax of his investigation, we, the audience, instinctively trust his moral conclusions also. there is a sense of relief in hearing the birlings finally being condemned for their actions., the inspector’s final speech is, in tone, almost a sermon. the frequent use of blunt, short diction is combined with imperatives which make him seem almost a preacher or a prophetic figure, as he tells the birlings to “remember this”, and tells them that “we are responsible for each other.” although he uses often the first person plural to emphasise their common humanity, he is also accusatory with his use of ‘you’ as he threatens them with what will come if they fail to learn this lesson. the imagery priestley draw from is biblical by nature. from the eucharist service, the inspector uses the biblical metaphor that we are all “members of one body”. the well-known nature of this metaphor makes it seemingly self-evidently true to the audience. the apocalyptic imagery that follows is equally well-known, as the inspector promises “fire and blood and anguish”. the tricolon is heavily emphatic and emotive – the birlings’ rejection of it, which follows swiftly, creates a further sense of their moral vacuity. this sermonic end to the inspector’s presence onstage makes him seem a didactic mouthpiece for the play – he speaks in effect as much to the audience as to the birlings. although it is a relatively brief and restrained speech, nonetheless it is a powerful end – it seems – to the drama., birling’s absence of moral epiphany is enacted in the second ‘ending’ of the play in the ‘huge sigh of relief’ he emits when he discovers that the inspector is not actually from the police station. he rejects the inspector’s final words through this stage direction which creates a dramatic hyperbole that it is impossible for the audience to miss. eva smith’s name suggests that she represents all of the ordinary humanity, eva suggesting eve of genesis, symbolically the mother of humanity, and smith being a stereotypical working-class surname. thus birling’s ‘huge’ indifference is, symbolically, to the suffering of any human being, particularly those who are his socially inferior. indeed, his estimations of people’s worth have been entirely based on their money or their social connections; early on in the play he attempts at first to threaten the inspector by explicitly ‘warning him that the chief constable, colonel roberts, is an ‘old friend’ of his. birling’s ‘relief’ therefore is that his place in society is not damaged after all – even though it is based on corruption and inhumanity towards whose who are weaker and more socially vulnerable than him. thus birling has learned nothing at all in the play., further, birling is ‘triumphant’ when he decides that the story is nothing more than ‘moonshine’. ‘triumph’ suggests victory and winning – birling’s delight is based on his perception that he will not be in any way held to account for his misdeeds. ‘moonshine’ is a dismissive colloquialism – priestley uses this to emphasise that there is no emotional impact whatsoever on birling for the suffering of eva smith and those whom she represents. this is accentuated by mrs birling’s suggestion that in the morning eric and sheila will be as ‘amused’ as they are. the tragedy of what happened to eva through her circumstances and through the undeserved actions of others is in effect diminished to a joke. priestley ensures that this anticlimactic interpretation of the play’s events by mrs birling is morally repugnant to the audience. the older birlings and gerald are villainesque, antagonistic figures., sheila is partly redeemed from the birling’s self-seeking immorality. sheila’s response to birling’s ‘relief’ is to accuse him of ‘pretending’ that all is well. this accusation of play-acting creates an ironic role-reversal, as though birling is the one childishly refusing to engage with reality, and she becomes the parent-figure who rebukes him for his immaturity. this childishness is not an indication of birling’s innocence, but of his lack of responsibility. sheila is the youthful one in the conversation, but she is the one who is vulnerable to the corruption of her parents, and she lacks meaningful power. partly also because of her gender, she is, like eva, the victim of birling’s philosophy of greed – and yet the awakening of her moral awareness is presented as a coming-of-age epiphany. she learns to reject the selfishness and inhumanity of her parents as she realises that all the working-class are intrinsically human beings. she absorbs the relatively complex moral didacticism the inspector represents with regards to the interconnectedness of human society. this is particularly shown by her quoting the exact words of the inspector’s apocalyptic list of consequences if the rich fail to heed the social situation: she quotes his words of ‘fire and blood and anguish’. although she shows no explicit awareness of the social apocalypse of which the inspector warns, she recalls what ‘he made me feel’. her emotional engagement is presented in ironic juxtaposition with her parents’ emotional disengagement. priestley redeems her partly to show the morally repugnant nature of the birlings’ lack of redemption, through juxtaposing their response with hers., the unrepentant birlings are presented by priestley as grotesque not only through their failure to realise their wrong-doing, but also, and more importantly in their seeking of moral superiority over eva smith and the workers she represents. the callous self-righteousness they exhibit is best portrayed in mrs birling’s rhetorical question, ‘why shouldn’t we’ when sheila asks how they possibly can continue as they were before. the fact she considers the question to need no actual answer indicates her moral blindness – it indicates her assumption that the rightr of the powerful to abuse the poor is irrefutable and self-evident. priestley, through the drama, shows how society creates moral indifference to the working-class., the superficiality is also epitomised in gerald’s statement that ‘everything is all right now.’ this bland cliché becomes ironically extremely emotive for the audience as we know that the lack of a moral compass for the birlings and gerald means that others will be treated just as eva was. the superficiality of this analysis has great dramatic power to repulse the audience – and perhaps to begin to effect the social change priestley desired., the third and final ‘ending’ is mysterious. at one level, it satisfies the audience’s hope that there will be justice for eva. by instructing the actors to look ‘guiltily’ around, priestly ensures that the moral indifference of the second ending is not the concluding note of the play. birling speaking on the phone when the person has ‘rung off’ indicates also that his social authority is over; creating the sense that there is justice has lost what he really cared about. the inspector’s semi-comical surname, ‘goole’ also seems relevant right at the play’s climax. there is the suggestion that he did indeed in some way represent supernatural forces intervening in the birlings’ lives to bring justice for eva. however, the play by its nature ends inconclusively. in effect, we are left on a cliffhanger wondering what the ‘real’ police inspector will do. perhaps this reflects priestley’s aim for the audience to think about the play’s social message. the ending of ‘an inspector calls’ is a strong statement of the responsibility of those who seek money and social rank at the expense of humanity. it is strongly didactic and powerful., check this essay.

