I would like critique on this essay please
Arthur Birling says, ‘If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward, wouldn’t it?’
How does Priestley present ideas about responsibility in An Inspector Calls? (30 marks)
Priestley cleverly uses the contrasting personalities of all of the characters in the Birling family along with the socialist Inspector who is a mouthpiece for Priestley’s view in the morality play. The inspector is seemingly the most responsible in his ideas, as we can see by the connotations of his speech as well as his judgement of the Birling family. He also offers supernatural themes to this otherwise normal play. Priestley sets the scene within the Birling household of a rich family who are very self- satisfied and somewhat ignorant sitting at the table discussing future prospects with the family.
Priestley conveys his own personal ideas about the social class system within the play through Inspector Goole, who could be seen as a mouthpiece for Priestley’s opinion in the play. In act one of the play the Inspector is introduced as someone who ‘creates at once an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness’ This suggests that the inspector is very wise and ‘purposefulness’ can imply that the Inspector knows what his duty is in terms of interrogating the Birling family and also he has a strong sense of social responsibility. Following this, when offered whisky the Inspector immediately emphasises the fact that he is ‘on duty’. This conveys to the audience that the inspector knows what his responsibility is at that point in time and whatever is a distraction is not important to him whatsoever. The Inspector is also portrayed as a moral being who realises that the Birling family’s contribution to Eva’s death was unethical and also due to a lack of social responsibility, in the sense that all of the wrongdoings to Eva also known as Daisy Renton were an equal contribution of their abuse of social authority. The Inspector says “we are members of one body.” This is biblical language that would have been preached by Jesus Christ in the bible, who knew not to do wrong, and had a very strong sense of responsibility. As well as this the Inspector clearly states later in the play that each of the Birling family ‘helped to kill her’. This shows that Priestley believed the Inspector to be the most responsible and morally enlightened character and as a result used him as a mouthpiece of his own views, because he realised that it was through the multi contribution of social abuse and the idea of social hierarchy was what lead to Eva committing suicide.
Linking in with this, Birling has a completely contrasting identity in this play in comparison with the Inspector and seems to lack social awareness, which is conveyed through the use of dramatic irony. In act one, Birling states that the Titanic is ‘absolutely unsinkable’, which of course the audience knows will already take place. Birling’s rich status is clearly a key contribution to lack of social awareness because he believes that life is as perfect as it is for his family for everyone, which is not the case whatsoever. This shows a lack of responsibility because it is evident that Birling does not know the extremes of life in terms of poverty and suffering and as a result he believes that nothing bad can come of the Titanic sailing just because it is built with a lot of money. As well as this, Birling shows a clear lack of social responsibility because he refuses to take any blame for Eva smith’s death. This takes place when he refers to Eva as a ‘wretched girl’. By calling Eva ‘wretched’ this portrays connotations of ignorance to the audience because Birling does not show any remorse even though he knows Eva has died and still makes it clear that he considers her a nuisance that deserved to be fired from his works. Birling may be a mouthpiece of some ignorant people who are at the top of society who refuse to take responsibility for the possible harm they may be causing to those lower down in the social class system such as Eva. The stage direction of ‘still angrily’ shows that instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Mr Birling is instead reacting aggressively and refusing to accept the fact that he contributed to Eva’s death in any way.
However, Priestley does portray some aspects of the Birling family in a good light with the younger generation. He paints the image of a bright future in the absence of the abusing of social class with the reformation of Sheila throughout the play. This is done through the use of the stage direction ‘miserably’ to convey Sheila’s reaction vividly to the audience. ‘Miserably’ shows to the audience that Sheila is clearly showing remorse for what how she had treated to Eva and clearly contributed to her death and is willing to take responsibility for her actions and move forward positively. Another clear connotation of Sheila thinking about others apart from the family is where she asks the question ‘So I’m really responsible?’ This is a personal question that makes it seem as if Sheila is actually asking herself this, which shows that she is pondering deeply about what she did and how she practiced the idea of social responsibility in the past. In this way Sheila could move on and amend her past mistake by focusing on not abusing her social class in the future, in this way she develops a very strong relationship with the Inspector. Priestley could be implying here that the younger audience viewing the play were supposed to act in the same way as Sheila and really take in to account social responsibility to create a better future.
