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Priestly, throughout the whole play of ‘An Inspector Calls’ uses the categories of age to show conflicting views of the society of the time, the younger generation showing socialist viewpoints and the older generation showing views of capitalists.
Priestley uses the character of Mr Birling to show what was currently wrong with the society just after the war although the play was set just before this. Priestley uses Mr Birling as an ironic character to highlight to the reader exactly what is wrong with society and to prove the upper class is not always right. This can be inferred through the quotation ‘ The Germans don’t want war’ this is extremely ironic as during the period infant the Germans declared war, this make the character of Mr Birling laughable. The effect this gives to the audience is that they can relate this to their lives and illustrate that Mr Birling is not that untouchable. Also he is shown to be ironic again when he states ‘ absolutely unsinkable [titanic] ‘ further more the whole audience again knows what happens and makes an intended pun at the capitalist society. If we continue to look at the older generation Priestly uses Mrs Birling to highlight the snobby nature of the capitalist enviroment and to illustrate exactly what is wrong about the capitalist. This was intended for the time period as the younger generation shown through as pure socialist and dismantle a capitalist hierarchy and instead care equally for everybody.
However,Preistley uses the younger generation to highlight to the reader how he should act as a society in a time of need. This is strongly represented through the character Sheila as she is one of the first characters Priestly uses in tempt to crumble the older generation and there capitalist insights. This representation can be inferred within the quotation, ‘these girls ain’t cheap labour- their people’ This gives a possible effect to the reader and almost a clear definition of socialism through the choice of lexis Priestley uses. More over the tone in which the character of Sheila speaks the line it almost silences the older generation giving us a peak of what is to come. Alternatively this gives an effect to the audience that Mr Mrs Birling are used to the confrontation of the passion of the socialist party and are then pummelled with the view points of the socialist and almost opens their eyes to different views. Furthermore due to the striking of Mr Birlings employees the audience would have thought he would have changed his insight, but no. Furthermore part of the upcoming younger generations of socialist Gerarald Croft states ‘we strive for the highest possible prices, so why can’t they strive for higher wages’ for this we can infer that Gerald is almost questioning the character of Mr Birlings authority again something that is knew form his capitalist world . More over Gerald is more understanding with the working class and can tell they are desperate, which again shows Priestly efforts to show younger generations socialist views are more considerate compared to the older generations capitalist viewpoints.
An Inspector Calls
In the play ‘An Inspector Calls’, Priestley presents the differences between the older and younger generations in different ways. One of these ways is by having the characters Sheila Birling and Eric Birling (the younger generation) accept that they had a role in the death of Eva Smith while their parents refused to take responsibility for their actions. In act one, the younger generation are portrayed this way when Sheila says to the Inspector: ‘It’s my fault she killed herself,’ after her interrogation. By placing the possessive personal pronoun ‘my’ in front of the word ‘fault’ tells the audience that Sheila is fully aware of what she has done and so accepts that she is guilty in this case. However, the use of the personal pronoun ‘my’ also tells the audience that Sheila puts all of the blame regarding the suicide of Eva Smith onto herself which could spark curiosity and sadness within the audience as they wonder why Sheila puts all of the blame on herself. When this moment is performed, the actress playing Sheila would most likely be slightly curled in on herself, sounding like she’s crying or close to crying which shows the audience that her character truly feels guilty for what she has done and so accepts responsibility for the death of Eva Smith.
The older generation are presented as people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions and this is shown in act two when Mrs Birling says to the Inspector: ‘I am not to blame’. The use of the negative ‘not’ shows the audience that even though Mrs Birling refused Eva Smith any kind of aid when she needed it most, she still refused to take responsibility for having a role in Eva’s suicide. This denial may cause anger and disgust to flare through the audience because Mrs Birling is refusing to accept responsibility even though she had a large role in to play in the suicide. This directly parallels the view point of the younger generation and shows that Priestley likes to present the younger generation as socially responsible, unlike the older generation.
Priestley also presents the younger generation as more socialist while the older generation has more capitalist views. The socialist younger generation is first shown in act one when Eric asks his father: ‘why shouldn’t they try for higher wages?’. This question shows signs of a socialist stance within the younger generation because the audience is shown that Eric believes that the women who work for his father should be entitled to ask for higher wages and (in essence) receive those pay rises while his father is outraged by the idea and so fired Eva Smith when she led a strike with the aim of her and her co-workers earning a slightly higher wage. In this scene, the audience may find themselves relating and agreeing with Eric while also feeling disgust towards Mr Birling for refusing to pay is employees a slightly higher wage after they already work for so little. During this moment of the play, the actor playing Eric Birling would most likely be standing facing his father and asking this question with disbelief in his voice. Additionally, during the times in which the play was written and set, it wasn’t illegal for an employer to pay women a lesser wage than men and it was very common. This was done so employers could fill their factories with employees while saving money on labour and making profit off of their produce which kept them rich.
In the play ‘An Inspector Calls’ Priestly presents the theme of generations as young and old throughout the whole play. This shows conflicting views of society in that time.