There are drastic differences that are seen in people who are born in different generations. One may argue that the younger generations are more impressionable and naive while the older generations are very hardheaded and assertive. By creating characters like Sheila and Eric with a large age gap between Mr. and Mrs. Birling in the play An Inspector Calls, tension is created through their differences clashing. J.B. Priestley’s use of contrasting characterization within the Birling family in the play An Inspector Calls creates tension and communicates his theme that one must take into consideration the consequences of their actions and take responsibility for them.

The Birling’s children, Erica and Sheila, are presumed to be very naive and still listening and agreeing with their parent’s words due to their ages. Yet, thought the play both Eric and Sheila prove to be mentally mature and responsible while directly reflect the inspector’s message. Eric Birling was caught up in the complicated situation relating to the death of Eva Smith through his role in impregnating her. Although he is ashamed, he steps up to the plate and confesses his actions and even admits to the fact that “I wasn’t in love with her or anything”, yet he understands that his actions did produce consequences and he takes responsibility for them. He insists on giving her enough money to keep her going, even though it included stealing money from his father (Priestley 50). This action was done unjustly, yet it shows how determined Eric was in order to fix his mistake and take responsibility for his actions- exactly what the Inspector teaches. Sheila Birling, the sister of Eric, also starts out by admitting to her role in the death of Eva. She expresses her sorrow and regret for her actions stating how “It was my own fault… and if I could help her now, I would” right away (24-25). Even though she did not take action like Eric did, she still takes responsibility for her actions and shows that she really does care about the consequences she was unable to attend to. As the play continues and everyone finds out that inspector Goole was a fake, the parents of Sheila and Eric both start to downplay the events of that evening. Suddenly the tension starts to rise as soon as the children speak directly against their parents stating “if you must know it’s you two who are being childish” (55). Sheila is so disgusted by the actions of her parents, that her character takes an unpredictable turn and she evolves into a brave young woman annoyed enough to scold her own parents. Even Eric states directly to his parents that “well, I don’t blame you. But don’t forget i’m ashamed of you as well. Yes- both of you” (54). The characters Sheila and Eric create tension in the play through their differences regarding their view on taking responsibility that contrasts greatly with their parents. The fact that the younger generation is standing up to the older generation and doing unconventional actions like scolding them, the main theme of the novel is clearly represented.

