An Inspector Calls

‘A man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own’. Mr Birling says this at the beginning of the play which shows his attitude towards social responsibility. An Inspector Calls, by John Boynton Priestley, is a clever and well thought out play of which the central theme is responsibility. Priestley wants to make us think more about our personal responsibility as part of society. Each character has a different attitude towards responsibility and shows a progression throughout the acts as the Inspector helps them recognize the role they each played in a young girl’s suicide – ‘each of you helped to kill her’. This essay will explore in depth how Priestley manages to convey his views on responsibility, and how successful his message is conveyed with the use of characterisation, dramatic irony and structure.
The Birling family are celebrating over dinner about the engagement of their daughter Sheila and her fiance Gerald, when the night takes a turn for the worst. The door bell rings – it is an inspector investigating the suicide of a young woman named Eva. At first, each family member denies any involvement in the matter, but as the play progresses through the 3 acts, a pattern emerges and we realize that in fact all of them have a part to play in her tragic end. The play builds up to a climax, and the reader finds out that Inspector Goole is not a real inspector. When a real inspector does turn up, we are left wondering if their lesson has been learned.
In the play, Priestley uses the character of the Inspector to convey his views and ultimately deliver his message of social responsibility. At the beginning, Inspector Goole makes a very memorable entrance. It is well timed, just as the Birling family are talking about responsibility in society. He enters at this point to show the family there is another way to think another than what Mr Birling says. The Inspector’s entrance is described as creating ‘an impression of massiveness, solidity…

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