An Inspector Calls: Character Notes

Topics: Working class, Social class, An Inspector Calls Pages: 5 (2025 words) Published: November 17, 2013
Inspector Calls - Notes
Context
In “An Inspector Calls”, Priestley uses a lot of his political views in the Inspectors speeches by using him as a kind of a mouthpiece for his socialism. The play was written in 1946; however it was set in 1912, just before the outbreak of WWI. This was a new era when people were no longer willing to accept the poverty or the class system that had gone before. Priestley strongly believed that everyone had some responsibility for others in society and not just their own welfare. He realised that change was coming and explores this theme in his play. Priestley believed that events are repeated over again unless people face up to their past activities, like Eric and Sheila do, and only this can bring about a positive and equal change in society. Sheila

Naive – Hasn’t been exposed to harsh realities of life, “very pleased with life and rather excited”, quite playful, teases Gerald “I’d hate you to know all about port”. Compassion – “But these girls aren’t cheap labour, they’re people”, starting to change and understand the problems workers are facing. She disagrees with capitalist ideology; this shows she has a conscience. Not as shallow as she first appears. She is more worried about her actions leading to the death of Eva than public consequences, agrees with socialist ideology, contrast with parents. Guilty – She understands her mistake and what she did, wrong, accepts responsibility, “I felt rotten about it at the time and now I feel a lot worse”, is ready to take some of the blame; she is very emotional in her reactions and feels remorse for what she has done, “[looks as if she’s been crying]”. Contrasts with her parents; Priestley is trying to show the audience the importance of the younger generation, and how they were the cause of change. Open – She is open to ideas and can spot things easily, very perceptive; first to realize Eric’s role, is more able to understand the Inspector; “he’s giving us the rope so we’ll hang ourselves”. She matures throughout the play, understands Gerald “respect your honesty”, realises her parent’s flaws and their thoughts on the class system. At the end of the play, she has a better social conscience and is aware of her responsibilities, Priestly is trying to show that the younger generation are more aware and open to change Curious – Wants to know more about the death of Eva Smith, inquisitive and doesn’t want to take all the guilt for the death. Keen to new ideas and wants to learn more, is becoming more aware of the outside world and problems regarding class. Eric

Socially awkward – Lacks self confidence, quite troubled, and is generally quite quiet throughout the play; he first enters the script with a “guffaw”, which he cannot explain. He seems quite naive saying women are “potty” about clothes; he is shy and immature, he doesn’t like talking in public and seems to be guilty and secretive, his story reveals how the lower class weren’t treated with respect and were used for their own means by the upper class Responsibility – "Oh - my God! - how stupid it all is!” He is horrified that his thoughtless actions had such consequences. He is shown to be socially aware as he felt a sense of responsibility towards the girl, he stole money to give to her. At the end of the play, he is fully aware of his social responsibility, knows and accepts his mistake, “we did her in all right”, he is sympathetic towards Eva Smith even before realising his involvement, “it’s not a free country if you can’t go and work anywhere else”, he supports the workers cause “Why shouldn’t they try for higher wages” he challenges Gerald’s defence of Birling. He is more open minded and idealistic, and aware of what he has done and has been changed by the night’s events and is upset his parents don’t feel the same way, “I agree with Sheila, it frightens me too”, “I say the girl is dead and we all helped to kill her – and that’s what matters”; he refuses to cover his part up, “the...
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