The older generation in the Birling family consists of strong characters: unlikely to sway in their ideas easily, hard headed, and arrogant. Arthur too is confronted about his dealings with Eva Smith, but immediately states that “the girl has been causing trouble in the works. I was quite justified (19). Here, he is seemingly ok knowing that she was forced to kill herself all because of something that started out with him originally and a sign of regret is not to be found. The younger generation, prominently Sheila is verbally pointing out her contrasting viewpoint directly saying (to Mr. Birling) “I think it was a mean thing to do” (21). Tension is created as a result of her comment, but in a way she forces her father to re-examine at his actions by him hearing an opposite viewpoint and internally contemplate her and the Inspector’s message. Another situation that increases the tension overall is when Sheila hears her father describe Eva as cheap labour, and automatically she jumps in stating “but these girls aren’t cheap labour – they’re people” clearly showcasing the differences in the mindset of the two generations (19). Lastly, Mrs. Birling gets confronted with her mistake and does admit to her actions. Her arrogance shows through when she plainly lays out her thoughts to the inspector that “if you think you can bring any pressure to bear upon me, Inspector, you’re quite mistaken. Unlike the other three, I did nothing I’m ashamed of or that won’t bear investigation… You have no power to change my mind” and like Mr. Birling does not have a hint of regret in her (44). Sybil Birling is blinded to the problems within her household and herself, and therefore tension is created when she directly contradicts the viewpoints of her children. The theme of the play is brought out because of this, when the children start to argue their point about accepting responsibility for their actions’ consequences.

Through tension between the characters, the main theme that we don’t live alone, are members of one body, and are responsible for each other is revealed. Sadly for this to be revealed, tension is built greatly dividing the Birling family- the younger vs the older generation. The children desperately try to get their parents to accept what they believe is the inspector’s lesson and purpose for visiting, yet Arthur and Sybil are set on the idea that they are just “the famous younger generation who know it all. And they can’t even take a joke” (72). Although it may be true that the inspector is not real and the older generation will never learn, the main theme is being communicated successfully to the audience. By looking at Mr. and Mrs. Birling and the way they instigate an attack on themselves by their children, the audience feels disgusted by them and the theme reaches the audience.


An Inspector Calls Selfishness Essay

Egoism and ethical egoism.

Although, ‘modern’ age unsubtly supports swaggering egoistic behavior in the competitive arena such as international politics, commerce, and sport in another ‘traditional’ areas of the prideful selfishness showing off, to considerable extent discourages visible disobedience from the prevalent moral codes. In some cases, the open pro-egoist position, as was, per example, the ‘contextual’ interpretation of selfishness by famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, can be described as ‘grotesque anomaly’. He, probably through unconscious inner drive, effectively equalized two essentially opposite meanings in the following sentence segment “egoistic or LIFE-AFFIRMING behavior”!? (Helmut Schoeck, Quote from, ‘Der Neid’. Eine Theorie der Gesellschaft or in English, ‘Envy’. A Theory of Social Behavior, 1966, 1st English ed.

