What appears to be the aims of the playwright in “An Inspector Calls”?


The play An Inspector Calls was written in 1945 within a week of World War Two ending but is set before World War One. J B Priestley wrote this play intentionally as he wanted to see a dramatic social change and used the play to state his passion for social equality.


The time span between the dates used (1945-1912) is to make us aware of what has happened and learn from mistakes made. It seems as though Priestley hoped his play would give society the chance with perception to look back on the past and not just carry on life in the same way as before. J B Priestley took full advantage of writing in observation and makes sure that it will make the audience realise how wrong they may have been predicting future events.


The play is set in an industrial city in the Midlands of 1912. It concerns a wealthy industrial Arthur Birling, his family, the fiancé Gerald Croft and an Inspector. It shows how the family each help to destroy a young woman’s life, Eva Smith, through their selfish and uncaring attitudes, which results in her death. The play runs similar to what was happening to society at the time. Each uncaring action/statement is backed up with resulting consequences.


The Play opens with a conversation between Mr Birling and family and Gerald Croft. Mr Birling appears to be a hardheaded businessman who is more concerned with high profits then the welfare of his employees. He thought very highly of himself as he might find his way into the next honours list but regards with contempt the “cranks” that say that “Everybody should look after everybody else.” Priestley intended Mr Birling to represent the upper middle class man of the time and the rest of the family to represent the average middle class family. In Mr Birling’s speech, dramatic irony is used; such as the Titanic being mentioned, this allows the audience to see his stupidity. This is just the start of his message, do not be as foolish as to think just because England has won the war it does not mean that it is safe from trouble, the use of the titanic piece helps to reflect this.


Priestley gave a good description of upper middle class men in the very first act of the play, making sure the audience can relate to Mr Birling as representing the average middle class man. Mr Birling finishes his speech saying “a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own”. When an Inspector unexpectedly calls on the successful Birling family his shocking revelations not only shatter the foundations of their lives, he inspires us, as the audience, to respond to our inner-conscience and also to examine it.


Inspector Goole is portrayed as quite an eerie character that is determined about finding the truth. He believes in the opposite to what Mr Birling does; every person should help each other as he says, “We are members of one body - we are responsible for each other”.


The inspector interrogates each character in turn, with each of them he makes a point that they have acted selfishly and used Eva Smith for their own purposes and they have not thought about the effect they had on her life. Priestley uses the inspector to show us how hypocritical and arrogant the upper middle class men and women were. The Inspector also brings to our attention the vast differences between the upper middle class men and lower class citizens.


As the whole family come to terms with the bad actions they have committed the Inspector finally delivers his final judgment; This is that even though Birling started it all, through a \'chain of events\', they are all to blame.


Eva is one of the most important characters in the play, but yet the audiences do not actually see her. Priestley intended for Eva to represent all other people who were in similar situations at the time, the use of the name ‘Smith’ is cleverly used, as it is a common name, therefore it is used to represent all the working class