An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestly: Contrasting Attitudes to Social Issues

Topics: An Inspector Calls, Working class, J. B. Priestley Pages: 7 (2879 words) Published: February 24, 2014
In the play “An Inspector Calls” by J.B. Priestly, Mr. Birling and Sheila Birling have contrasting attitudes to social issues. J.B Priestly uses this difference to highlight the diversity between generations and their reactions to the situations faced. He also shows the difference in the way they act upon hearing the news and how they change throughout the play. Arthur Birling is the father to Sheila Birling and so is presented as the older, “old-fashioned”  generation whereas Shelia is the younger generation, who is more aware of the responsibilities they have towards other people which is strongly shown as the play goes in by the way she changes her hierarchy attitude developed by her dad and how she wants equality for others which are lower than them. She is the only character who accepts their responsibility in the accident that has happened. Other Characters are seen to ‘shake it off’ and deny their part in all of it. Shelia thinks and takes on the most responsibility when she has the least part to play – Even though she got ‘Daisy Renton’ fired this isn’t the main reason this came about, it was an amalgamation of what others actions did, other characters more prominent than her own. The play begins with Mr. Birling and his family celebrating the engagement of Sheila to Gerald. Shelia and Mr.Birling are the two most alike characters in the room by what they say, what they think and how they act however this all changes when Shelia see’s what her dad is really like. She and Mr.Birling by the end of the play are the two most contrasting people who no longer share the same views or thing in the same way. Shelia for this is seen as society as a whole, this is because she see’s what is wrong and changes who she wants to be and what she stands for. This is the same for society at the time it wanted to break out and have equality but it hadn’t had the chance to so Shelia breaking from her dad and their family’s way of life is what is seen to be the biggest change and what was to come i.e. – WW1 and WW2 and the unsinkable Titanic sinking. The atmosphere is happy and light-hearted. Before the Inspector arrives, Birling says, “It’s one of the happiest nights of my life”. This shows that he is quite selfish because he only thinks that it is one of the happiest nights of his life, not of Sheila and Gerald’s. Mr Billing’s attitude to the marriage is positively, he’s looking forward to the couple getting married because it will reflect a good image on his business well being, “its one of the happiest nights of my life”. Soon after Mr.Birling makes the speech.  He also shows that he can accept economic change in business but not social and personal change because he is so hung up on his business his family life only is spoken of when it benefits him. This in the play is what Shelia see’s closer to the end of the play when Mr.Birling is explaining to the inspector that ‘she was too much trouble so I fired her. She was asking for higher wages.’ Mr Birling doesn’t share the same views with Eva, her actions thought to be rebellious for the workers of the company; because of this she is dismissed. Mrs Birling in the play shown no pity to the character of Eva Smith, who was in desperate need of money at a most difficult time of her life, she refuses to give her money and accuses her of having “elaborate airs and fine feelings” and suggests that Eva should be grateful and not get above her station. Shelia for the first time in the play stands up for the girl which at the time she didn’t know and says ‘Why not these girls are not cheap labour.’ This is seen as the first turning point for her because at the start of the night she is shown as Materialistic especially when Gerald gives her, her ring, ‘Oh Gerald I love it, and is it the one you wanted me to have?’ Instead of the stereotypical I love you she says she loves the ring, doesn’t acknowledge Gerald only to ask a selfish question. And when Gerald is showing her that he loves her she...
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • J. B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls Essay
  • An Inspector Calls Essay
  • An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly Research Paper
  • Social Divisions in an Inspector Calls Essay
  • An Inspector Calls: Issues and Priestly's Viewpoint Essay
  • An Inspector Calls, Social Responsibility Essay
  • Inspector Calls Essay
  • Essay about Inspector Calls

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free