Characterization, Dramatic Devices and Themes Used in Priestley's An Inspector Calls

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Mr Birling, a wealthy capitalist man, and a "rather portentous man," is an ignorant, over-confident, arrogant man who finds it difficult to think about other people. He doesn’t believe in "community and all that nonsense". Birling has a narrow perspective of the world and says that "a man has to make us own way". After Eva had lost her job, he expected her to fend for herself, which was an unfair judgement. Birling dismisses the idea of social responsibility and he calls people like the Inspector "cranks". Birling didn’t care about his workers and proudly says "I have a couple hundred workers under me, who keep changing," which further iterates the idea of him being arrogant and boastful.

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Priestley shows the theme of responsibility in An Inspector Calls through the way he chose the setting of the play and adapted his characters to portray the different aspects of society and the role that each type of person has. This is done as the play is a social commentary that conveys the responsibilities of everyone no matter if they are upper class, upper-middle class or the working class - these are the classes that Priestley made his characters to draw attention to the issues of the public at the time amongst the hierarchy in place.

The story line of ‘An Inspector Calls’ holds a substantial amount of importance that addresses so many of humanities problems such as morals, prejudism, sexism, inequality between families, wealth and general class, and also taking responsibility, all of which are depicted through each of the characters, linking them in some way with Eva’s death, they are all in some respect responsible for it; this is the main theme that Priestly tries to portray using the Inspector as his mouthpiece. JB Priestly was a strong political

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“Whodunit”, it gradually becomes clear that there is an underlying serious issue. The play examines social responsibility, with the Birling family and Gerald Croft being questioned about the suicide of Eva Smith.

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An Inspector calls, written by famous playwright J.B Priestly, was first performed in 1945. The play’s focus point is a wealthy family known as the Birlings. A visit from an unexpected, peculiar and very curious Inspector Goole emerges into something quite horrific and quite worrying for the Birling household, as they discover that they have participated in a suicide of a young woman known as Eva Smith, who died consuming a bottle of disinfectant. Priestley’s aims are to address people to take responsibly for their actions, not to allow others to be held accountable for their actions.

The Necessity of Selfishness

Atlas Shrugged reveals Ayn Rand’s opinions about selfishness’ morality and sensibility. She defines selfishness as living out one’s values. Then Rand progresses, writing society’s destruction as sacrifice’s result. This creates a need for a new moral system. Her inclusion of selfish characters allows the audience to see selfishness’ affect: existence. By equating sacrifice and selfishness to death and existence, Rand provokes her readers’ thoughts and encourages an evident choice; however, the very act of reflection makes the decision.

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Priestly Criticises the Selfishness of People Like Birling, What Methods Does He Use to Present the Selfishness?

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Priestly criticises the selfishness of people like Birling, what methods does he use to present the selfishness?

J.B Priestly who wrote the play ‘An inspector calls’ has created a family named the Birlings who are Middle/Upper class, to represent the selfishness of people who were similar to them in 1912. Throughout the play he uses the Birlings to bring across the moral message, and his view being a socialist that people should be able to feel equal and that no class is better than the other.

The fact that this play is set in 1912, however was written by Priestly in 1945/6 shows that people such as the Birlings continued to be social superior, and have not learnt from past mistakes.

At the beginning of act one, the play is opened with ‘Giving us the port Edna’ from Mr Birling, giving the reader the idea that Mr Birling is wealthy. Priestly has indicated this well due to Birling emphasising that he can afford such luxuries, and also a maid. This then gives the reader the idea that Birling does not care for the working class (such as Edna) as he does not continue to say ‘please’ or ‘Thank you’, as he believes that because of his class he does not have too. Edna is just one of the characters Priestly has used to show just how selfish Mr Birling is. We find that the reader may begin to feel sympathy for Edna and also giving a disliking towards Mr Birling as he gives an appearance of being selfish, and inconsiderate of others.

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Throughout the play of ‘The inspector calls’ the Birlings use their name (surname) and status for power, this is first shown in act one when Birling expresses to the inspector that he was ‘An alderman for years, and Lord mayor two years ago’ he finish’s emphasising that he is ‘Still on the bench’. Priestly uses this to highlight that Birling intimidates those who he believes are a lower class to him, however him and the inspector are from the same class, although because of his surname he has more power. Readers may gain more of a disliking towards Birling.