In conclusion, Priestley conveys ideas about responsibility positively in the form of Sheila and the Inspector but also negatively in the form of Mr Birling, who refuses to accept any responsibility for what he has done. Priestley does this through his effective use of language and also stage directions in the play to convey a clear image to the audience on how the character is feeling and reacting to the various testing situations in the play.
Trace the different levels of tension throughout the play. How does Priestley create tension?
To answer this question, you might want to consider some factors associated with tension: twists, pace, momentum, and so on. It is important to consider what the audience knows and does not know at any given point, as well as the clues that Priestley drops. Note that some tension can be found within a character and that some can be found between characters. You can consider tension similarly to the way you consider conflict, but do not just name the conflicts; this question asks you to examine the different levels or magnitudes of tension and how Priestley produces tension for the characters and for the audience.
The Inspector is nothing more than a perfectly human hoaxer, and Priestley makes it clear. Do you agree?
This question asks you to focus on the role of the Inspector. You might begin by explaining how you might justify the premise in the question, noting the evidence that suggests he is a human hoaxer, then opening your answer out to take in some other points of view. Consider that Priestley might have left the Inspector's identity ambiguous on purpose.
How are Birling and the Inspector coming from "opposite ideological points of view"?
This question asks you to focus on two characters and how their political and social views differ. Use a lot of quotations from the play to develop an understanding of the different standpoints of each character. Consider what each one seems to believe about the role of an individual in society, and use the theme of responsibility as a major guide. It might also be helpful to consider a few similarities.
Delineate the "chain of events" that allegedly led to Eva Smith's death.
This question simply asks you to explain the chain of events that led to Eva Smith's death, from the point of view of the Inspector. A good answer to this question might go further and look at the idea of the "chain of events" itself, who believes in it, and its relevance as a metaphor.
Write a character analysis of Gerald Croft.
Outline his characteristics based on what he says and what he does, both during the play and before it begins. Try to assess both the good and the bad things about him before drawing a conclusion.
Why is time an important theme in Priestley's play?
Focus not only on time as a concept (consider what Priestley thought and wrote about time) but also on the pecularities of time as it applies to this play in particular. Think about how the Inspector in particular has to do with this theme, and consider how the past actions of individual characters build the scenario of Eva's death, the interrogations and judgments of the present, and the Inspector's warning about the future.
J.L. Styan has written that the play's final twist gives a "spurious emphasis irrelevant to the substance of the play." Might he be wrong?
This question asks you to engage with a critical opinion regarding the final twist of the play. First, outline your view of the final moments of the play, focusing on the strange news and the themes involved. Do these themes intensify or distract from the play thus far and the play as a whole? Does the news put a kind of bracket around the rest of the play that gives the whole episode with the Inspector a new meaning? If so, does this put us in the place of Mr. Birling, such that the theme of responsibility no longer has as much weight if it was all a hoax or a weird supernatural event--or does the prospect of it having been a supernatural event invest the idea of responsibility with even greater import?
Make the case for Edna being the play's most important character.
This question asks you to look at the role of Edna and consider how she, perhaps more than anyone else, might be central to the play and its themes. If Edna represents the living objects of all of the characters' present social responsibilities, she may be even more important than the deceased Eva. If in some sense the rich have a social responsibility toward the poor, then perhaps Edna embodies the central message of the play regarding the need to look out for one another. A good essay also will examine the counter-evidence: perhaps at best she is a symbol of the play's message and in that sense only a minor character. And isn't social responsibility really about each person's responsibility to all others, rather than the one-sided class-based responsibility, drawing on old notions of a social elite, that would narrowly see the class issue as central to the play?
Compare An Inspector Calls to another play by Priestley that you have read.
This play asks you to look at An Inspector Calls against another play by Priestley. Time and the Conways or I Have Been Here Before might be good choices. Consider the similarities and differences in the plays' plots, characters and, of course, dominant or important themes and apparent messages. Also consider the historical context of the plays.
To what extent is Birling essentially a comic character, lacking a serious or ominous side?
This question puts forward quite a provocative view of Birling. Most readers will disagree with the idea that there is no serious dimension to Birling's actions and words or that there is nothing ominous presented about his allegedly selfish views and politics. Yet, keen readers will notice the moments at which an audience might find Priestley's presentation of him and his views comic, especially for the sake of making his views seem ludicrous. Weigh both sides of the issue before drawing a conclusion for your essay.