Priestly uses the character of Mr Birling to show what was currently wrong with the society just after the war although the play was set just before this. Priestly uses Mr Birling as an ironic character to highlight to the reader exactly what is wrong with society and to prove the upper class is not always right. This can be inferred through the quotation ‘The Germans don’t want war’. This is extremely ironic as during the period in fact the Germans declared war. This makes the character of Mr Birling laughable and seen as naive, even when he thinks Shelia is the vulnerable one. The effect this gives to the audience is that they can relate this to their lives and illustrates that Mr Birling is not that untouchable. Also he is shown to be ironic again when he states ‘absolutely unsinkable [titanic]’. Furthermore the whole audience again knows that it sunk and its intended to make fun of capitalists society. If we continue to look at the older generations Priestly use Mrs Birling to highlight the snobby nature of the capitalists environment and to illustrate exactly what is wrong about the capitalists. This was intended for the time period as the younger generations shown through as pure socialists and to dismantle the capitalists hierarchy and instead care equally for everybody.
However, Priestly was the younger generation to highlight to the reader how we should act as a society in a time of need. This is strongly represented through the character of Shelia as she is are of the first characters Priestly in an attempt to crumble the older generation and their capitalist insights. This representation can be inferred in the quotation ‘these girls aren’t cheap labor – they’re people’. This gives a possible effect on the reader and an almost clear definition of socialism through the choice of lexis Priestly uses. Moreover the tone in which the character of Shelia speaks the line in almost silences the older generation; indicating something is to come.
Alternatively this gives an effect to the audience that Mr & Mrs Birling are not used to the confrontation of the passion of the socialist party and are then pummeled with and almost opens their eyes to different views. Furthermore due to the striking of Mr Birlings employees the audience would have thought he would have changed his insight, but no. Furthermore as part of the upcoming younger generations of socialist. Gerald Croft states ‘we strive for the highest possible prices, so why can’t we strive for higher wages’. From this we can infer that Gerald is almost questioning the character of the Mr Birlings authority again something what is new from its capitalist world.
Priestley creates a strong feeling of responsibility and consequences at the end of the play, where the Birlings are left to dwell over their actions after the phone rings.
From the beginning the reader can suspect that the Inspector knows all the answers, however none of the Birlings realise this but Sheila, “He’s giving us the rope so that we will hang ourselves.” This statement is the verbal proof of foreshadowing as Sheila represents the reader in this scene. The pronoun ‘we’ is a direct address, pulling the reader into the story with the Birlings so that they may reminisce over any morally wrong deed they have committed. Priestley does this due to his views on social responsibility. Priestley was a socialist meaning he looked at society as though there were no hierarchy of wealth/power, therefore deeming everyone equal – which is portrayed by the Inspector as he continuously ignores titles throughout the play. By doing this Priestley is able to drop in the importance of treating everyone equally or else there will be consequences. This may make the reader rethink their judgement on society and look at it through a socialists perspective to recognise how corrupted it is. Sheila is able to represent this as her views on society alter from being strongly capitalist views, which she was breed to believe are standard within society, to the socialist views which reveal how cruel and corrupt society is and how we should find a better reality that what is currently in play.
Priestley also uses phrases to foreshadow events that reveal the final plot line, ‘surveys them sardonically’. This quote highlights how only the reader and the Inspector know what’s going on as the adjective ‘sardonically’ means to grimly mock or to be cynical, suggesting that the Inspector is teasing the Birlings for being so oblivious to the situation they put themselves in, but also because he already knows how they will meet their demise. Priestley also uses sibilance to make this quote more powerful and the overall impression of the Inspector more stern. This may make the reader tremble slightly as the Inspectors appearance becomes more dark as he thinks over the consequences the Birlings will have to pay after revealing the truth. However it may also apply to how Priestley views society being ridiculed and how those who are less fortunate may be the ones to break out of the biased capitalist ways by exposing the rich to those across the world.
The author has also used a polysyndeton sentence to represent everyone in the working class, “One Eva Smith has gone but there are millions and millions and millions of John and Eva Smiths” This statement has a strong impact on the reader through the polysyndeton sentence that uses an anaphora – Millions – to highlight how one event can rebound off another to ultimately end devastatingly. The use of the anaphora ‘millions’ is powerful with the conjunction ‘and’ as it reiterates how many people globally aren’t being treated equally – in fact there are many who find themselves in the same scenarios as Eva Smith. Also by using this technique, Priestley is able to brand an image into the readers mind of just how many people are living in squatter. This may have a strong sense of realisation on the reader as they think over how many people ‘millions’ is and if they are a ‘John’ or ‘Eva Smith’ themselves. It also connotes how by their actions the Birlings could be the result of many people’s lives , showing how someone’s quality of life should be valued over their own personal satisfaction, as many have it a lot worse than the Birlings. It also exaggerates Priestley’s views as at the time the play was set it was considered to be the ‘Golden age’, this was where the rich were at their peak believing they had it all while the poor were at their worst owning little to nothing, which meant their quality of life and standard of living was at an all-time-low going against socialism.
Finally the play ends with a phone call to the Birling residents after the Inspector has left, ‘Telephone rang’ this reveals the final end to the Birings secret as there is a sense of circularity which takes over, showing their inevitable fate. The play end has a really strong impact as the reader doesn’t know if the Birlings will try to conceal their truth from the police or expose everything, however due to the presence of guilt and naivety which radiates off the youthful characters (Sheila and Eric Birling) the reader can suggest that they may turn themselves over as they are enveloped by the shadow of Eva Smiths life. This implies that people can be easily swayed into socialism through the manipulation of justice which is reflected off of the Inspector, spotlighting how by one simple change society may be able to also flip its views to socialism after revealing the truth behind the richer populations sense of morality.
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