When the Inspector questions Birling about Eva Smith, he confesses that ‘she was one of my employees and then i discharged her’ as she was one of the ring leaders for those who ‘wanted the rates raised so that they could average about twenty-five shillings a week. I refused, of course’. This attitude that Mr Birling has, shows that he does not care for the working class, or the struggles they may face if not earning enough to live on. Priestly makes Mr Birling seem that he does not see what his actions can do to affect others which make him even more selfish.

Another way priestly tries to show selfishness in this play is through Sheila abusing the power which she has. Priestly has made Sheila seem spoilt as she asks for the sales assistant Eva to be sacked for being ‘Impertinent’ where actually it was because she was jealous as a dress which she tried on ‘didn’t suit’ her ‘at all’, and when Eva tried it on ‘It just suited her, she was the right type for it’. Priestly shows Sheila in a negative light, and also irresponsible. Readers may begin to dislike her as she is unaware of the working class and the struggles/hard times that they face in life.

Priestly also shows selfishness through Sybil (Mrs Birling), and the use of position in society. When Eva Smith applies for help at the committee which Sybil works for she saw it as her ‘duty’ to refuse to help her, as she could not believe that a working class girl would refuse money, even if it was stolen. Priestly easily shows that Sybil does not feel guilty about her actions, as she continues, referring to Eva as ‘Girls of that class’. The reader may begin to feel sympathy, not only for Eva but the Working class overall, which is Priestley’s intentions.

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To conclude i feel that Priestly wrote this play to give the moral message to the community that we should not be separate and should live as one, and it should not depend on how much we earn, where we come from, or what family we are born into.

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an inspector calls selfishness essay

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Mr Birling's selfishness in An Inspector Calls

Mr Birling's selfishness in An Inspector Calls

Subject: English

Age range: 14-16

Resource type: Assessment and revision

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14 May 2023

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an inspector calls selfishness essay

This is a short revision essay on the selfishness of Mr Birling that can be worked up to a grade 7 and above model answer. It includes quotes and is just over one page of A4 in length. It is easy to deliver as a revision exercise.

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Exemplar Essay: Arthur Birling

How does Priestley present Arthur Birling?

Early in the play, Priestley presents Arthur Birling as selfish. During Birling’s speech about how he runs his factory, Priestley has Birling state ‘a man has to mind his own business, look after himself and his own’. In other words, Birling is saying that he must only use his money to help himself and his own family. Priestley’s use of the words ‘his’ and ‘himself’ reveal how selfish Arthur Birling is. It is clear that he is not interested in taking care of his workers, which is not what you’d expect from someone in Birling’s important position. Priestley uses Birling to criticise selfish upper class businessmen in 1912, who did not do enough to help the working class people who worked for them.

As the play continues, Priestley presents Arthur Birling as irresponsible . When the inspector questions Birling, the audience learns that he ‘refused of course’ when Eva Smith asked for a small pay rise. Priestley’s use of the word ‘refused’ demonstrates that Birling didn’t even carefully consider giving the pay rise, which reveals how irresponsible he is. As a factory owner, he should have been taking responsibility for his workers but, instead, he was only interested in looking after himself. He was too worried that a small pay rise would eat into his profits, so he didn’t allow it. When the inspector tries to make Birling feel guilty that his actions contributed to Eva Smith’s death, Birling says ‘I can’t accept any responsibility’. In other words, Birling is stating that he doesn’t believe his actions led to Eva Smith’s death. It is clear from Birling’s presentation that Priestley wishes to criticise upper class people for not taking enough responsibility for working class people. He wants to convince his 1945 audience to take more responsibility and build a fairer society for everyone.

