A Play of Contrasts

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An Inspector Calls has been called ‘a play of contrasts’ Write about how Priestley presents some of the contrasts in this play.

In this essay I shall discuss the contrasts that have been used in An Inspector Calls. Firstly the contrast, which had stood out the most, was the progress from ignorance to knowledge, this was shown specifically in Sheila; young, pretty and rich Sheila who was show to be ‘very pleased’ with her share of the world at the beginning of the play whereas in stark contrast near the end of the play her character has progressed from naïvely ignorant satisfaction to opening of her eyes to the facades and indifferent selfishness of the upper classes. For example in Priestley’s stage directions Sheila ‘bitterly’ reacts to Birling and Mrs Birling’s refusal to take responsibility for their actions and want to avoid ‘scandal’ and climb up the social ladder. Therefore the contrast of ignorance and knowledge is depicted in Sheila as she realizes her and her family’s roles in the suicide of Eva Smith/ Daisy Renton.

Another significant contrast shown in the play is the difference between the older and younger generations. The main differences between the old and young is that the older generation of Birlings just want to wash their hands of this ‘awkward’ business, such as following the Inspector’s departure Birling discusses only the possible shame that could rob him of his ‘almost certain’ knighthood but does not reflect on his actions towards Eva Smith. This illustrates that Birling was only gutted about his potentially lost doorway to success and status, furthermore when Sheila accuses Birling of unconcern towards the tragedy and lesson that ought to be learnt Birling is highly self centered and talks only of himself- ‘who here will suffer more than I will?’

Mrs. Birling, playing the role of the obedient and supportive wife, also displays selfish behavior talking about the ‘rude’ tone the Inspector used; this connotes that she is...
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