A CRITICAL ESSAY ON THE PLAY “AN INSPECTOR CALLS” BY J. B. PRIESTLY
The play, “An Inspector Calls” by J. B. Priestly deals with the underlying themes of social responsibility and moral conscience. It tells of how a wealthy, middle class family’s actions affect the life of a young, working class woman, Eva Smith, eventually resulting in her suicide. The play shows how every person plays a part in the community, and how selfish actions can lead to the death of an innocent person. These themes are clearly demonstrated throughout the play by the plot, setting, structure and characterisation.
The plot is one of the main means used to highlight the theme of social responsibility. The play begins with an engagement party which takes place in the Birling household. This is interrupted by a mysterious Inspector who brings the news that a young woman has committed suicide, and the accusation that every character is somewhat responsible for her demise. Each of the characters is interrogated in turn, and as the story unfolds it is revealed that indeed, every character has, in some way, caused her to take her life. None of these are deliberate attempts, but have affected her all the same; showing that, as Mr Birling says, “Community and all that nonsense” intertwines our lives with people of all standing and fortunes. The Birling family must act with a strong moral conscience, as their actions can result in drastic consequences for their fellow human beings.
Emphasis of the importance of social responsibility features keenly in the structure of the play. Each of the three acts concludes on a climax, with greater suspense and revelation than the one before. Act one’s penultimate moment is a confrontation between the engaged couple, Gerald Croft and Shelia Birling. Croft wishes to hide the fact that he once had an affair with Eva Smith from the Inspector but Shelia is adamant that this is folly and that the Inspector already knows of his dealings with the girl,...
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