Later in the play, Priestley presents Arthur Birling as unwilling to learn. Priestley has Arthur Birling say to the inspector ‘I’d give thousands’. It is clear from these words that Birling is trying to pay the inspector to keep quiet about his involvement with Eva Smith because he wants to protect his reputation. Even though Birling has realised that his actions helped kill Eva Smith, he is still only thinking about himself, which indicates that he hasn’t learned at all. Priestley contrasts Arthur with his daughter Sheila, who says ‘I started it’, which demonstrates that she takes full responsibility for her actions. Unlike Arthur, Sheila recognises that her actions helped trigger the chain of events that led to Eva Smith’s death. Priestley does this in order to show the difference between younger and older characters. Whereas the older characters are unwilling to learn, the younger characters learn and mature throughout the play. Perhaps he aimed to show his 1945 audience that it was up to the younger generation to change society because they were more willing to learn from their mistakes.

In ‘An Inspector Calls’ Priestley presents Arthur Birling as selfish and stubborn. Through Arthur Birling’s character, Priestley not only challenges the capitalist viewpoint that dominates society but also criticises the irresponsibility of the wealthy, older generation.

Before the inspector arrives, Priestley portrays Arthur Birling as a selfish and foolish man to challenge his capitalist view. Just before the inspector enters, Priestley has Arthur Birling confidently deliver a speech to Eric and Gerald about his views on society. In this speech, Priestley has Arthur confidently declare that the Titanic is ‘unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable’. Through the repetition of the words ‘unsinkable’, Priestley suggests that Arthur Birling is extremely confident in the new streamliner. By using dramatic irony, Priestley is able to immediately show the audience that Arthur Birling’s views are foolish and arrogant because they would have known that the Titanic did sink. Perhaps Priestley wanted to instantly convey that Birling is foolish and wrong so the audience learns not to trust his views from the beginning. After Birling wrongly states that the Titanic will not sink, he boasts that a ‘man has to mind his own business, look after himself and his own’. As an arrogant businessman, Arthur believes that a man should work hard to be successful in life and has no interest in helping his workers or the wider community. Priestley’s use of the pronouns ‘himself’ and ‘his’ indicates that Birling is only interested in himself and supports the capitalist view that a man should only care about himself. By structuring Birling’s speech in this order, Priestley has already revealed to the audience Birling is wrong so that they do not trust the capitalist views he proudly shares with Gerald and Eric. Additionally, Priestley has the inspector enter at this moment to demonstrate that Arthur’s views are foolish and deserve to be interrupted.

During the inspector’s questioning, Priestley presents Arthur Birling as irresponsible to criticise the behaviour of wealthy businessmen. Upon being questioned by the inspector, Arthur selfishly admits that he ‘refused’ to give his workers higher wages ‘of course’. Rather than choosing to be a responsible employer and giving his workers a rise that he could easily afford, Arthur Birling proudly refuses to give his workers any more money. Priestley uses the words ‘of course’ to demonstrate that Birling believes he was right in refusing his workers any more money and that it was the obvious decision to make. By suggesting that Birling thinks this was obvious, Priestley implies many wealthy businessmen adopted the selfish model of paying their workers a minimum amount of money so that they could benefit from a higher profit. Not only does Birling not fulfill his duty of looking after his workers, he also refuses to admit that he played a role in Eva Smith’s death. As the inspector continues to interrogate Birling, Arthur Birling admits that he ‘cannot take any responsibility’ for Eva’s death. Despite knowing that by firing Eva he could have contributed to her death, he chooses not to acknowledge this. Priestley’s use of the word ‘any’ could be used to imply that Birling is unwilling to take even a small part of responsibility in her death which shows he is unsympathetic of the difficulties faced by the working class. Not only does Priestley use Birling to criticise the wealthy businessmen who did not take responsibility for their workers, he also criticises the way in which the older generation were too stubborn to learn from their mistakes. Perhaps Priestley wanted to encourage his audience to see the consequences of selfish behaviour in order to encourage them to take more responsibility.

