Arthur Birling Says: “If We Were All Responsible for Everything That Happened to Everybody We’d Had Anything to Do with, It Would Be Very Awkward Wouldn’t It?” How Does Priestley Present Ideas About Responsibility in an Inspector Calls?

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Arthur Birling says: “If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward wouldn’t it?” How does Priestley present ideas about responsibility in An Inspector Calls?

In An Inspector Calls, one of the main themes is responsibility. Priestley is interested in our personal responsibility for our own actions and our collective responsibility to society. The play explores the effect of class, age and sex on people's attitudes to responsibility, and shows how prejudice can prevent people from acting responsibly. In this essay I am going to explain how Priestley presents the theme of responsibility and how he uses structural and language devices to do so. In Act 1, Priestley uses the character of Inspector Goole to arrive unexpectedly at the Birlings household and not only shatter the very foundations of their lives but challenge us all to examine our senses of right and wrong. His use of the Inspector opens the door to explore responsibility in this play as he one by one challenges them to reveal their guilt. I think that the idea of the play and particularly the role of the Inspector are to try to bring the Birling family to understand that they have a moral responsibility for the death of Eva Smith, if not a legal one. Therefore it could be said that Eva Smith was simply a victim of her class and time. This point is very significant and is the basis of the entire play, to grasp it is imperative to the understanding of the play, without this, an analysis of responsibility would be far more difficult. The inspector's methods of investigation are to create a tension by telling the family that "a young woman has just died at the infirmary." After this it is much easier to get information from them. Priestley tries to make the characters seem very irresponsible because he sees them as stuck up, higher-middle class folk who only care about themselves and how they look to other families. Priestley...
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