Contrasts in an Inspector Calls

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An Inspector Calls has been called “a play of contrasts”. Write about how Priestley presents some of the contrasts in the play.

Priestley presents many contrasts in the play, An Inspector Calls. One of the most prominent is the contrast between the generations: the open, more impressionable younger generation is contrasted with the traditional older generation throughout the play. For example, Sheila changes much more in the play than her parents, to the point that she is “frightened” and “ashamed” of them. Mr. and Mrs. Birling, however, do not accept any social responsibility and reject the Inspector’s call as a “hoax” and “nonsense”. The two generations are further contrasted by the fact that the older generation is much more interested in their social standings and their business (the only thing they care about is that the might be a “public scandal”), whilst the younger generation has a social conscience and assumes social responsibility: Eric declares that “the girl’s dead… and that’s what matters”. The two generations create contrast because of their very different priorities and attitudes.

In addition, Priestley presents the contrast between the privileged middle and upper classes and the exploited working class. The Birlings and Gerald represent the middle and upper classes respectively, and their closed-minded, “hardheaded” attitude strongly contrasts with Eva Smith’s seemingly moral principles. Birling does not hesitate to tell Eva to “clear out”, but when Eva discovers that Eric had been supplying her with stolen money, she “wouldn’t take any more, and she didn’t want to see me [Eric] again.” The class structure provides a life of privilege and ease for some whilst ensuring a life of hardship and tragedy for others. The Birlings and the Crofts enjoy luxurious lifestyles with servants and “public school” education while the working class is forced to work in low paid jobs from which they can be easily and unfairly dismissed, such as Eva Smith....
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