As the inspector prepares to leave, Priestley demonstrates that Arthur Birling is unwilling to learn in order to challenge the stubborn nature of the older generation. Just before the inspector leaves, Arthur Birling states that he would give ‘thousands’ in order to make the situation with Eva Smith disappear. Not only does Priestley reveal here that Birling is wealthy enough to pay his workers more money, he also insinuates that Birling only uses his money for selfish means. Rather than feeling guilty about his treatment of Eva Smith, Birling offers the ‘thousands’ in order to protect his own reputation, showing that he has learnt nothing from the inspector. Priestley makes clear to the audience that Birling only wants the situation with Eva Smith to go away so that he can maintain his reputation and still be in the running for a knighthood. A knighthood is awarded for achievements and commitments to your country so by having Arthur Birling in the running for a knighthood, Priestley could be suggesting that Arthur Birling is hypocritical. Birling is willing to accept his knighthood and judge other people based on their moral and responsible behaviour but is unwilling to accept his responsibility in Eva’s death. Priestley might also be criticising society for being hypocritical because selfish, wealthy men like Arthur Birling are celebrated while moral working class people are often ignored and mistreated. As people in England were beginning to notice, and campaign against, the fact that society was unfair, perhaps this would have given Priestley’s audience even more motivation to fight back against the inequality in society.

Overall, through the character of Arthur Birling, Priestley encourages his audience to move away from capitalism and towards socialism. Priestley’s portrayal of Arthur as irresponsible and selfish highlights the foolish and destructive nature of capitalism and puts forward the need for a more equal society where people are responsible for each other.

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GCSE English essays

These are some of the essays that I wrote in preparation for my GCSE English literature exam in 2015 for AQA. These are past question answers based on 'An inspector Calls' by JB Priestly and questions about 'Of Mice And Men' by Steinbeck. Also contains answers to poetry questions on conflict. I hope that someone out there may find them useful!! Please don't copy and paste for any course work as this is on the internet and in the eyes of the exam board will be seen as plagiarism.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Priestley criticises the selfishness of people like the birlings. what methods does he use to present this selfishness, 6 comments:.

an inspector calls selfishness essay

really helpful and detailed

really helpful thank you

I have my mocks this coming week and the theme of selfishness was on my revision note. Thanks so much for your help! Appreciate it. Made revision much easier.

Thank you so much, will really help for my mocks tomorrow :)

very helpful


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  1. An Inspector Calls

    Selfishness is a key theme that Priestley explores in 'An Inspector Calls', and he uses the characters to demonstrate the detrimental effect it can have on those around us. The play is a moralistic play, and Priestley uses the Inspector as a Greek Chorus style character - meaning he teaches the morals that Priestley aims to convey to his audience.

  2. An Inspector Calls Essay

    In 'An Inspector Calls' Priestley presents selfishness as a pernicious and harmful quality, that has disastrous consequences for everyone. One instance of selfishness is with the Birling family, who appear to live in their own "comfortable" bubble of wealth and avarice, which inhibits and warps their views of the world.

  3. The play 'Inspector Calls' is "all about selfishness": ESSAY

    The play 'Inspector Calls' is "all about selfishness": ESSAY Posted on May 5, 2022 In 'An Inspector Calls' Priestley presents selfishness as a pernicious and harmful quality, that has disastrous consequences for everyone.

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    Here are some samples of an essay on An Inspector Calls, on the theme of responsibility. I wrote these myself as a teacher to show students an example of the standard required to get a high level at GCSE.

  5. An Inspector Calls

    In 'An Inspector Calls' Priestley presents selfishness as a pernicious and harmful quality with disastrous consequences for all members of society.

  6. An Inspector Calls Essay : r/GCSE

    Write about: • examples of selfish behaviour in the play • how Priestley presents selfishness and its effects. In the polemic play, 'An Inspector Calls,' Priestley uses the Birling Family and Gerald Croft to symbolise the selfishness in the upper echelons of Edwardian society.

