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Social class importance

By fgrhuhrg12 Apr 28, 2015 1075 Words
The class system is a way of defining people using various factors. These include family, possessions, wealth, friends, and social standing. The class system isn’t as important today as it was in 1912, when the play is set, or even in 1945, when the play was written. The class system is extremely important in An Inspector Calls, as it is the basis for the moral undertones running through the play. The gap between the Birlings and Eva Smith in terms of class is enormous, and this is used by Priestly to show his own views on the system, and the problems inherent to it. Priestly criticizes a large number of the beliefs commonly held by the stereotypical upper class around the early 19th century. For example, many of the rich thought that they were obviously the best people because they had power and glory. This led them to believe that they were actually higher quality humans along with being better off than the lower classes.. Priestly tries to destroy this particular idea by having a cast with poor and rich, but with the poor being decidedly better than the rich, from a moral point of view at least. The upper class Birlings would be expected to be problem-free and blameless in any scandal, but this is not the case. And Eva, who as a low-class girl would be expected to “Get into trouble” by those better off than her, decided not to. In fact, the only trouble Eva ever gets into is to come into contact with the Birlings! These show the stereotypes that people thought in at the time. When Eva is mentioned to Mrs. Birling, she says, “Get into trouble? Go on the streets?” This shows us how the upper class saw those lower than themselves, as thugs and beggars. Mrs. Birling never even considers that Eva could have been trying to make something of her life, she automatically thinks the worst. Mrs. Birling’s thoughts on the lower classes are mirrored by most of her family: her husband in particular. He doesn’t even take the time to remember the names of the girls that work for him and cares little for them. He won’t give them a tiny pay rise, even though their current one barely keeps them alive. And he also fires Eva, just for voicing her opinions about her working standards and pay. Mr. Birling seems to have none of the virtues you might expect in the upper classes, such as morality, care, or even a basic interest in the lives of those around him. In fact, Eva had more morality than any of the Birlings, which contradicts the idea of the upper classes being somehow better people. We can learn more about how the class system affects the play by contrasting the characters. If we take Mr. Birling and Eva Smith, he is a rich, upper class, old male. This type of person rules the world, so people like Mr. Birling get all the power and money. However, Eva is none of these things; she is a poor, lower class, young, working girl. She, and others like her form the backbone of Britain’s important industry, as shown in the Inspector’s comment, “factories and warehouses wouldn’t know where to look for cheap labour.” But even though they play such an important role in Britain’s industrial success, girls like Eva are treated like sub-humans, paid a low wage and quickly replaced if they can’t keep up. Mr. Birling couldn’t care less about people like Eva, even though without them he wouldn’t have anything like the wealth he has obtained. He has the privileges, but declines to shoulder the responsibilities associated with great power and importance. Sheila is shown in the end to be the most moral and caring of the Birlings, but even she is far from perfect. She had Eva fired because she was pretty and smiled at Sheila’s mistake, this is obviously a serious abuse of power on Sheila’s part. If the class system had not have been in place Sheila’s actions simply would not have been plausible. In his speeches to the Birlings the Inspector shows a Socialist view to the events. He frequently verbally attacks Birling for not caring about his workers and Mrs. Birling for her stereotypical view of the lower classes. He wants the upper classes to change their ways and start caring, or there will be, “fire and blood and anguish.” This points to a revolution of some sort, or even to a Christian ‘Day of Reckoning’ for the upper classes. His comment, “better to ask for the world than to take it,” points to not only a revolution on the part of the lower classes, but also to the greediness of the rich, in ‘taking’ the world for themselves. The Inspector wants a Socialist classless society; this is seen in his want for equality and fairness for all, regardless of position or wealth. The inspector as used as mouth piece for Priestley who was against this view As another example of the problems with the class system shown in the play,we can look at Eric and Eva. Eric stole money, an act Mrs. Birling would deem as being only done by the lower classes. But when Eva found out its origins she rejected it, showing she had more morals than Eric. Mrs. Birling wouldn’t think this possible; she seems to believe that there are some things the rich have and the poor haven’t. She could never conceive of her own son stealing to help some working girl he had gotten pregnant. Eva is exploited because of her position in society, which is undermined because she is a young, poor, working woman with no claim to power or importance. The Birlings, as a rich family, should strive to help her, but instead each one of them abuses or exploits her in some way. Priestly uses this unfairness to show how awful he thinks the class system to be, and why it should be abolished. But without the class system this play would lose its identity. The characters’ reaction and actions are mainly based on their position and class in society, which obviously a classless society would abolish. The snobbery of the Birlings and the hardships of Eva wouldn’t make sense, unless there is some prejudice in the world. This is why, in An Inspector Calls, the class system is so important.

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