Topics: Labour Party, An Inspector Calls, Scottish Labour Party Pages: 4 (1760 words) Published: April 19, 2015
In Act 2 of An Inspector Calls, Sheila says to her mother, Mrs Birling, “But we really must stop these silly pretences”. How does Priestley show, in his presentation of Mrs Birling, that she often pretends to be something she is not? Priestley deliberately set his play in 1912 because the date represented an era when all was very different from the time he was writing. In 1912, rigid class and gender boundaries seemed to ensure that nothing would change. Yet by 1945, most of those class and gender divisions had been breached. Priestley wanted to make the most of these changes. Through this play, he encourages people to seize the opportunity the end of the war had given them to build a better, more caring society. The character of Mrs Birling is an extremely effective presentation of Priestley’s ideas. She is a representation of how hypocritical the ruling classes are, and how that a system where the rich have all the power simply does not work. In the opening stage directions, Priestley describes Mrs Birling as ‘a rather cold woman and her husband’s social superior’. However, as the pretence becomes more evident, the audience can see how Priestley expertly changes the image we get of Mrs Birling by changing the stage directions that describe her. Before the pretence, he uses terms such as ‘grandly’ and ‘triumphantly’ to describe her, but after, she is shown to be ‘distressed’ and ‘alarmed’. Mrs Birling is portrayed to cover up the immorality of her actions, but when the inspector begins to ask questions, her pretence is found out. Whilst she pretends that she has a certain propriety in the beginning, once the truth comes out, she is reduced to nothing. Furthermore, Priestley uses other characters to point out Mrs Birling’s pretences. Most notably, Sheila warns her mother not to build up a kind of ‘wall’ between herself and the inspector’s questions. It is clear that she is alarmed by Mrs Birling’s tendency to falsify to her answers to the inspector, so she uses...
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