  7. What methods does Priestley use to present selfishness in An Inspector

    Even when the Inspector tells him this nearly two years later, Birling talks like this is none of his concern and just pretends that he is sorry. Another example of selfishness is when Birling describes himself as "a hard headed business man." Priestley could be trying to show how all Birling cares about is business.

  8. Selfishness

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  9. Inspector calls

    How does J Priestley present the idea of selfishness in the play 'An inspector calls.'? The play an inspector calls was written by J Priestley who was a socialist and is a satire of how middle-class people treat the working class. Through characters in this play, Mr Priestley uses lots of ways to emphasise the idea of selfishness in the ...

  10. An Inspector Calls Essay

    This is an paragon An Inspector Calls essay - Grade 9 GCSE standard - based upon the AQA English Books June 2019 exam question. The essay essays method Priestley presents self-absorption and its effects in the play. The An Inspector Calls essay got been well structured and would achieve full marks - who equivalent off a Grade 9.

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  12. JAC English Revision

    Later in the play, Priestley demonstrates that Arthur Birling is very selfish with his money by having him say 'I'd give thousands'. In other words, Birling is happy to pay thousands of pounds to...

  13. AQA English Revision

    An Inspector Calls Essays. ... inspector to demonstrate to his audience that morality is a much more admirable quality in a person than Mr Birling's selfish manner. In act 3 Mr Birling offers "thousands" to help Eva, though the inspector tells him that he is "offering money at the wrong time." This shows that the inspector has the moral ...

  14. An Inspector Calls Selfishness Essay

    The theme of selfishness is central to An Inspector Calls. Priestley questions the morality of the Birling and Croft family and points out behaviours that are selfish. He also points to the wider selfishness of a society that is driven by profit and with no structured welfare system to support vulnerable people.

  15. Priestly Criticises the Selfishness of People Like Birling, What

    J.B Priestly who wrote the play 'An inspector calls' has created a family named the Birlings who are Middle/Upper class, to represent the selfishness of people who were similar to them in 1912. Throughout the play he uses the Birlings to bring across the moral message, and his view being a socialist that people should be able to feel equal ...

  16. An Inspector Calls Essay

    A model essay with An Inspectors Calls. These GCSE standard essay (AQA exam board) on An Inspector Calls almost gained full marks. The An Inspector Dial essay was written by a undergraduate in exam conditions, taking approach 40-45 minutes to completing.

  17. Mr Birling's selfishness in An Inspector Calls

    docx, 15.87 KB. This is a short revision essay on the selfishness of Mr Birling that can be worked up to a grade 7 and above model answer. It includes quotes and is just over one page of A4 in length. It is easy to deliver as a revision exercise. Tes paid licence How can I reuse this?

  18. Exemplar AQA An Inspector Calls Essays

    Exemplar An Inspector Calls essays, at GCSE standard (AQA exam board) which attained full marks. The Romeo and Juliet essays were written GCSE students in exam conditions, taking approximately 40-45 minutes.

  19. JAC English Revision

    In 'An Inspector Calls' Priestley presents Arthur Birling as selfish and stubborn. Through Arthur Birling's character, Priestley not only challenges the capitalist viewpoint that dominates...

  20. An Inspector Calls Essay

    This is an exemple An Inspector Calls essay - Note 9 GCSE standard - based when of AQA English Literature Jun 2019 exam question. The essay analyses how Priestley presents self-serving also its effects in the play. The An Inspector Calls seek holds been well structured and would achieve complete marks - the equivalent of a Note 9.

  21. GCSE English essays : Priestley criticises the selfishness of people

    Saturday, 11 March 2017 Priestley criticises the selfishness of people like the Birlings. What methods does he use to present this selfishness? J.B. Priestley criticises the selfishness of the Birling family by using a range of devices to convey his views of the class system and highlight to the reader the issues with capitalism.